Thursday, January 28, 2016

Disneyland Recap: 10K Race

Click here to view my recap of the previous day in Disneyland!


Races are a peculiar thing. Since running is so popular these days, races are required to shut down city streets so that thousands of people can take advantage of the wide lanes. To avoid disrupting city businesses too much, races start early in the day - sometimes even before the sun comes up.

That's why my wake-up call was at 3:00am on Saturday morning. I have the ability to march myself right out of bed without too much hassle, and this day gave me even more incentive to wake up.

I had laid out my race clothes (with my bib already pinned) the night before, and made sure my contacts got plenty of time to soak. I had purchased cheap, old workout pants and sweatshirts that I could easily shed once I started running. (They donate clothes left behind to charity.)I had packed bread and Jif To Go packets in my suitcase, and munched on a slice as I headed to the course. I wasn't even alone as I headed to the start; as soon as I left the hotel premises, I encountered several people dressed up in Star Wars outfits and running shoes, and knew I was with the right people.

I had to walk all the way across Disney property to get to the starting area, which meant crossing a completely empty Disneyland esplanade. After seeing it so busy the day before, it was strange to see it so quiet. There were quite a few security personnel around (as a matter of fact, I saw a large amount of security and police during my entire weekend at Disneyland. I wasn't intimidated; it made me feel safe.

When I made it to the gathering area, I was surprised to see how few people were there. According to the runDisney race booklet, runners were expected to be gathered by 4:00. Apparently this is not required - just recommended. However, my incredibly early arrival meant that I was able to do a photo-op with two First Order stormtroopers with no line. There were six stormtroopers around, and as the morning progressed the lines got longer, so I was glad I got there early. The cool thing was they had things they said. As I took a picture for someone else, one of them told me, "Proceed." There were other things they said - mostly about ratting out Resistance members and helping the First Order. (It was amazing.)

There was a stage with a few small sets of bleachers, and a DJ was playing (tacky) music to get everyone going. I made sure to use the bathroom as many times as I could to make sure I didn't have to go during the race; at this area there were two loooong lines of porta-johns. (This was far better than the Broncos 7K, where there were porta-potties everywhere, but most of them were locked!)

The DJ did manage to get the runners out in front to dance along to the "Cupid Shuffle." (Yes, I did, too. What can I say? I adore Participation Dances!) He also played trailers and teasers from The Force Awakens and Star Wars Rebels and video clips from the other six movies. Unfortunately there wasn't anything from The Force Awakens beyond what the trailers and teasers showed. I would have loved to have gotten even more video montages, but I guess that wasn't the case. They didn't even have any music from its soundtrack on the course! Bummer.

This was our chance to see the race announcers, Carissa and Rudy, as well as several other announcers that would cheer us on from the course. (One of them was in the Paradise Pier area of California Adventure later; he and his fellow cheerers claimed to be "Finn's cousins.")

Eventually they told us to get to our respective corrals, which led us down the street to Disneyland Drive. Corral A was right up against the start line, where a giant screen loomed overhead and speakers blasted Star Wars music. I was surprised to see how big these corrals were! They had giant balloons overhead to signify where the corral entrances were; I couldn't even see the entrance to E from the start line.

They call them corrals for a reason; everyone is herded in the same direction into fenced-in areas, just like cattle. Were we being led to the slaughter? Only time would tell.

I finally made it to Corral E (the final corral) which was past the Grand Californian Hotel to the left and the Paradise Pier Hotel to the right. There weren't speakers here, for which I'm sure the hotel patrons were very thankful. It made things a little quieter here. The corral was about half full when I got in there, so I found a curb and sat myself down. For a race, they sure make you do a lot of walking beforehand!

We waited back there for quite a while, and I started talking to a lady nearby who participates in these events with her daughter. Her children are educators, so we had something in common that we could talk about!

We overheard the National Anthem being played from a large distance away, but we all quieted down anyway. And then...we waited. We stayed in Corral E for a pretty long time after the song, because they all the other corrals make their way down to at least the B entrance before we got to start walking.

I started my race around 6:00, with Rudy giving Corral E its own "GO!" before we set out. It was hard to really start because we were all pretty cramped together, and there were quite a few people in Corral E that were walking this thing. I was doing a 1-minute jog and 1-minute walk, so I had to get past the walkers before really getting in my rhythm.

Of course, there were also the people who were doing the same kind of interval running as I was. Some were doing the exact opposite intervals of me, so they'd pass me while I walked, and then I passed them while they walked! I got to know several people very well because we were always alternating with each other.

The first leg took us down Disneyland Drive to Ball Road, a pretty busy area on a normal day. We came up and then off an entrance ramp to Ball Road, and the turns got pretty tight. After a brief run on Ball Road, past a few supporters waiting at a bus stop, we hit the backstage area of Disneyland.

This was quite a long stretch through those back alleyways, but there were some fun areas. The Mandalorian symbol and a picture of Yoda was shone onto a building, and Boba Fett was available here for pictures. (Just a note: I didn't take any pictures with characters or set pieces, because I was so far in the back. The lines were way too long by the time I showed up. There was Chewie, Sabine and Ezra from Rebels, R2-D2, and BB-8!) There were also a banner from the Disneyland Third Shift crew supporting us as we ran past, and the crew was on hand to cheer us as we passed.

Eventually we appeared at the Esplanade, in order to make our grand entrance into Disneyland itself. We were in Town Square for, oh, thirty seconds, but were veered off before we could head down Main Street U.S.A. A little more time backstage, and we emerged at the back of Tomorrowland, near Hyperspace Mountain. This was the best time to go through Tomorrowland, that's for sure; everyone was going in the same direction!

We turned towards the Hub, and as we passed the Astro Orbiter they actually had the attraction up and running! Actually, many of the outdoor attractions in Disneyland were going as we ran past. It made everything a lot more fun to see.

We took a right at the Hub and went right through Sleeping Beauty's Castle - over the moat and everything! Since this area had been closed down yesterday due to the concert, this was my first chance to walk through this iconic entrance - and over a real moat with a drawbridge that actually works!

Fantasyland was beautiful, especially with all the lighting and working attractions. We took a right and headed straight for the back of the park, where the entrance to Toontown was shut, but it's a small world was lit up and HUGE! I'm used to that attraction being inside a building, but the facade is all outdoors in Disneyland, and they light every last corner of it! It's actually still decorated for the Christmas season, which at this point in the year was a bit odd. (They kept it that way the whole weekend, too!)

We took the path that used to take people past the Big Thunder Ranch...but now Big Thunder Ranch has been closed for good (to make way for Star Wars Land, so I'm not complaining) so this area is usually closed. I'd heard so much about Big Thunder Ranch lately because it had just closed down a few days earlier, and a few people on Twitter and some podcasters I listen to were making a big deal about it.

That jaunt took us to the back of Frontierland, and I got one of my best views of the runners ahead of me at this point. They were zigzagging around the Rivers of America and heading up New Orleans Square. I made sure to get a shot of it. If I wasn't running, I would have picked that spot to watch the runners!

As I ran past Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, I noticed something. The sky was beginning to lighten! If I timed it right, I could get some very pretty pictures of Disneyland or California Adventure at sunrise.

I myself made that zigzag path down the Rivers of America and up New Orleans Square. We took this path to get to Adventureland, meaning we hit six of the eight major lands of Disneyland on this run. Finally, we emerged at the Hub and made our way down Main Street U.S.A.

The white fences were lined up in the Esplanade as we crossed over from Disneyland to California Adventure, and it was lined with spectators and supporters cheering us on. And - finally, after fifteen years of waiting - I finally entered the Disney California Adventure theme park!

The first leg was down Buena Vista Street, which ends at the Carthay Circle Theater (which premiered Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs back in the day, I found out) and loops left to Hollywood Street. This was all very fascinating, since I have never really understood the footprint of the park before. But before I could really let it all sink in, we were back out of the park, running around one of the bus entrances to the parks.

This bus entrance was probably the widest running path that the runners had all day. I was personally glad for it. There were quite a few spots - going from backstage to the park itself - where the entrance was the size of a double door, and everyone had to slow down to a walk (even if my timer was telling me to run). There were some areas backstage where they just had cones to prevent runners from running on the other side, but there were so many runners that people were just crossing over. I passed a cast member when we were going through a tunnel who had her Exasperated Teacher Voice on, yelling, "Guys, please stay to the right!" (We didn't run through this tunnel the next day, thank goodness.)

I also encountered my first vomiting runner at this point. He found a nice patch of bushes to run over to before throwing up, and we were all thankful for that.

Our backstage loop took us around until we entered the park at the very back...right into Cars Land and Radiator Springs Racers. The sky was much brighter at this point, and even though I didn't get to see the sun hitting off the fake rock of Radiator Springs, it was still quite the sight to see.

Outside of Radiator Springs (I don't like to call it Cars Land) we turned left, and I immediately found my favorite part of California Adventure: Paradise Pier. We turned to the large lagoon, and the fountains from World of Color were shooting up into the sky, and we saw the beautiful view of the coaster and Ferris wheel. I would have sat there for hours watching that view, but we'd just passed mile 5 and only had one mile to go!

We went around the Pier, passing by all the boardwalk activities and games as the Star Wars music blared from the speakers. The loop wasn't that big, but it was still fun to listen to. I made sure to pause my iPhone music so I could listen to that instead.

Finally, we ran through Grizzly Peak and out a side entrance to the park, landing us right in Downtown Disney for our home stretch. The white fences were back, and so were many, many more spectators as we could sense that this was almost done!

The white fences funneled us all to the Finish line, where Carissa was welcoming people. As we passed a sensor, our names would appear on our screen, so she would actually call out names. And sure enough, she said my name as I made it to the Finish!

After the race, we still have to keep moving. (More walking! Who knew?) We made our way down more white fences to where volunteers were slipping medals over the necks of the finishers. (I know they do that for every race, but it seemed fitting for a Throne Room-style award ceremony a la A New Hope.) Then we turned a corner and a Mylar blanket to help us stay warm (sweat from a run combined with even a light breeze makes people cold - this thing really worked!). We also
received water or a Powerade. Then we turned again and there was a large tent with snackboxes and bananas. Finally, we could choose to have a picture taken with a backdrop of the 10K banner, or just go to the Friends and Family Reunion Area (which was the same place we'd started back at 4:00!). I didn't need the picture, so I headed to that old parking lot.

I'd finished the race in 1 hour, 32 minutes, and by the time I'd made it back there were quite a few people milling about, but it wasn't crowded. I found a spot in the bleachers to eat some of my snacks. The Goldfish crackers were especially welcome!

Since I wasn't meeting anyone, I checked the time and decided to forego the shower for a little bit and head back to California Adventure to see it as a tourist instead of a runner. But before I make this post any longer, I'll recap that adventure for a future post!

View Next Article: Saturday Disneyland Recap
My Rey hairstyle!

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