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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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
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!
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