Racing Disney: Recapping a West Coast Race (Part 1) by Guest Blogger Addie Clark and Catie Neal

IMG_2632_2 Hey there Main Streeters! Today, I have a bit of a treat for me and for you! One of my best friends, Catie, has been running since 2011. Her first ever 5K was a runDisney event (the Royal Family 5K as part of Princess 2011 weekend). Since then, she’s run 18 half and 6 full marathons and over 35 races at Walt Disney World and Disneyland. This includes 1 Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge, 2 Dopey Challenges, the inaugural Dumbo Double Dare, 2 Glass Slipper Challenges, and the Inaugural Pixie Dust Challenge and has earned 2 Coast-to-Coasts. She is a wealth of information when it comes to running at Disney, stating that the magic and excitement keeps her coming back and was invaluable to me as I prepared for my first race this year. She took a break from training for a third Dopey Challenge and her next Triathlon and sat down with me and talked about the various things she’s learned over the years and next week she’s going to recap her experiences at the Tinkerbell Half Marathon Weekend last month. I hope you all enjoy it!

 So, you’re quite the rD vet and were a great help to me when I got started. What is the best piece of advice you have for people that want to start Running Disney?
Pick your race, sign up, then pick your training plan and stick with it! Make sure you sign up for the reminder email [from runDisney] so you’re prepared to sign up [for the event]. Signing up for the events is something that occurs months ahead of the actual event, so it’s easy to forget about your training. You need to make sure you put forth the effort to follow through on the training plans. Write your workouts on a calendar, or put them into your phone with a reminder. Following the Jeff Galloway plans supplied for FREE by runDisney has helped a lot of first timers (myself included). My first runDisney race was the Princess 5k in February 2011. Even after becoming a more seasoned runner, I referred to the JG plans again while training for my first Goofy Challenge (January 2013) and my first Dopey Challenge (January 2014). If you’ve followed through on all of your training plans, by the time you get to race day, it will be a breeze. That’s the reward for all of your hard work for the months leading up to the race. Well, that and the sweet BLING provided at the finish line.


What is the biggest difference between running at Walt Disney World and running at Disneyland? How do the expos differ?
So, the first difference is how much earlier you have to wake up in Walt Disney World for the races. Since the area is much larger, you can’t just walk from your hotel to the start line. In WDW you must take race day transportation that requires you be on a bus by 4 in order to make it to the start line on time. Secondly, once you arrive at the staging area in WDW you still have about a mile to walk to get to the actual corrals [for the half marathons, especially]. In Disneyland, the trek from the hotel to the start line (for the 10K and the half) was only about 0.5 miles and the trek from the staging area to the start line was probably less than 0.25 miles. Thus this equates to at least an extra hour of sleep on the West Coast compared to the East Coast for races!
The size of the races are also different. There were 11,442 female finishers and 1,632 male finishers at the Tinkerbell Half Marathon. At the Princess Half Marathon there were 18,518 female finishers and 1,720 male finishers. So the running field is considerably smaller on the West Coast. This means that the corrals are slightly different. A few years ago, runDisney switched the corral system on the East Coast to help facilitate getting runners onto the course more quickly and efficiently. They made more corrals with fewer numbers in the front and progressively having the corrals get larger. The corrals started with A and go through O. On the West Coast, they still have the original corral system with corrals beginning at A and going through G.
On the West Coast you spend more miles inside a park than you do on the East Coast, but they are heavily loaded into the front of the race. On the East Coast, you get park time in the middle and at the end. This is a great motivator at the end of the race! I also feel there is much more “Disney” entertainment on the East Coast as Disney has complete control over the entire race course in WDW since they own the roadways you are running on compared to on the West Coast where the “Disney” aspect is contained in the parks. [The rest of the time you are running through the city of Anaheim].
On the West Coast you go to the Expo at the Disneyland Hotel & Convention Center. Packet pick-up occurs on the bottom level of the parking garage and then they funnel you upstairs to the expo where all the vendors are located. On the East Coast, the Expo takes place at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. Here they have you collect your race packets at the Field House and then go over to the Jostens Center to wander through the vendors. The layout of both expos are pretty similar and they have a majority of the same vendors at both races. Both have speaker series to provide tips, advice, and motivation to the runners as you prepare for your race(s).
One difference this year in the [Tinkerbell] expo out was that they provided the opportunity for you to learn how to do “Hands Only CPR.” Now, as a registered nurse I think this is AWESOME! So much research has shown how hands only CPR can save lives! They had registered nurses manning a table at the expo where they wrote down your bib number and taught you and provided you a sweet sticker to place on your bib to show you know CPR.The same time we were at the table, there was a gentleman there who had collapsed at the previous year’s race and was alive and able to PARTICIPATE in the race this year due to a stranger starting hands only CPR on him. RunDisney should really start this at ALL their races regardless of the coast. Who knows how many more lives it could save!

You’ve told me that this trip to the West Coast was much smoother than your first race. What was different? What did you change?
Oh my goodness, yes this expo was not the nightmare of my first California experience. I have previously completed the inaugural Dumbo Double Dare Challenge [during Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend in September] and let me tell you, that expo was ridiculous! We ended up standing in line for 1 hour just to get in to the Disney store at the expo and then waited another 2 hours for check out! My poor dad made that trip with us and in the time we were in the expo, he’d read 1.5 books. This time, my mom and I made it through the expo in its entirety in about 2 hours.
[How did they manage that?] Firstly, we pre-ordered a lot of things from our favorite vendors so all we had to do was go pick it up at their booths. Then, the runDisney experts clearly made some serious changes to help out with crowd control at the expo. The first day, the Official runDisney store was only open to runners and individuals who were with runners. We got wristbands, were sent upstairs in the convention center to a holding room and taken downstairs to the official merchandise store in groups in order to have crowd control and merchandise control. It’s still not a completely perfect system but it really cut down on the wait time and I’m sure was much more smooth from the Disney employees as well! There were still items that sold out on the first day of the expo, for instance the adorable Tinkerbell Half Marathon track jackets, but that’s just par for the course with some runDisney merchandise.
We also chose to stay on the opposite side of Disneyland Resort from the first time we came out to the West Coast. The first time we stayed at the Anabella and in order to get to Disneyland we had to cross a 4 line highway. This time, choosing to stay at the Holiday Inn & Suites we never had to cross any highways and we felt completely safe walking to and from at all hours of the day!

IMG_2723_2How does planning your Racecation in California differ from Orlando?
We are diehard Walt Disney World fans. I have been to WDW so many times that I have lost count, and yet I’ve only been out to California to Disneyland twice. This means that I have to do some serious planning when we go out to California. I really have to research the hotels on Google maps to figure out the proximity to the resort and then really research the food places to make sure it’s something we would like to eat [and will properly fuel us]. I hit it out of the park this time and scored AWESOME dinner reservations for us out in California and picked an awesome hotel that we voted will be our go-to resort when we head back out for another race. We voted you hardly spend enough time in a hotel room to justify the Disney price on the West Coast plus we aren’t kids nor did we bring small kids who need the proximity to the parks to sneak in a nap time in the middle of the day. If you’re traveling with small children, then I would obviously recommend staying on property even on the West Coast. It saves you the long walks and you still get “Extra Magic Hours” like they do on the East Coast. They are typically an extra hour in the morning.

IMG_2799You also ran the Glass Slipper Challenge with me in February. Which means you earned your pink Coast-to-Coast medal. What was that like?
Earning my Coast-to-Coast medal was awesome! This was my second one and when we (my mom, sister, and I) learned that we could get a pink medal we KNEW we had to sign up to earn that bad boy. The original Coast-to-Coast medal is blue. For those who do not know, a Coast-to-Coast medal is awarded to participants who complete a race at the half distance or greater on both the East and West Coasts in one calendar year.
The Princess Half Marathon Weekend holds such a special place in my heart as it is where our running story began. We have gone every year since 2011 to race in the Princess Weekend races. When they added the Glass Slipper Challenge in 2014 we were there for the inaugural run and we knew we wanted to complete the Pixie Dust Challenge when it was announced as well. The Glass Slipper Challenge and the Pixie Dust Challenge are both such wonderful experiences. As races geared specifically for women they really embrace that “Girl Power” feeling and are perfect girls weekends! The bling, the sparkle, the tiaras, the wings, they just wrap you up in a feeling of excitement and anticipation I just haven’t found matched at any other race I have been to yet, and I have completed quite a few non-Disney races and neutral gendered races. The women on the course are great motivators and really help and encourage you every step. The mother-daughter teams, the family, the friends, the stories of how people came to these races are fabulous. It makes running the Coast-to-Coast such a special thing to see that the energy and friendliness doesn’t have limitations, it spans from the East Coast to the West Coast and being able to take home a medal that says I was a part of that on both sides of the map is pretty cool!

You had previously earned a Coast-to-Coast medal, so what is your advice for others who want to go Coast-to-Coast?
Again, pick your races you want to sign up for and be ready on registration day. MAKE SURE YOU CHECK THE COAST-TO-COAST BOX [for the second leg of the challenge]! This is CRUCIAL in the registration process as it is the only way to get identified as a Coast-to-Coast runner. Make sure you get your Coast-to-Coast wristband at the Expo and put it on immediately. You won’t receive your medal without that precious piece of plastic around your wrist! And lastly, prepare for each race like you would any other race. Plan out your training schedule, pick your hotels, and then pick your food choices so you know that they won’t interrupt your running during the races. Lastly, find someone to join in on the fun with you. The accomplishment is always super when it’s just you, but being able to share that excitement with someone else is so fulfilling!

Special thanks to Catie for all that great information. She’ll be back next week to give us an in-depth look at the Tinkerbell weekend last month. I hope you’re looking forward to that. Until then, keep running and stay Disney!

IMG_2876_2TMSM is very excited to publish the “Racing Disney” series of  runDisney articles by Addie Clark and Tali McPike. To see the rest of the series please visit

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