The road to a magical 13.1 miles | Katherine Smith

Smith finishes her first ever Disneyland half marathon

I ran. And ran. And ran.

I obsessively read blog posts about Disneyland Half tips, I built and rebuilt my playlist, seeking out Disney tunes to add to the magic and keep it upbeat. I planned my costume — Anna, of course — ordered the pieces, and put the finishing touches on with help from my mom, the costume queen, to bring my vision of Anna to life. I planned hydration and energy snacks and made my lists. I started going to bed and getting up ridiculously early so I could get up even more ridiculously early.

And then I ran.

It all started almost two years ago when I got it in my head to run a 5K. One turned into two, which turned into 10Ks, 12Ks, and now, my first half marathon.

I flew into LA Thursday night ahead of the race. I have friends who live incredibly close to the resort. They kindly let me crash at their casa.

First thing Friday morning I went to the expo to get ahead of the crowds. I decided to spring for a pair of the RunDisney shoes. The wait for the Disney themed shoes, which are only available at Disney race weekends, has been known to be astronomical. They’ve gotten the system down now, though. To reserve a spot in line you went to a virtual queue website and used your race bib number to get a spot in line, kind of like a Fastpass. The virtual queue opened at 6 a.m. each expo day. I was torn about if I would have enough time — I had somewhere else to be at 12:30 p.m., but decided to take my chances. It worked out perfectly. My return time ended up being 10:40 a.m. They assign you a group number and once that group opens they send you a text. You then have an hour to return to the booth and try on the one style and size you reserved online, plus others if you like. The true return time ended up being more like 11 a.m. and I was waiting nearby, so as soon as they opened the group I walked right in and tried the shoes on with no wait.

The rest of the expo was great, as always. Disney puts on the best expos that I’ve been to so far.

On Saturday the parks were calling. My friend and I hit Disneyland first. We had breakfast at Jolly Holiday (yum!) then hit the west side of the park. Saturday evening we went over to DCA and rode Little Mermaid and went into Carsland. I had a major Disney geek moment when we were having dinner and I looked over and realized we were a few tables away from a couple of the Moustealgia podcast folks. On the show they encourage listeners to say hi if they’re spotted, so after some encouragement from my friend I made my way over. It was fun to meet the people behind the voices I listen to each week. It might have made my day.

Saturday night it was early to bed because Disney races start notoriously early — like my alarm went off at 3:30 on Sunday morning kind of early.

There was a bit of traffic on Ball Road to get to Mickey and Friends, but nothing terrible and I walked out to the corrals on Disneyland Drive no problem. Starting lines at big races always amaze me. In this case there were people on Disneyland Drive as far as one could see. Apparently there are an awful lot of people who want to get up before the sun to run 13.1 miles.

We made our way from Disneyland Drive onto Katella and Harbor, then into DCA, across the esplanade to Disneyland and out onto the streets of Anaheim. We wound our way to the Pond and around the warning track of Angels Stadium and back to the finish line at the Disneyland Hotel.

Overall I had an amazing time, and I couldn’t believe how quickly the miles went by. It’s always so fun to run through the parks. The streets were lined with high school bands, dance groups and cheerleaders, classic cars, and the lower level of Angels Stadium was filled with what had to be every Girl and Boy Scout in Los Angeles.

Can we talk about the race bling for a minute? Ah-maz-ing. And oh so worth it. There is nothing quite like reaching that finish line and getting one of those impressive Disneyland Half medals hung around your neck.

It was uncharacteristically humid for Anaheim on Sunday and I found myself taking full advantage of the water and Powerade stations in addition to my Camelbak that I carried. Other than that, my race experience went off without a hitch.

It was even a bit overcast early on, which meant when we turned onto Ball Road and directly into the rising sun visibility wasn’t a problem because the sunrise was obscured by the clouds.

The rest of the weekend was spent playing in the parks and soaking up the sunshine. One of the things that surprised me was the uncharacteristically short wait times for rides. The parks were busy, but not the crushing busy I expected. They were probably the least crowded I’ve seen them in recent memory. In years past, Labor Day weekend at the parks have been a zoo. Maybe it has to do with California shifting school start dates up a few weeks a couple of years back, or maybe Annual Passholder blockout dates, but even with all the runners who descended on the resort over the weekend, wait times seemed to be 40 minutes or less for even E-Tickets.

One of our longer waits was for Alice in Wonderland, and I have to say, the new digital enhancements are beautiful and seamless. That is an example of attraction “plussing” done right. The Imagineers nailed it. It might be the best dark ride in Fantasyland these days.

It was a great weekend and I’m already planning on being back next year. I’m looking forward to see how much faster I can go with another year of miles behind me.