Barely more than a year after completing my epic Dopey four-race challenge in Disney World in Florida, I found myself once again staring down the start line of a RunDisney event in the wee pre-dawn hours a few hundred meters from yet another a famous theme park Disneyland, ready to run twenty-one-point one klicks.
2015 Half Marathon Race #1
January 18, 2015
Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend
May the Course Be With You
On a completely different side of the continent, in the cool morning of a California January day, I laced up my shoes and trotted at a casual but brisk pace through the dimly lit corridor of the Disneyland Resort, past the security check, between the grand gates of California Adventure and the Magic Kingdom, along the mostly closed shoppes of Downtown Disney, and swooped South by the meters-tall Mickey Mouse sorcerer’s hat that greets visitors to the Disneyland Hotel. I had left the hotel with one or two other runners in my shadow, but by the time I reached my corral I was in the company of hundreds… soon to be thousands.
I arrived with thirty minutes to spare, and claimed a few square feet of asphalt and curbside calf-stretching zone while I watched the pre-race entertainment on the giant screen suspended from the pedestrian bridge nearby.
I hadn’t run a Half Marathon since my epic-fail showing at the Edmonton Half in August, and –shorter, highly successful races aside– I was feeling the nerves. Sure, I’d run a couple 10 klick races in darn-near PR times. And sure, my very recent 5k set the bar for my own personal record making quite high. But my calves had been acting up again (as I told no one) and having walked around the Disney Parks for two days of fun prior to the event, well, let’s just say I was more than a little anxious over the upcoming twenty-one klicks.
Fireworks. Spectacle. A thousand geeks in Star Wars costumes punching their way at lighspeed from the starting gate. Could one expect any less of a Disney event. If nothing else, Disney knows how to put on a show. Disney should probably be reserved for celebration events; huzzah-me-type end-of-season training rewards. But I was getting my fireworks before I’d even run a single step of my single half marathon on 2015.
After that what else is there to say? We ran. There were jedi and droids, wookies and yodas. I ran in the glow of a few thousand lightsabers as I weaved my way through the parks, up Main Street USA, along the neon aisle of Tomorrowland, past Darth Vader posing with fans and waving at Stormtroopers who were riding a carousel behind a pink fairty tale castle lit in the discotheque flash of a surreal dreamlike bit of insanity.
We ran and we ran some more. California Adventure was starting to glow with the slowly rising sun, but the faux rockscape of Radiator Springs was lit in a magestic orange hue that was spectacular to run nearly solo through as I neared the final twists of my in-park running.
The streets of Anaheim were a blur. A long suburban stretch through the SoCal flats was punctuated by cheering high schoolers and costumed spectators, music and water stops and the never-ending huffing-and-puffing of costumed runners finally realizing that dressing head-to-toe in a science-fiction flight suit or running with a black cape and plastic mask were not ideal race strategies.
I was getting a little achey by sixteen klicks. I had killed my time dawdling through the parks for the first six klicks, adding at least fifteen, but probably nearly twenty-five minutes to my overall time before the real race had begun. But through Anaheim the need to pose with stormtroopers or pause for jedi selfies had diminshed and I leveled out my pace to finish at a mediocre (but understandable) 2:23-ish, or thereabouts.
I ached. But I grabbed my finisher medal, a glorious replica of the Medal of Yavin from SW:ANH, and met up with my support crew, ready for another day of showing off my new bling as we wandered through the theme parks… and at least Princess Anna thought it was pretty shiny.