Friday, September 26, 2014

Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend 2014 by Donald S. Hite

For an explanation of what this post is all about head to yesterdays post here. Enjoy!
-The Fat Runner

I didn’t stay consistent with my running and training after the Dopey Challenge and gained some weight back and even slowed my pace.  I realized this after a July 4th Half Marathon, and knew I had to start training again.  I thought I had neglected time with my family when I was training for Dopey and it became easy to make excuses for not running, despite owning a treadmill.  This is continuing to be an obstacle for me, balancing time with the family and getting consistent in exercising.  The days before the trip to California seemed to take forever.   We had one last long run about a week prior.  Despite being early in the morning, it quickly got hot with the Georgia humidity.  I was doing well till half way mark when I ran out of water and became nauseous.   We were near a ballpark and I resigned myself to a Porta-potty.  I remember the couple of hundred in the parking lot at Walt Disney World and was thankful I had found one locally.   My brother-in-law brought my sister and I some water as we continued the run.  We finished the 14 miler and remained confident that we would not have any problems in California.
My sister, Robin,  and I were both running the Dumbo Double Dare Challenge (10K on Saturday and Half-Marathon on Sunday).  Robin was running for the Charity, Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation, which signed her up for the 10k and the Half, because they were not issued any Dumbo Challenge spots till about a month before the race.  She wanted her name on the bibs and settled for the individual races.
 We were also doing another first for both us, volunteering for the Expo on Thursday.   I had inquired with about volunteer opportunity at the Disneyland Half event.  I was sent a link to register through for the positions that were available.  I chose to work the expo event since I was running the 10k and Half.  The 5k volunteer positions listed beginning times around 3am so I stuck with the expo.  I learned that if you work two shifts at Disneyland, you are given a park ticket, food/snacks, and a volunteer commemorative shirt.   We were arriving early on Wednesday, volunteering Thursday, and free day for Friday.  I was worried about Monday being Labor Day and busy in the parks, so I wanted to explore the parks each day so I wouldn't be rushed or waiting in lines.

Day 1 -
The day of arrival began early for me.  I was up at 4am Eastern Standard Time.  I thought I packed everything I needed and went to pick up Robin, so we could beat the interstate traffic through Atlanta, and make it through TSA for our early morning flight.  Just before boarding the flight, I realized that I left my running shoes in front of my bedroom dresser.  I had left in the dark to avoid waking my wife when I left so early.  *Mental note- always triple check your gear and pack the most vital items first*   Sitting in the airport, I suddenly felt deflated and began to stress about the trip.  What would I do without my running shoes?  Robin suggested having the shoes sent Fed-ex to the hotel.  After landing in Anaheim, with a four hour flight to think about my shoes at home and the crop circles in Roswell, NM, I called my wife, who responded, "Who does that, who flies out of state for a marathon and leaves their running shoes at home.  Why didn't you pack them first?"  I almost hung up.  She then said,  "you've put a lot of miles on them, just go get some new ones. "  I now had permission to buy new shoes.  The thought was enticing, but I'd have to wait another day till the expo opened, and I was to be working two shifts (the entire first day of the expo).  Robin called a friend in our local running group (Team Awesome Bulletin Board on Facebook), Mandy Gann, who was also coming to run Dumbo Challenge, but was leaving the next day.  She worked it out that Mandy would bring my shoes. 
We used a shuttle van because we missed the Disney bus and would have to wait 45 minutes for the next one.  We arrived at Paradise Pier in about 15 minutes from the airport.  We noticed all the hotels surrounded the Disney parks and resorts.  We checked into the hotel and our room wasn't ready.  We dropped off our luggage and headed to lunch and the parks.  It was warm but breezy, sunny and beautiful.  We were given general directions and we got lost walking looking for signs for entrance to Downtown Disney or the parks.  I noticed that there were not very many signs posted.
  Downtown Disney starts at one end with Disneyland Hotel and goes till it ends at the Main Entry Plaza,  with Disneyland Park on the north side, and California Adventure Park on the south side.  The Grand California resort sits directly across from Paradise Pier and has a separate entrance to California Adventures and downtown entrance.  This would have been helpful to know before we started walking.  I realized afterwards, I could have looked up Google maps instead of walking a half mile away.  I counted it as scouting out our running route. 
I wanted to go to Disneyland first and see the iconic castle.  My first trip to the park and I wanted to see as much as I could.  I had been told by close friends who had visited before, that the park was older and not as big.  I was still excited.  I walked in under the train tunnels and saw the City Hall, Emporium, and main street transportation.  Here they have double decked buses along with the horse drawn trolley and carriage.  I looked down Main Street and found the castle.  It was much smaller than I expected. 

  We picked up a map to get our bearing and decided to check out the different rides that are not at Disney World's parks. 
The must rides were Indiana Jones Adventure and Matterhorn Bobsleds, The Haunted Mansion was closed for decorations for the upcoming Halloween season.

Just like Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World, the park has a Main Street and then separates like a hub on a wheel with Adventureland, Frontierland, Fantasyland, and Tomorrowland branching off. 

Disneyland has a New Orleans Square and Toontown as well.  In New Orleans Square, you can dine at a very expensive restaurant that has seating inside of the beginning of Pirates of the Caribbean ride (Blue Bayou Restaurant). 
At the Rivers of America, where you would raft out to Tom Sawyer Island, there is the Mark Twain Ferry Boat, as well as the Columbia sailing ship.  Here too, is the worst ride/adventure I have ever taken, only because of who was also riding at the time.  It was the canoe trip around the lake.  I had small children in front and behind me that hit my paddle repeatedly, along with splashing me over and over.  Had it been with a group of fellow runners, maybe it would have been fun.         
We took in Storybook Land, where you float in a boat through a small river and see miniature castles and villages that tell the various Disney stories and adventures.  This where you float through the Monstro, Pinnochio's whale.

We made our way to see the princesses at Fairytale Hall and had no wait.  We walked right in.  Unbelievable.  If it were WDW, we'd probably have an hour wait.  We met Ariel, Aurora, and Snow White.  Belle was at the theatre acting out her story.   We then went to It's a Small World, which starts and ends outside.  The ride seems longer than the one at Magic Kingdom.  I finally got to ride Matterhorn Bobsleds.  It reminds me of Everest at Animal Kingdom, only in the Space Mountain coaster.  It is an old steel tubular coaster ride, and I loved it.  The yeti is there to chase you down the mountain.  We  took a couple of turns on the Tea Party Tea Cups ride which is completely outside uncovered.  I wondered what happens when it rains.

We ventured into Tomorrowland where we found The Avengers.  I took a turn trying on Tony Stark's Ironman Suits and testing them.  We ventured over to the rainbow bridge and entered the Bi-Frost portal to the throne room of Asgard, where we met with Thor.  After pictures, we took the portal back and continued through the exhibits over to meet and greet with Steve Rogers, aka, Captain America. 

It was getting late in the evening, around 7pm Pacific.  The sun was still out and we did not have lunch yet.  We ventured out of the park to Downtown Disney and found Tortilla Joes.  Atmosphere gets credit, but service and food taste was less than expected.  I had lower standards as I was incredibly hungry, walking the resort and parks.  The tortillas were extra thick and chewy.  It wasn't like any other Mexican or Tex-Mex restaurants I had visited in any other state on the east coast or mid-west.  It had to be an off night.  It started off with a wiggling un-balanced table that had to have a notepad wedged under it to keep us from spilling our Water.  We watched other tables with children be entertained with balloon artists making different characters with colored balloons.  They work for tips. During the wait, I checked my e-mail and got an update that made me smile.  Our friend Mandy posted a picture of the Masked Bandit that had my shoes, bringing them to me the next day.   After an hour we got our food.  It wasn't hot.  I ate anyway.  Robin looked pale and extremely tired.  We still had not received text or e-mail that our room was ready.  She went back to the resort to get the room situated.
 I went back to Disneyland to watch the closing fireworks.  For the past few years, WDW's Magic Kingdom has had Wishes.  Here I saw "Magic" and I loved it.  I was able to stand almost at the hub where Walt and Mickey's "partner" statue are centered, without being crowded, pushed, or shoved.  The show illuminated the sky above the castle and was spectacular.  A great way to close my first night at Disneyland.  On the way back to Paradise Pier, it occurred to me that 11pm Pacific was actually 2am back home.  Now I felt tired, very tired.

Day 2 - Volunteer Day
Waking to a beautiful California morning, I was hungry.  We had a short time to eat before the expo started and we chose Goofy's Kitchen at the Disneyland Hotel.  It was just like Chef Mickey's at the Contemporary Resort.  This was a character buffet meal and we met with Goofy, Chip and Dale, Pluto, Mad Hatter, Captain Hook, and Princess Jasmine. 
Here I celebrated my Un-birthday.

It is actually in a couple of weeks and since, I wouldn't be back for a while, I thanked everyone for the kind gesture.  I'm sure my sister told them, as I wasn't wearing a birthday button.  Either way, it was a great start for the expo day.

We arrived a little early and signed in as volunteers.  We entered the exhibition area through a tunnel to the lower area, and waited for our assignments.  We were given shirts designating us as volunteers and a bottle of water.  We were issued a meal ticket for the shift for a later catered meal.  The group was diverse from retired individuals, students, fellow runners, and community civic groups.  We were divided into groups.  Robin and I were selected for the packet pick-up and half the group was selected for the upstairs Expo area.  The other group I was told would be working the shirts pick up area.  Since Robin and I were running the Dumbo Challenge and we had friends arriving as well, we went to the Dumbo Challenge bib area.  Our job for the day would be to greet the runners, check IDs, obtain the signed waivers, and issue their bibs, along with the Event booklet.  If our runner was earning their coast to coast challenge, we issued them a green bracelet and put it on their wrist.  We were told that about 3500 people would be earning their coast to coast.  We also gave out slips for those who purchased commemorative pins. 
I began a few years ago collecting & trading pins with my girls to have something different to do in the parks.  I have begun collecting my run Disney event pins as well.  This year, the race theme for the 5k and 10k was Stitch.  The medals and pins were adorned with Stitch, and highly sought after since they were the only ones that sold out. 

While working the event, I met runners from almost every state, Canada, and United Kingdom.  All were excited about earning the Dumbo Double Dare Challenge medal.  Those earning their Coast to Coast Medal were equally excited.  For the most part, everyone I made contact with were polite, respectful, and appeared to be having fun.  There were a couple of not so nice persons who were obviously stressed and not having a good day.  One example was a lady who was upset that I wouldn't give her a bib because she didn't have the signed waiver or ID for the person she was picking it up.  Basically, she had purchased a bib from or for someone and they weren't coming.  She wanted to pick up the bib and the items that come with it, but the friend wasn't helping.  I felt bad for her, but all I could do was send her to runner relations booth where she would have to tell her story over again to runDisney staff.  I venture, she was not going to get the help she wanted, as it is against Disney policy to buy/sell bibs.  This is probably not the first time it has happened, as people decide to sell their bibs and fail to give the appropriate paperwork to the buyer. 
During the shift, Mandy, aka Masked Bandit, arrived to get her bib and brought me my blue Beasts.  I had to explain to the other nearby volunteers and RunDisney crew leader why she was handing me a pair of shoes.

They all thought it was funny and a couple had done the same.  Our crew leader said she even arrived at her destination airport and realized at baggage claim, that she didn't bring her suitcase, only her carry on.  She said her husband told her to buy new clothes and suitcase.  She said now, her family helps her pack and reminds her before leaving not to forget her suitcase. 

We didn't have time to visit the expo as we had back to back shifts.  I was able to go up during a quick break and get my shirts and a couple of quick pins.  I decided to go the next day to see the exhibitors.  

Tune in on Monday for the next chapter!
-The Fat Runner


  1. Great write up so far! Running a Disney race it a little intimidating because it almost seems like a completely different world and running culture.
    And forgetting my running gear at home is my biggest nightmare! Glad it worked out for you!

  2. Thank you! Leaving my shoes at home was stress I didn't need. When our fellow runner and friend Mandy brought them, it was a great relief. Going to a new location was a great adventure! I hope the rest of the story is just as entertaining.