Like the 10k, Coach Shannon would be running this race, and my wife Sallie would be cheering us on. For this race, Coach Shannon was dressed as R2D2, though her beep/boop needed some work.
The Short Walk to the StartWe met Coach Shannon in the lobby of our hotel and started to walk to the corrals. We were a little over a mile away from the start of the race, so we took the walk slow and chatted with other runners as we entered the Disneyland property. The corrals are on the main road between Downtown Disney and the main park, so we never needed to enter the park to get to the corrals. The corrals were the same as the previous days 10k, with 6 corrals, all a bit larger then the normal corral sizes for Disneyland races. Coach Shannon and I would be starting in corral A, but I could not convince Coach Shannon to head to the front of the corral.
As we got to the corral, Coach Shannon headed to the entrance at the back of the corral, while I went to warm up near the front. As one would expect with a Disney race, as well as one themed for Star Wars, there were a great deal of costumes. We had joked on the way to the race that it would be awesome, and insane, if someone ran in a full Chewy suit. As crazy as that sounded, as I was stretching on a fence, up walks Chewy, heading into Corral A.
The Start, in a Galaxy Far, Far AwayThe start of the Half Marathon was as extravagant as the 10k, with a huge screen on the Start Line arch showing clips for the original movies. Of to the side stood the announcers, who would drop into skits every 5-10 minutes or so that included major characters from the movies. This time around the skits were more mature, and went without a hitch. I knew Sean Astin was running this race, so I hunted a bit for him, but never found him in the corral, or on the course.
The course looked interesting, and I was looking forward to trying it out. With a few minutes to go before the start of the race, I headed to the front of the corral and readied myself for a fun race. My plan would be to run at a moderately hard pace, as I knew I was not recovered from the last 10 days. Holding back will be a challenge, but it was one I needed to meet or I would have serious issues by the middle of the race.
And We are Off...In the dark, the fireworks went off and the race started. The first half mile matched that of the 10k, with a single hill that we needed to climb before we headed into the the park. The next 4 and a half miles would be through the two parks, with some back lot roads before we hit Anaheim and the meat of the course. The first two miles wandered through the Magic Kingdom and some of the parks back lot. many a Disneyland employees were out cheering us on, and as we rounded a corner heading past the fourth mile, we ran into our first, set of Star Wars characters. First up was a set of Jedis, which I skipped in favor of the Storm Troopers. A quick photo with them and I was off. Due to being near the front of the race start, there wasn't much of a line for the characters.
Miles 5-7We left the park and entered onto Harbor Blvd, the main road in front of the parks. The crowds were slowly growing, as it was still dark out, with the sun creeping over the horizon. At the 5 mile mark, a cosplayer was dressed up as Chewy with a large sign "Free Hugs!". While I didn't partake in the hugs, many runners took the time out to get a hug from Chewy. From here is was a straight and open road full of runners and cheering vacationers and locals. I was running with a pack of runners all looking for a sub 2 hour pace, chatting with them about the differences between this course and the Avengers course. As we got to mile 6, we heard a roster crow as the sun rose past the horizon. Even though Anaheim is a city, there are many places that have small sets of livestock. This course allowed us to see some of this area, giving us a feel for the diversity of people and cultures of L.A. and Anaheim.
The cheering and crowd reduced the further south we went. At this point, we weaved through a few streets and turned right onto Garden Blvd and to the 7 mile marker. The crowd was gone, and all we had for a cheering section were cars going by.
Miles 7-11This part of the course wandered through an urban housing area and shopping strip in the south of Anaheim. I had lost the pack I was running with, and they seemed to slow down a bit and thus fell back. I was keeping a 1:50ish pace, and things felt good, almost easy, so I kept moving with the same effort, knowing that I was more then halfway done. The path ended up being a square-like path that first went past the Garden Grove Argonauts field, a local field for the Garden Grove High School. Here we found the cheering squad back, as the local high school came out to cheer, as did the local cosplay group.
This race they were out in their Star Wars garb, which included several members of the 501st.
(Photos courtesy of Shannon Scalan)
Miles 11-13.1As we get back to Harbor Blvd, I realize that there were still runners on the other side of the course, passing miles 5 and 6 and just hitting the halfway mark. Turning onto Harbor, I wandered toward the center of the road, which would give me the best chance to high-five runners coming in the other direction. This was something I enjoyed doing, and it kicked up my spirits even more. While I was doing the high-fives, a female runner came up to me and asked what pace I was running. I told her around 1:50, which made her smile, as she was looking to beat 1:55. She was struggling a bit, so I agreed to pace for her, and we headed down Harbor and a nice brisk pace. We chatted a bit on her goals, running, and random other things, mainly to keep her mind off of the pain she was in while keeping the pace. Chewy was still out on the road, getting hugs and high-fives.
At mile 12, we turned left off of Harbor Blvd and headed down the last real road before heading into the the park and the finish line. She was still keeping up with me, but she started to fade a bit. I tried to keep her spirits up, with another runner joining us at that pace to help push everyone to the finish line. We turned right onto the main road we started on and I told the female runner she had this, and would break 1:55 easily. The other runner with me wanted to kick the rest of the race, so I gave her my best wishes and we started to kick the speed up with .5 miles left.
We turned left into the parking lot, with a roar of cheers from the massive crowds that had now gathered. This pushed the adrenaline even higher, and by the time we hit the street leading to the finish line, the fellow runner had backed off. He started to cheer me on and push me with some choice words and I went for an all out sprint for the last 400 meters. The crowds were loud and as I charged through the finish line I could hear my wife Sallie screaming my name and cheering me on.
After the photos, I met Sallie at the bleachers and we cheered on all of the runners while waiting for Coach Shannon to cross the finish line. This is one of the fun parts of a race, something I look forward to. I know how much the cheers mean to runners, so I always make it a point to stand on the course and cheer all of the runners.
Coach Shannon, in her usually awesome style, charges through the finish line with a huge smile. I catch up with Sallie and we both head back to the runners area to meet up with Shannon. As expected, she was all smiles.
We headed back to the hotel to relax and shower. Shannon had to leave latter that day, so we said goodbye, and headed to our rooms. Sallie and I cleaned up and wandered back into the parks for the rest of the days. It always helps recovery to keep on your feet after a race, so that the acids can be worked out of the muscles and the soreness is reduced for the next two days.
Overall, it was a fun race, and the course was different enough to make it worth trying again, versus duplicating the Avengers Half course. I am looking forwar dto trying this again and being a Dopey Rebel for a second year in a row. This time, though, Sallie may have a chance to run it, as she will not be doing her first marathon the week before.