Editor’s Note: Here is part two from our friend Todd Carrier from his recently runDisney weekend.
If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you might have surmised that I enjoy the runDisney brand, inaugural races and race bling. If you can combine all three, then I’m one happy guy. I was able to have this enjoyment the third weekend in January with the Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend in Disneyland. The events for the weekend included: the Health and Wellness Race Expo, runDisney Kids’ Races,Star Wars Family Fun Run 5K, Star Wars 10K, Star Wars Half Marathon and the Star Wars Rebel Challenge (completing both the 10K and the Half).
Coming off of the Dopey Challenge in WDW, I allowed myself a day of rest and casual park touring before having anything to do with racing. I also planned on allowing myself only one meal (quick service or table service) inside either of the parks. This goal was helped with my hotel offers a complimentary breakfast from 6:30-9:30 (sharp…they lock the door at 9:28 and start clearing stuff immediately).
I flew into LAX from Orlando International on a non-stop direct flight that landed in Los Angeles around 9:30am. I took a shuttle service to my Good Neighbor Hotel from the airport and four of the folks were also taking part in the weekend, but not on the running side but on the vendor and administrative portion. It was interesting hearing a little bit about their thoughts on the weekend. It’s good to be a little chatty sometimes. As is pretty standard with my luck, I was the last to be dropped off at my hotel, the Quality Inn and Suites Anaheim, which was under renovation. I checked in, freshened up, and was on my way before 11am. Since I hadn’t had any food since dinner in Florida (at the Sonny’s on OBT) the night before, I was hungry. I started my walk to the parks and decided I needed to eat before I went in. I decided I wanted some lunch and tried the Gandhi Palace inside the Ramada Plaza at Harbor and Katella. I had the lunch buffet at this Indian restaurant, instead of choosing one item, I was able to sample 15 entrees. My bill before tip was under $10. After lunch, I went through security and entered the esplanade and then into Disney California Adventure. I had upgraded my Walt Disney World Premium Annual Pass in November for the Avenger’s Half Marathon Weekend (did I mention I really, really like inaugural race bling?) to a Disney Parks Premier Pass. I didn’t experience any issues either in WDW or DLR with park entry, fast passes or Photopass/Memory Maker. I had a snack for dinner and passed out early (7pm) since I had been up since before midnight pacific time.
The expo was on Thursday January 15th. It was pretty standard for any runDisney expo at the Disneyland Hotel Convention Center. Bib pick up was in the lower parking section, as usual. As seems to be the new normal with challenge participants, they wanted to take our photo with our bib and our face for verification at medal pick up. They also continued the new commemorative item pick up that was started at WDW with Marathon Week. The old process was when you turned in your waiver and claimed your bib, you were handed your commemorative items (pins, necklaces, etc. which you preordered online). Now, they give you a slip to go to another check in booth and pick up your items, which are in a nice envelope with the items listed. I like it better this way as it speeds up the bib pick up line because the volunteers have less to handle, the volunteers manning the commemorative item booth is a little more knowledgeable with the items and it gives me something to hold my pins as soon as I get them, instead of balancing them until I get my bag with my shirt upstairs.
They did; however, still give me a wristband for the Coast to Coast challenge. Given the debacle of running out of Clif gu on the course for both the half marathon and most stops at the full marathon the previous week, I bought a box of 8 salted caramel gu. I didn’t want to chance not having any fuel on the course. The line for the official Disney merchandise took me about 15 minutes. It was crammed packed with people. I didn’t see anything that struck my fancy to purchase. Although my breakfast of waffles and eggs and other assorted foods was good and filling, I was ready for lunch. I decided that Earl of Sandwich (Downtown Disney right across from the Disneyland Hotel) fit my protocol for eating this weekend, especially since I didn’t go when I was in Florida. Since I tend to like food even more than I like bling and I am somewhat indecisive, I got a Cannonballs and a Full Monty. Stuffed with more good food, I walked my stuff through security and the esplanade, dropped it off at my room, played in the parks a bit and then decided it was dinner time. In my search for local eateries, I found my way to Oggi’s (Harbor & Chapman) a local sports bar/restaurant that has a large menu and great specialty pizza. Yeah…pepperoni, bacon, garlic, jalapenos and red onions. Yummmmy. I’m thankful I didn’t sweat during the next day’s race, otherwise I would have been extremely off putting.
Feeling refreshed, somewhat due to being accustomed to east coast time, I walked to the 5K on Friday morning around 4:40 for the 5:30 start. The temperature was a little cool, but nothing intolerable or that made me want to seek shelter or heat. I was in corral A for this event. I seem to pull a higher corral for west coast races than for east coast races for some reason. The starting line was one of, if not the most elaborately themed starting lines I’ve had the pleasure to pass over. The woman who sang the national anthem gave me chills and was one of the most beautiful voices I have ever heard. The course passed through both parks and Downtown Disney but with a different route than other 5K’s held at Disneyland.
I was back to my hotel with plenty of time for breakfast. Lunch was snacks after meeting up with a somewhat local friend for park time. We did some headliner rides, exclusive to California rides and some rides that tend to be overlooked. I highly recommend the last one if you have the luxury of being able to visit multiple times in a short time frame. One special thing we did was meet Olaf from Frozen (the only redeeming part of the movie….) and had photos with him. Dinner was at a gastro-pub style restaurant inside the Hotel Menage (Harbor & Ball). We had some delicious humungous messy burgers, specialty fries and a caramel banana pecan bread pudding I would certainly return for. My mouth is watering thinking about it.
On Saturday, I took a little longer to get ready and didn’t start my trek to the corrals until almost 5am. But with the close proximity of everything in the Disneyland resort area, I was still in my corral (Corral B for the Rebel Challenge) and ready to go long before the national anthem was played. Surprisingly unlike the 10K that was part of the Dumbo Challenge, the 10K course was almost entirely on Disneyland Resort Property. The one drawback/hardship of the 10K course was near the beginning. We had to climb two rather highly elevated overpasses (Ball Road over I-5 and Harbor Boulevard over I-5) and then as soon as we entered property, we ran under and therefore needed to run up out of the tunnel that crosses under the shuttle drop off area. Three steep inclines in a short span made me grimace. But the next nearly four miles were all in the parks and that made up for it.
Once again, I returned to the hotel with plenty of time to have breakfast. I then freshened up and met with my friend again for some Disneyland time. We decided to go visit the KT tape folks at the expo (they will tape one part of you complimentary, any more and you need to buy a roll of tape) as well as to show her what the expo was like. There was no line for the official merchandise booth, but it was still filled with people. I overheard Sean Astin (Samwise Gangee from the Lord of the Rings movies) retelling his Dopey Challenge experience. Then it was lunch time. Earl of Sandwich was on the way to the parks. It was good for lunch a couple days ago. And there were only a dozen people in line. It was a sign we should eat there. While eating we saw/hollered to/chatted with another friend who was also in town for the race weekend. After lunch we returned to Disneyland. As the sun set, we decided to head to dinner. I had heard of Fire & Ice at Garden Walk a while ago, but had never tried it. We decided to give it a go. It’s a Mongolian style place. When we went in and had our first round, the line was virtually nonexistent. However, by the time we were ready for the second round, the line took almost 20 minutes to get the ingredients to the grill. It was good. I would return.
Sunday morning, I met with my running friend in Corral C, where he was positioned. The first four miles were in the parks. Side note: whoever fed the animals at the ranch that morning, fed them food which made them extremely gassy. When we exited onto Harbor, we ran forever into, in my opinion, generic suburbia. There were a few nice parts. As a fan of architecture, we went through a historic district in Garden Grove which I enjoyed. There were cosplayers out on the course, very similar to the Avenger’s Half Marathon. Except for the Star Wars Half Marathon, they were at a location where there presence could be appreciated and you could stop and pose with. It was an entirely flat course. And ran through neighborhoods, much like what I would run through on my training runs in the frigid north tundra. I asked my running buddy to help keep us on pace so we would finish in time so that I could get back for breakfast. Sorry, food has its prioritization.
We finished in a decent time. The weather held nicely. There were no issues with any of the three medals received that day. I hustled back to the hotel and made it to the breakfast room at 9:25, which is how I know about them locking the door at 9:28. I got cleaned up, packed up, dropped my luggage at the desk when I checked out and went back to the parks for photos and to squeeze in some last minute ride time. I had a late late lunch at Café Orleans. It was my one in park meal. And a treat for me as their Monte Cristo and Pommes Frites are rather rewarding. I bounced over to California Adventure for a quick peak at Freeze the Night, the Frozen Nighttime Spectacular which is temporarily replacing the Mad T Party. It was okay. It certainly wasn’t Elec-TRON-ica. It was then time to go back to the hotel, claim my baggage, use their restroom to change into airport clothes and head back to LAX for my red eye flight to Orlando International and then the long drive back to the frozen north country.
After a very bountiful eleven days, I had earned eleven pieces of bling. The comradery of Marathon Week is such an overwhelming feeling. I would highly recommend taking part in one of the races in Walt Disney World. The Star Wars Half Marathon weekend was somewhat typical for Disneyland runDisney races; a little more intimate, friendlier and happier. I look forward to my next runDisney event…the trouble I have now is deciding if it will be the 10th Anniversary Disneyland Half or maintaining my legacy status with the Wine & Dine Half. Think about this I must.