On the morning of September 1st, Bill and I loaded up the Explorer with our suitcases, ice chest, and Bentley and began our trek to California to run the Disneyland Half Marathon. We stopped in Las Vegas for the night before we continued our drive to Anaheim, California Friday morning. We arrived in Anaheim in the early afternoon on September 2nd. Since we were there early enough, we decided to go ahead and go to the Health and Fitness Expo to get our packets, bibs, and t-shirts. It was really well organized, but really crowded, so we got our stuff, looked around for a bit and left. We just wanted to be able to relax before the run on Sunday, September 4th.
On Saturday before the run, we didn’t do a whole lot. We went back to the Health and Fitness Expo and looked around a bit more. Luckily it wasn’t that packed on Saturday, so it didn’t feel as stressful and was much more enjoyable. Other than that, we hung out at Downtown Disney for a little while, but again, we didn’t do a whole lot on Saturday because we knew we had to get up early Sunday morning to do the run. We went to Joe’s Crab Shack Saturday night for dinner and I had a salad, and we shared mussels, and grilled shrimp. I was beginning to get really nervous and thought about how terrible it would be if I ended up with food poisoning before the run. Part of me was looking for any way to get out of running the half marathon the next morning. The other part of me thought that even if I did get food poisoning, I would still run the half marathon as best as I could. The part about doing it anyway carried more weight, but I was still nervous that something was going to happen and all of that training would be in vain. Luckily, nothing bad happened. I didn’t get food poisoning (thank goodness!), and I didn’t oversleep our alarms.
At last, Sunday was there; it was time to run my very first (!) half marathon. Oh my goodness, what was I thinking?! Plus, it was 3:30am when we woke up. I am not a morning person at all and I don’t particularly like running in the mornings. But here I am, a little bleary eyed, but awake and ready to run nonetheless. And checkout that awesome shirt I got! This wasn’t the shirt that came in my packet as part of the run, but one that I bought at the Health and Fitness Expo. Bill got one, too. Yep, we matched. They are super awesome and oh so comfortable! I
was am a huge fan of this particular shirt!
So we got up, got dressed, fed Bentley, let him out, and then went to catch our shuttle to take us to the drop-off point at Disneyland. There were something over 13,000 runners running the half marathon, so luckily the transportation wasn’t an issue and it was FREE! Our bus was packed full of runners who seemed pretty excited. I couldn’t help but notice this one guy who was undoubtedly a competitive runner. He looked every bit of the part. Plus, his bib number was 100-something, which meant he was definitely in corral A and part of the elite runners. Me, on the other-hand, not so much.
Once we got to Disney, we had to walk through Downtown Disney to get to the holding area which was also the area of the finish line. It was cool. They had port-a-pots, several booths set up, as well as a stage where they were playing music and had Mickey and Minnie out to pump people up. I was definitely feeling pumped and super emotional. I don’t know how many times I teared up and we hadn’t even started yet! I couldn’t believe I was actually about to run a half marathon! By choice.
runDisney does an excellent job of organizing this event and making you feel good before the start of the run (and during!). I cannot imagine what all goes into producing something of this magnitude, but it was near flawless! We walked through this holding area quite quickly. We decided to head on over to our corrals and get ready to get started. Bill and I weren’t placed in the same corrals. I was assigned to corral H and he was assigned to corral J. When I signed up I put my expected completion time at 3 hours. He said he could do it in 2 hours and 15 minutes. However, he was supposed to submit proof of time and never did, so they automatically put him in the last corral. Since I am such a great wife, I made the decision to wait with him in his assigned corral (you could go down but you couldn’t go up). Great wife or I just didn’t want to wait alone. Whatever. The corrals were released every five minutes, starting at 5:30am. We got to our corral around 4:30am, so we had a while to wait. We made the best of it. We sat some, we stood some, we sang (there was a lot of music playing), we talked, we took selfies, we stretched…whatever we could think of to do to make the time go by.
This was pretty much right after we got there and as you can see there aren’t a lot of people behind us, but as time went on, the area behind us was completely full of people. Even though we were in the last corral, we weren’t the last ones in the last corral. Win for us! This was on Disneyland Way which is where the parking garages are to get into Disneyland. It was packed full of people. Did I mention there were over thirteen thousand people just for the half marathon! Here is a photo of the people who were in the nine corrals before us. There were people for as far as the eyes could see.
Those glows somewhere in the far, far distance are from the starting line, which we eventually got to. Finally, 5:30am came and corral A was released. Man, that energy was so awesome. I cannot even convey in words how exciting it was! People were so nice and friendly, especially considering it was that early in the morning. It certainly didn’t feel that early in the morning besides the fact that it was so dark. I felt good; I was pumped and I was ready to get MY party started! The months leading up to the run, I was really anxious. I didn’t think there was any way I could actually run 13.1 miles, but boy was I wrong!
We finally got to the point where we were moving. As the corrals ahead of us were released to go run, we moved forward, closer to the start line. I had already drank a whole bottle of water, so I had to pee. I knew I couldn’t wait until somewhere on the course, so we made a quick stop at the port-a-pots before our corral was released. Finally the start line was in view and we were about five minutes from taking off.
The announcers released us and off we went. We started in Disneyland California Adventure Park and I felt great. I wasn’t hurting, I wasn’t out of breath, and I was actually passing people. I couldn’t believe it! Was it possible for me to feel this good!? I had a good pace and felt that was a pace I could keep for 13.1 miles. I had good music going and again, the energy was so good. I was kind of a pain to pass people because the roads were pretty narrow, but I managed and people who weren’t running were pretty good about getting out of the way of those who were running.
In Disney California Adventure, there were workers and characters along the way to motivate and encourage runners. That was really awesome. I didn’t stop for any character photos though. Every time I saw them, I was in a good groove and didn’t want to lose my stride, so I continued past. I was still feeling really great until right at the first mile. Ugh, WHAT?! I started cramping up shortly after the first mile. I couldn’t believe it. How was this possible? I stretched; I drank water. I even had a small snack before leaving the hotel. I was a little frustrated but I didn’t let a little cramping distract me. As I was running, I stretched my right arm and kept on going. I knew that wasn’t a good thing that I was already cramping up just after the first mile. I thought, “come on body, we have 12.1 miles left to go!” I am not sure what happened but it went away and I wasn’t cramping anymore. Thank goodness! I wasn’t going to stop and I wasn’t really looking forward to having cramps for that long of a run. But at least it subsided.
One of the really awesome landmarks in DCA was the World of Color. I forgot to stop when I was in front of it for a picture, so here is one on the backside. I thought I took a picture when the course took me back in front of it, but it seems that picture didn’t take.
We continued through DCA and then went into Disneyland. I think we moved through the parks by some secret squirrel back ways, but I am not entirely sure. I am not very familiar with DCA or Disneyland, since I had never been there, but at some point we moved into Disneyland and ran through the Sleeping Beauty castle.
Through this run I realized I am pretty good at stopping for a quick photo opp and going on my way. It is important to note that at no point during the first four miles did I stop to walk even when I stopped for photos. I literally stopped, pulled my phone out of my fanny pack, took a picture, and resumed running. Total time: no more than a minute. I knew if I stopped for too long, I likely wouldn’t start running again. I had to keep it up while my momentum was soaring. It didn’t seem like we spent a lot of time in DCA or Disneyland (altogether about three miles) before we were on the streets of Anaheim, California.
When I was training for the half marathon, I avoided most hills at all costs. I hate running hills. They make me nervous and want to puke, so I usually walk up them. This course was supposed to be flat, so imagine my surprise when I saw this hill. Some of my readers may recall a caption on my Facebook that said “f this hill”. Yep, I was not looking forward to running up this hill, but I did it anyway (and it wasn’t that bad!).
At least I am still smiling here. In fact, I don’t think I stopped smiling once during this whole run. That comes as a shock to me. Running sometimes makes me miserable, but I really did feel good this entire run. I think this was somewhere nearing mile 4. I ran up this hill, but I stopped for my first walk break somewhere along here. I know I got to four miles without stopping to walk, but it wasn’t long after this hill that I felt like I deserved a quick walk break. By quick, I mean much less than a quarter of a mile.
Somewhere around mile 5 were these awesome folklorico dancers. I don’t even know if that is the right word, but I am going to use it anyway. It was a nice relief to see these dancers. runDisney does it right. There were dancers, bands, cheerleaders, random Anaheim spectators along the whole route. There wasn’t a whole lot of time that I was bored with the run. I was the Queen of Selfies during my half marathon, as you can see!
I couldn’t believe how quickly the miles were flying by on this run. I wasn’t running fast, but I was so into it that I didn’t really realize how quickly the miles were going until I saw the mile markers. There were plenty of water and powerade stops which was a huge plus. I think altogether there were a total of nine water and powerade stops. I had a pretty good system. I would run all the way to the start of the water/powerade stops. When I got to the start of the area, I would walk through it get my water and powerade and then continue running. I stopped at the each of the stops. I knew that if I didn’t get something to drink I would be thirsty further up the road and I didn’t want to make myself uncomfortable by being thirsty. Every time there was a stop, they had both choices. I am greedy, so I took both. Whatever I could do to make sure I could run the majority of the run. The thing about taking liquid every time it is offered, eventually you are going to have to pee. And man(!) did I have to pee. Luckily as I was finishing up mile six, there were some port-a-pots. The line was short, so I made a stop. This was the only time I stopped my run app. I didn’t think it was fair for me to keep it running when I wasn’t even moving (walking or running), so I paused it long enough to pee and restarted it as soon as I sanitized my hands. I had never been so happy to see a port-a-pot! Yes, I took a selfie of me in front of the port-a-pots. Documentation, my friends. At least I am still smiling!
My hip flexors were on fire at this point, so after I made it through the water station that was just after the port-a-pots, I stopped and stretched. It was enough stretching, I guess because after this I continued on my running journey. There wasn’t really a lot going on between miles six and eight, so I didn’t get any photos. I needed to focus, especially with my hip flexors feeling the way they were.
Around mile 8 was the stat of the classic car row. It was really neat because there were all kinds of old timey cars lined up the streets with people cheering the runners (that’s me!) on.
Although I am smiling, I was really weak at this point. I was hurting. I was tired. And I thought there was NO WAY I was going to finish the last five or so miles of this run. This was the first and only time during the whole run that I felt like I couldn’t do it. I had to stop for a walk break and while I did, I sent a text to my sister. I told her something along the lines of, “this sucks. I don’t know why I am doing it. I want to quit.” I am so thankful that she responded and told me to keep going and that I was over half-way done and she knew I could do it. I told her that I had to stop for a walk break and she encouraged me and told me that it was okay to walk but just not to quit! I am so thankful for her and the fact that she motivated me. This was also the only time during the whole run that I actually cried. At the same time, “Formation” by Beyonce came on my playlist, so I got an extra boost of confidence and fuel and started running again. Again, even though I walked for a bit, I didn’t walk for anything more than a quarter of a mile. The classic cars were really awesome. There was a section dedicated to Corvettes and a section dedicated to Mustangs among all the other cars. I didn’t take anymore pictures, because I didn’t want to stop and lose my groove. I did, however, stop for a quick photo-op after the cars when I ran past the Honda Center.
The ninth mile was coming up and that was the mile that I was most looking forward to. This was the mile that took us through the Anaheim Angels Stadium and around home plate. I want to cry just thinking about it. This was just the push I needed. There were hundreds of Boy and Girl Scouts sitting in the stands cheering us runners on. It was so awesome. The energy was amazing as they were cheering and high-fiving the runners. As I ran around home plate and headed towards the exit of the stadium, I saw myself on the jumbotron and that made me laugh and smile. Laugh because my hair looked like a sweaty mess and smile because I knew I had nine miles in and just 4.1 left to go. I could do this!!!
Besides stopping for water, mile 8 was the last time I really stopped to walk. There was a water/powerade/Clif shot stop just before the entrance into the Anaheim Angel Stadium and then another water/powerade stop at mile 11, both of which I stopped at for fuel. I also didn’t take anymore pictures after the Angel’s Stadium. I was on the home stretch and it was getting warm outside, so I just wanted to finish.
Towards the end of the race, there were tons of people who were cheering the runners on. I really picked up my pace at this point. I was feeling much better than I had been around mile 8 and I knew the end was near. I was excited and emotional, but I was also hot and tired. I was ready to see Bill and be done with the run. I didn’t want to not enjoy the experience, but I had a goal and I wanted to meet that goal. I knew that if I stopped too many more times, I wasn’t going to meet my goal and that would be the ultimate disappointment. I didn’t do this run to race anyone except myself, and I did have a goal in mind. The miles seemed to fly by and after mile 11, I recognized where I was. At that point, I was back on the Disneyland grounds and I was running towards the finishline. I knew this because when I started, there were people finishing and I remember cheering for them as I was starting. Mile 12 came and went and I knew I had just over a mile left. As I was coming around a bend in the road, I saw mile marker 13! That means I had a tenth of a mile left. As I looked up and around, I saw the finishline. The finishline! I was almost done! I had my music cranked way up and when I saw that finishline I said, “oh SHIT!” and took off sprinting. I have no idea how I had that energy to sprint to the finish, but I did and I felt so good. Immediately after I finished, I called my sister on video chat. She got this picture of me which captures my post-race excitement better than I ever could have myself.
I couldn’t believe I had actually finished a half marathon! Plus, not only did I finish the run, but I also completed it in 13 minutes less than my goal time. My final run time was 2:47:51, as evidenced by my photo above. I cannot express my level of accomplishment and excitement I felt at the end of this run. I have experienced a “runner’s high” before, but nothing like what this run made me feel. I felt so good that I was already talking about the next run. Yes, there will be more organized runs and definitely more half marathons in my future. It was too good and too much fun to never do another one.
After calling my sister and my mom on video chat, I had to go and find Bill. Among the tens of thousands of people there, it was actually pretty easy to find him. We took some official photos, and congratulated each other. I still couldn’t (and still can’t) believe that I.Ran.A.Half.Marathon!
After we took a few pictures. we decided that we were both starving so we went to Downtown Disney and got some tacos to eat. This breakfast taco may not have been very good in real life, but post-run it felt like the best thing I had ever eaten. I didn’t think about taking a photo until I was already more than half-way done with it. I assume everyone wants to see what I had to eat post-run. I mean, that is one of the most important parts of the day, right!
Post-run final thoughts: if you have ever contemplated doing any distance of an organized run, do it. I am so serious right now. As I mentioned in previous blogs, I have done a couple, but never anything more than a 5k. Of course, I have run distances further than 3.1 miles, but never as a race.
Let me tell you something: if you are dedicated, determined, and do a little bit of training, you can do it! I want to motivate and inspire those of you who think they could never run the distance. You. Can. Do. It. If I can, I believe anyone can. In April of 2014, I could not run a mile. It wasn’t that I couldn’t run a mile fast, it was that I absolutely couldn’t run a mile. Period. I was terribly out of shape. I had a poor body image, and I didn’t care about what kind of food I nourished my body with. Luckily, I deployed to Afghanistan and I decided to change my life. I started with the elliptical and that made me bored. I wanted to be a runner. I didn’t want to be one of those people who just ran for the sake of my PT test. I wanted to love running. I wanted to experience the runner’s high that I so often read and heard about. So I started running. Very slowly, of course. Eventually I was faster. Then I started losing weight, and I started feeling really good about myself and my capabilities. I am not as fast as I was when I was deployed in 2014, but I can go a much further distance. When I was training, the furthest I ran was 7 miles without stopping. That was pretty impressive to me and I was really proud of myself for being able to do that. But running 13.1 miles gave me a whole different kind of pride and sense of accomplishment.
Take it from me: to have something you never had, you have to do something you never did. For me, that is being a better runner. Dare I say this: but I love running. I really do. I constantly see my improvements in time and distance. Obviously my splits on my half marathon weren’t fast and weren’t exactly where I want to be, but I still finished under my pre-determined goal time. In fact, I barely looked at my mile splits today and my fastest mile was mile 13 at 9:58. That makes me really happy! The preparation, training, anticipation, and fear of the unknown with this race challenged me. I didn’t have confidence in myself that I would actually be able to finish it, but I did. I would encourage you to find something (it doesn’t have to be running) that interests you, but challenges you and DO IT! You will be amazed at how great and accomplished you feel if you face it head on.
For good measure and because I love this photo so much, here is one of me after I went back to the hotel, showered, and got ready to go to Disneyland for the day. You see that? It is my post-race glow that I still get anytime I talk about my half marathon.