State 7: California (2010 Disneyland Half Marathon)

Like many kids, I was obsessed with Disney movies and theme parks when I was young.  However, unlike most people, I never really outgrew them.  I went to Disney World for Spring Break my senior year of college, I think “Toy Story 3” is so far the best movie of the year, and I think my biggest reason for having kids is to live vicariously through their inevitable obsession with the mouse.

So it shouldn’t be at all surprising that my heart stopped beating when I found out about the Disney Endurance Series.  Racing … through Disney parks?  Yes, please.  It was with this puerile enthusiasm that, not long after the marathon, I started coordinating a Labor Day plan to visit LA and run the fifth annual Disneyland Half Marathon.

But first, let’s rewind a bit.

Last year, Steph, my roommates and I took a weeklong vacation to Newport Beach, California.  It was the second time we do it, thanks to Marriott’s attempts to sell Paul a timeshare.  We would get an impossibly cheap deal on a villa in exchange for Paul attending the hard sell.  While there, we reunited with our dear hedonist friend, Gerald Tang.  Liquors were combined, games were played, fun times were definitively had, sudden nakedness optional.

Prior to arriving, I had convinced Jason to run a 10K with me on the second day of the trip.  The both of us were therefore holding back on drinking.  Gerald, though, went out with his friends until 4 in the morning and somehow still got up to run a 48-minute 10K.  Like a machine.  Eight months later, with this impressive display of raw athleticism still fresh in my mind, I decided to ask him if he wanted to run the Disney half with me, an event that was still ten months away.  Like a true beast, he agreed without preconditions.

Before the race, there was plenty to do in LA, including watching Northwestern’s opening game against Vanderbilt (a 23-21 victory – go ‘Cats!) at Barney’s Beanery with a motley group of alumni.  After eating my sixth meal of the day and topping off the day’s copious caloric intake with some late-night gelato, it was time to get my brief pre-race sleep.

The Disneyland Half Marathon began at 6:00 AM with a wave start.  For some reason, I had been placed in Corral A, which should never be the case.  To be placed in the same group as the eventual winners is a clerical mistake.  So I stayed in Corral B with Gerald only to find out that A was for anyone wanting a competitive time, or faster than 2 hours.  So once we were running, it was definitely a game of negotiating our way through some slower crowds.  Fortunately, the roads were wide enough to do this.

The course runs around the perimeter of the park for the first mile and a half before ushering runners inside via a secret side entrance.  Once inside, I was a kid again.  Characters such as Sebastian, Genie, Woody and Mike Wazowski lined the course, themed music being consistently piped through the park’s secret network of speakers.  It was impossible to wipe the stupid grin off my face for the two miles that came after – especially when you’re running next to Space Mountain to the tune of Star Wars’ Imperial March.

Once out of the park, the course runs down Ball Road, detouring to Cerritos Avenue before reuniting with Ball and back to Cerritos until the Honda Center.  Right before mile 5, I looked ahead of me to find Gerald running … ahead of me?  How did that happen?  I couldn’t help but think, if he beats me, I’ll never hear the end of it.  I caught up with him, gave him a motivational thumbs-up, and continued on the streets of Anaheim.  There was very little to see for the next three miles – just open highways, some dips, a few hills, but nothing as awe-inspiring as a Disney park.  The on-course entertainment was par for any world-class course, but since entertainers rarely make or break a race for me I largely ignored them and focused instead on my pacing.

At mile 9, the course enters Angels Stadium.  I did not have high expectations for this, namely because I don’t like baseball and certainly don’t care about the Angels.  However, the crowd of spectators who had shown up to cheer was huge.  It was difficult to not enjoy their enthusiasm – certainly not when you spy yourself on the jumbotron.

Me, Gerald

At this point, I was still feeling great, and hopes of a PR were high.  Temperatures had stayed in the low 60’s all morning and a thick fog had obscured any debilitating sunlight.  With Mickey, Goofy and Donald waiting for me at the finish line, I decided to kill it to the tune of a sub-7-minute final split, crossing the finish line at the Disneyland Hotel in 1:38:40, a new personal best by almost two minutes.  But the most shocking feat of the day belonged to Gerald.  Not only did he finish the race without a single injury, but he managed to clock in at 1:42:57 without any serious training.  It is not without evidence that I suspect that he’s a Chinese-engineered spy robot.

Gerald, Chris, Erin, Me

After the glee of earning a PR had worn off, we drove back to Marina del Rey to meet up with Erin, Chris, Val and Gerald’s friend Mandi for some celebratory food and drinks.  It was a splendid West Coast Getaway weekend, full of old friends, great food and lots of loud conversations about orthopedic surgery.  I’m glad I got to enjoy some quality time with these kids since it’s tough to know when we’ll see each other again these days.  But one thing is certain: my circuit of ten half marathons comes to a (hopefully) triumphant end next weekend with the Chicago Half Marathon. Until then!

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About Dan
Running a marathon in all 50 states because there's no better way to explore the world around you than on your own two feet, for as long as you can, until you hate yourself and everything around you. Then you stop, get a medal, and start over.

4 Responses to State 7: California (2010 Disneyland Half Marathon)

  1. Pingback: Race Schedule & Results « Dan's Marathon

  2. Pingback: Florida (2011 Disney Wine ‘n Dine Half Marathon Relay) « Dan's Marathon

  3. Pingback: Race Medals « Dan's Marathon

  4. Pingback: Florida (2013 Walt Disney World Marathon) « Dan's Marathon

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