Race Review: The Disneyland Half Marathon

SUMMARY: 2 miles of running through wonderful Disneyland and 11 miles through Anaheim.

Key Information

Race Name The Disneyland Half Marathon
Location Anaheim, CA
Elevation Profile Very flat.  There is a gradual gain for the first 7.5 miles that is given back during the remainder of the race.
Organization Top Notch!
Terrain Street
Water Stations More than enough.  Cliff stocked a station about mile 9
Highlights Running through Disneyland and the outfield of Anaheim Stadium.
Other Events  A 5K and kids run
Good for Beginners? Absolutely

INTRODUCTION:

This was my second running of the Disneyland Half Marathon.  It is the only half that I have repeated in my short running career.  Many people travel the country to attend this race as part of the RunDisney program.  It is a great race for first time half-marathoners especially those looking for a Labor Day long weekend away with the family.

THE COURSE:
This race could very easily be named the Anaheim Half Marathon Presented by Disneyland.  There are two very fun miles inside Disneyland and California Adventure.  These miles run through both Disneyland and California Adventure.  Another 2 miles of the race are on Disney property including the  backstage areas.  From miles 4 through 12, the runners are on the streets of Anaheim running through mostly commercial and industrial areas.

Phineus and Ferb had a long line for photos in California Adventure

The first major highlight after leaving the park is running by the Honda Center where the NHL’s Ducks play.   It might have been nice if Wildwing, the Ducks mascot had been there, but hey, Disney doesn’t own the Ducks anymore.

The course for the Disneyland Half Marathon. Note how much of the race is outside the park

The Honda Center leads to a brief bit of running on the Santa Ana River Trail and then enters Anaheim Stadium home of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (yeah, I know, it’s what they’re called. Make peace with it).  The runners enter through the right field warning track and travel down the first base track behind home plate and then out the left field exit.  This is one of my favorite parts of the race being on the field of a Major League Stadium.

After the runners exit the stadium then it’s just a 5K run to the finish line.  There is one more 3/4 mile run through the back lot of Disney, but there really isn’t anything to see there and you saw it during the first two miles of the race.  The finish line is located on the street between the Disneyland Hotel and Downtown Disney.

Taken Along the Santa Ana River Trail.  Why can’t you run a half marathon again?

Another note about the Disneyland portion of the race is that the course inside the park can change from year to year depending on what construction is going on. In 2011, when California Adventure was being reworked, the course was rerouted to make up the distance in the back lot.   The back lot is fun if you haven’t seen it before.  Disney does its best to put parade floats along the back lot to liven up the scenery and some of them are really cool.  I stopped at one point to sit in the front seat of one of the buses that runs up and down Main Street.

Me! Behind the Wheel of a Main Street Bus.

THE WEATHER:
The race is on Labor Day weekend so the hottest parts of the days could reach the 90s.   As the race starts at about 6am, the heat is not too much of a problem for at least the first three hours of the race.  It is wise to stay hydrated though.  Some runners wore hydration packs, that seemed a bit overkill to me given the ample number of water stations.  Slower runners will start to feel the heat near the end of the race.

ELEVATION PROFILE:
This race is effectively flat.   My Garmin indicates that there is an indiscernible elevation gain during the first 7.5 miles of the race, but it is given back over the balance of the course.

There are two very minor obstacles after the runners leave the park and turn onto Ball Road.  The first is a mostly unremarkable hill over the 5 freeway.  It’s no biggie and you get the downhill benefit right after it.   The other obstacles as one runs up Ball road is for the next few miles is the blinding the sunrise dead ahead of the runners.  Sunglasses and sunscreen are advised.

The sun will rise right in front of these runners.

RACE ORGANIZATION:
It’s Disney.  The event comes off like clockwork.

One weakness of this  the race relates to staging 15,000 people into 7 huge corrals along Disneyland Drive. It gets cozy.  The race starts officially at 5:45.   In the last 30 minutes before the start, it can take a while to get from the ports-potties to the extreme corrals (A, B, F and G).  One might want to aim for being in your corral about 5am if possible, because it can be difficult to move around once the masses start to arrive.   If you get there late and can’t make it to your corral, don’t worry. Just start a lower corral and avoid the stress. Don’t try to climb over the railings that bound the corrals, as others could be injured.  If one is willing to run a few miles, the runners do have access to the bathrooms inside the park.

There are ample number of well stocked water stations along the course offering both Dasani water and Poweraid.  The first tables were being drained by all the runners, On this particular race, if your time is important to you, I would skip the first water table you see and going for the second or third which are usually less depleted than the first tables.

Cliff offers gels after the runners come off the Santa Ana River trail about mile 8.   As I don’t train with Cliff, I made it a point not to start using them during this race.

On the topic of porta-poties: There were plenty along the route.

MY EXPERIENCE:

I am having trouble describing my experience.  I have read other reviews of this race and I wish I could express the joy and seen the magic that so many others who experienced during this event.  I have run the 5K three times and the half twice. Maybe I am too familiar with Disneyland having owned an annual pass.  I do like park as a running venue.

A popular photo-stop for in California Adventure

At the end of the race, I was disappointed that the medal was the exact same design as the previous year.  I was also disappointed by the snack boxes that were handed out.   They were the exact same boxes that were handed out the day before at the 5K containing prepackaged food that could have been delivered six months earlier without the risk of going bad.   They included crackers, raisins, a tube of peanut butter, some candies etc.  Bananas,  Dasani water and Poweraid were also available for finishers.

Medal from 2011 and 2012. Not much different.

MY RESULTS


This half marathon in my mind is the equivalent of a fun run.  I did want to finish in the top half of all the finishers. My plan was to enjoy the time in Disneyland as best I could, see my daughter who was volunteering with her cheer squad to rally the runners on.

A sign from a local lumber yard that is located along the race route.

I knew from experience that the first 5K in the park was going to be slow, after all, life is too short to run through Disneyland.

By my GPS my first 3.1 miles were at a 12:59 minute-mile pace.  The next two 5K legs were both at  11:44 pace.  After I came across my daughter’s cheer squad outside Angels Stadium, I decided that it was time to put this one in the books.  The next 3 miles were at 11:17 and the last 3/4 of a mile were at 10:14.  I guess I still had something left in the tank.  Hey!  I ran negative splits!

In 2011, I finished in 2:44:51. I Finished 7131 out of the 12,785 finishers. In 2012 I finished in 2:35:55. I finished 6700 out of 14, 823 finishers meaning I finished in the top 22% of the finishers.  No complaints.  Borderline magical.

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Race Review: The Disneyland Half Marathon

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