Racing Disney: Recapping a West Coast Race (Part 2) by Guest Bloggers Addie Clark and Catie Neal
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 her experiences at the Tinkerbell Half Marathon Weekend last month. I hope you all enjoy it!
You ran the Pixie Dust Challenge + the Neverland 5K last month. Tell me about that experience.
In one phrase, Pixie Power! The Neverland 5K is probably my favorite 5K race to date hosted by runDisney (and I have run quite a few). California races are a slightly different beast compared to runDisney events hosted in Florida. We woke up at 3:45 AM for a 5:00 AM 5K start, typically the 5K races start at 6:00 AM in Florida. However, the early start time was completely justified as the start line party occurs right IN FRONT OF THE CASTLE! Surprisingly for Southern California weather, the forecast for the morning of the Neverland 5K was calling for rain showers. My mom (who is my ultimate runDisney running buddy) and I decided to ditch our wings for race morning and instead opted to wear our lightweight running jackets.
We stayed off property in California, this is something I completely recommend in California but I would strongly discourage for Florida races. We voted to take the free shuttle from our hotel to the start line. Our hotel was about a mile walk from the Disneyland entrance and it was already sprinkling when we headed to the front lobby of our hotel at 4:15. The free shuttle ride was pretty sweet; the ARC has a partnership with runDisney during their race weekends and when you board an ARC shuttle for the first time during a runDisney race weekend they provide you with a free pass for the entire race weekend.
Once we were at the Disneyland entrance we hopped off the shuttle and headed into the parks. At this point the runDisney race officials and official voluntEARS were at the entrance checking everyone for their bibs. Side note: The weirdest thing about this 5K is that you are not corralled from the beginning; they assign you corrals as you arrive to the park. Mom and I had no idea: we’ve been at runDisney races in Florida with corrals based off of your estimated finish time so we were assuming something along those lines. However, good fortune must have been smiling on us because we ended up in Corral B for this race which must have stood for “B-eautiful View” because we were DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF THE CASTLE! The fabulous emcees of the race were on a double decker bus directly in front of us. They got everyone involved in a great storyline from the beginning! Wendy Darling came and interrupted the show to let everyone know that Peter Pan had lost his shadow and needed help finding it. We were told that if we saw Peter’s Shadow on the course, we were to crow just like Peter. Then after a bit longer, we were all graced by the presence of Tinkerbell who danced behind the gorgeously decorated Sleeping Beauty Castle!
Then the time had come for Corral A to be off, and shortly following we were up at the start line and ready to head off to Neverland (well through Disneyland and California Adventure)! As we started winding our way through Disneyland Park, we came across our first shadow. I was amazed by the number of people crowing proudly! It was so much fun, usually an adult or two would start and then the kids would join in and eventually everyone around us would be crowing loudly! Truly, the camaraderie at a runDisney event is unique! They took us on a quick tour of backstage Disneyland wound us back around over into California Adventure Park. I give runDisney some serious credit – they did their best to create places for character pictures in the rain which didn’t let up until after we had finished the race. However, the mile markers in this race were awesome! They were extremely decorated and themed perfectly for the race. Also, I need to give a huge shout out to the 2nd and 3rd water stops. The kids working those stops were awesome! After water stop 2 we were headed towards the back of California Adventure. The Lost Boys were tucked into an awning as you turned to go into Paradise Pier and since they were featured on both the medal and the t-shirt, mom and I voted we HAD to stop. These guys were hysterical! The last 2 stops mom and I made were for the Mile 3 marker featuring John and Michael Darling and a Mile 3 made of Pixie Dust and then a photo op with Peter and Wendy where Peter stole our weekend mascot (Tinkerbell Itty Bitty) and held her proudly for a picture! We then crossed the finish line, grabbed some water and a banana and began the trek back on foot to our hotel.
Saturday morning started round 1 of the Pixie Dust Challenge: the Tinkerbell 10K, which my sister Hannah joined us for. RunDisney actually introduced the 10K to the Tinkerbell Half Marathon weekend last year, but did not add the Pixie Dust Challenge until this year. Our alarms were set for 4:00 AM and my mom, Hannah, and I got up and donned our fabulous costumes: mom ran as Hook, Hannah as Mr. Smee, and I ran as Jake! While we were dressing we performed our traditional pre-race activities. This usually includes a lot of music, dancing, and eating bagels from our favorite bagel store back home. Yes, we truly packed a dozen bagels to take from the East Coast to the West Coast. After all, never try anything new on race day! Once we were all loose, we grabbed our water bottles and made the trek to the start line. This time we opted to walk as the 10K and Half marathon staging area was on the opposite side of Downtown Disney making it just as quick to walk as to take the shuttle.
I am corralled higher than my mom and sister, so it’s become tradition that I check the gearBag and then pick it up once I’m done. If you’re new to racing or racing in runDisney, gearBags are provided by runDisney at the expo when you pick up your numbers. These are the only bags that the voluntEARS accept in the gearBag check area prior to the race. There is a square that your race number goes onto so that it can be easily identified by the voluntEARS. The number on the bag must match the bib number of the person picking it up. Therefore, I’m the chosen one to check the bag and pick it up. Usually I throw some face cleansing towels, a hairbrush, deodorant, and in the case of this race, 2 JetBlue blankets.
Once we arrived to the staging area, we realized we had arrived slightly later than anticipated so I hurried to drop off the bag, kissed mom and Hannah bye and wished them luck then I headed off to my corral and they left for theirs. The announcers for the race were adorable, dressed up as “Fairy Coaches” complete with whistles and wings. They brought out a beautiful fairy to sing the national anthem and then we were off! Now, my typical race day strategy for all runDisney races is to have FUN, and FUN in Disney races means PICTURES! So what I usually do is challenge myself to run as fast as I feel like while getting as many pictures as I can.
The first mile was all outside of the park without any picture stops, I was totally bummed! I was beginning to think that meant I was just going to end up running a 10K race. Then we entered into Disneyland Park and the picture stops began to come quickly! There were fairies and the castle and pirates, oh my! So I jumped at my chance to take picture after picture. We wound our way through the park and back into the back lot area to loop back over to Disney’s California Adventure. There were more fairies there and picturesque views of the park. Trust me, Mickey’s Fun Wheel across the water in Paradise Pier with the sunrise is a sight to behold! Then we wound back through Cars Land and out of the parks to wind back towards the finish. Honestly, this last mile was pretty boring and definitely a let-down. But, then you round a corner at the last 0.1 miles and you can hear the announcers and see the finish line and your legs and heart carry you to the finish! I got a high-4 from Mickey as I crossed the finish line!
They funneled us through the chute where we received our medals and then through the nutrition station. This was very different from previous runDisney races. Typically runDisney provides a nutrition box at the finish of the races included lots of delicious items to help replenish the nutrients you just expended on the course. However, after this race they only had bananas, PowerAde and water. (Later we had learned that they discovered the applesauce in the boxes had expired so they had to throw out the ENTIRE weekends boxes). I grabbed my bag from gear check which was conveniently located right at the end of the chute (not the huge hike like it is in Florida), took the official finisher pictures, and called my dad and my boyfriend to let them know I had finished. I also checked my texts to see where my mom and sister were on the course. Hooray for runner tracking! It gives a great ETA for your runners. I sat down, stretched, took a few pictures with my shiny new hardware, snuggled under my blankets in the sunlight, then gathered everything up to watch my mom and sister cross the finish line! Lots of screaming and waving of the hands occurs here (I’m only about 5’5” so I have to do something to get their attention in the crowd)!
The way that the finish line area was set up on this day allowed me to go back for more finisher pictures so we were able to take a few group shots of the 3 of us together at the finish line. After we were all satisfied, we gathered everything back up and made the walk back to the hotel. Then we of course headed off to the parks to show off our sweet new bling.
After another good night’s rest, we set an alarm for 3:45 AM – after arriving slightly late the day before we voted a few extra minutes would be a good idea! We performed the typical pre-race rituals and made sure our wings and poms were all in place. Today’s race day costumes were Mom as Silvermist, Hannah as Rosetta, and I was my favorite sassy fairy, Tinkerbell! We made the trek to the race start for the final time this weekend. Quick plug for our super awesome hotel staff, they were all super sweet every morning as we would leave for the races wishing us good luck and speedy runs!
We did the bag drop off, said our good byes and good lucks to one another and we split off for our corrals. Now, I had some serious race day issues in the corral. First, I snapped my wing and I tried to fix it, and had even more problems. Then I struggled starting my music and making sure my watch was in working order. However, I got everything fixed except for the wing mishap. The National Anthem was sung, with beautiful fireworks to accompany it, and then we were off. The first mile was identical to the 10K and all took place outside of the parks then they had us enter into California Adventure first. At the first picture stop which was for Monsters Inc./Monster’s University, I BEGGED a runDisney cast member to help me rip off my wings. They had bounced the entire way since I had snapped the safety pin that was holding it in place. She was struggling just as much as I was and I was almost in tears that I was going to have to spend the next 12 miles with these wings bouncing on my back. Finally, I was able to snap the elastic band that my mother had tied into the tightest of knots and ripped the wings off my back and threw them into the nearest trash can I saw.
I felt so free and flew for the next few miles around California Adventure and over into Disneyland. Of course, I stopped for numerous pictures along the course! They then had us run down Downtown Disney and around mile 6 we all encountered the coolest part of the race. The Red Hat Society had women spread out for at least .5 miles on the course cheering for all of us. It brought tears to my eyes. These women were lining up on our way to the start and they were still here as we were making our way through! It was awesome! They gave me some more energy to continue on. Then we wound out into the streets of Anaheim. We entered into a neighborhood that had cute signs up with Tinkerbell on them that said “Shh, neighbors sleeping!” It was funny and yet quite the reminder of how different Disneyland and Walt Disney World races are. We ran over to the Ducks training center and then wound back towards Disneyland. Mile 12 was right where mile 1.5 was except instead of entering back into California Adventure it wound us around the outside of the parks, again super boring for the last little bit of the race. At this point, it would have been nice to have something more magical to provide a little boost towards the end. But then again, you turn the corner at mile 13 and there’s the finish that draws you in!
After crossing the finish line, they again had us follow through the chute area. I collected my half marathon medal immediately but then this time I had to go through the special area for the Challenge medal, where I crossed over another timing mat that showed I had indeed finished both counterparts of the challenge and flashed my picture that they took at the Expo. (Clearly I looked so much like the pulled together picture from the Expo!) Then I got my shiny piece of hardware for the Challenge! Then they saw my Coast 2 Coast wristband and I got awarded my beautiful PINK Coast 2 Coast medal. Next I got to get some post-race nutrition served in adorable small Disney Park merchandise bags. I collected my gearBag from gear check where I had stowed my medals from the previous mornings and a set of our Glass Slipper Challenge medals from February. Then I took ALL of my bling and went to get some awesome post-race pictures.
Once again I checked my phone for my mom and sister’s ETA, made the phone calls to the men back on the East Coast, and waited for my other partners in crime. Luckily, this morning was much warmer than Saturday’s and I was able to bask in the sunlight while I waited. RunDisney also had hired a female cover band that was dressed up like fairies providing some serious entertainment at the finish line party! In between these women they also had a DJ who was rocking out some serious tunes! The finish line vibe was awesome!
As it was Mother’s Day Weekend, I got to watch some really awesome events transpire at the finish line. There were lots of tears, and lots of really special moments between mothers and daughters. One of my favorite moments I got to witness was a woman who handed her medal over to her mom and told her how she was the biggest inspiration in her life and she completed every step of that race for her! Talk about having some serious water works flowing!
The time had finally come for my mom and sister to be approaching the finish line so I made my way back over to the finish area. This time I had to really push through the crowd, it was much thicker than the day before. But then I saw them coming down the final stretch, it helps that my sister is at least 5’10”! I screamed and waved and snapped some quick pictures of them before they wound their way down the chute. Then I went back to try and meet up with them for some pictures. This time, they had it roped off so you couldn’t just traipse back through to the chute area. However, there were some awesome runDisney people working who let me back through since I still had on my bib. We got in lots of hugs and squeals and were super excited with our bibs. My dad called to tell my mom how proud of her he was and then we all tucked into the line for pictures with our new additions. After a few more hugs and squeals we headed back to the hotel for showers and some more adventures in the parks!
What a magical experience. Any last words of wisdom?
Always have fun! Embrace the race day regardless of what it may throw at you, whether it be malfunctioning wings, tired legs, or a heavy heart, run with all you have and trust in your training. Let yourself get caught up in the magic of the moment, but do your best to stick to your pace plan! And lastly, remember that anything can happen with a little bit of faith, trust, and pixie dust!
TMSM 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 www.themainstreetmouse.com/tag/racing-disney/
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