If you were following me on Twitter Friday morning, like Malinda & Erin, you know I was up and ready to go just after 4:00am. In fact, you also probably know I only slept a little less than 2 hours because I was so excited.
Not only was this my birthday weekend, but since Disneyland is Walt's first Disney park & the first I've ever been to, it's the one I consider home. I wasn't fortunate enough to visit as a kid; in fact my first visit was 10 years ago on my daughter's 5th birthday. Since then it's become our tradition to go every year on her birthday (and then some since we’re Annual Passholders). We have made a lot of memories between California Adventure and Disneyland over the last 10 years, but this weekend I added one more memory...the runDisney Disneyland Half Marathon Meet-Up! As you may you already known, I had been looking forward to this for weeks!
An hour later, I left my hotel room and made my way to our meet-up location at Downtown Disney. While only a mile away from DTD, I decided to drive because I knew tons of shopping would be taking place at the Expo later in the day and I'd need a car to make it back with my goodies. In a matter of minutes I was parked and making my way up to the check-in location where I signed my waiver and put on my new runDisney tee!
By the time I'd arrived to the iconic Sorcerer's hat small groups had formed and runners were chatting excitedly about what was to come. I was quickly recognized by Diana who then went on to introduce me to others. Two very friendly ladies in particular made their way over and introduced themselves to me: Dimity McDowell & Sarah Bowen Shea of anothermotherrunner.com! Power chicks! I was very excited to meet them. Also in the midst were runDisney's Official Training Consultant, Jeff Galloway, Olympian/Motivation Speaker, Suzy Favor-Hamilton and several stellar runDisney staff members.
Pretty soon we were all lined up and ready to go on our run. But first, Bob Hitchcock, runDisney PR Manager, gave us the low down on how our run would start off. Then Jeff Galloway reminded us not to puke. We all laughed at that one!
Using Jeff's 30/30 run/walk interval (which I swear by) we took off and started our run from Downtown Disney into Disneyland. I had never seen DTD at day break. The weather was nice and the lighting throughout DTD looked so pretty in the dawn light. I loved it.
Then it happened...we entered Disneyland! Can you believe it?! Me, running up Main Street, U.S.A in Disneyland before the park opened to anyone. This was a total dream come true! I had my iPhone in one hand and camera in another to capture this amazing moment.
From Main Street we made a left and headed into Adventureland: home of the Tiki Room (some of you may have realized I'm a Tiki Room fan based on the name of my blog), the infamous Dole Whip stand, Jasmine & Aladdin, The Jungle Cruise, Indiana Jones and Tarzan's Treehouse.
Then we entered my favorite land in all of Disneyland: The French Quarter in New Orleans Square. It was so surreal to be in NOS and not hear jazz or smell the delicious food coming from the great restaurants in that land. I ran up to the Haunted Mansion (currently closed awaiting the arrival of the Nightmare Before Christmas crew) and snapped a picture of my favorite attraction in the early morning light.
We then a made a u-turn back towards the Rivers of America where I stopped because I could not pass up a photo opportunity of the Mark Twain all alone on the river with the sun rising behind it.
From here we continued to run through Frontierland into Fantasyland by way of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Then we made our way through the castle and back onto Main Street, U.S.A.
We left Disneyland, crossed the Esplanade and entered California Adventure. We ran up Buena Vista Street, made a right into Condor Flats and took the path along Grizzly River Run into Paradise Pier. Except for us and the awesome Cast Members directing us and cheering us on along the way - we had the park to ourselves. Bucket list!
From Paradise Pier we made our way into the newly created Cars Land, followed by Bugs Land and then finally finished up our run in Hollywood.
As soon as our run was over I tweeted a link to the Nike version of the run where you can actually see the route we took in action. Click on the map below watch it in action.
Once in Hollywood, we cooled off, cleaned up and made our way into the Animation Building where were treated to a host of information from our guest speakers and a very special surprise: our bibs and tees for the Disneyland Half Marathon had been pulled in advance and were waiting for us!
First to speak was my dream boss, Faron Kelley. I say dream boss because as a career woman in sales, events and marketing it's clear to me Faron is definitely very passionate about runDisney and the direction of the brand. I find it hard to believe the brand is only 2 years old and in its infancy has achieved such a massive following. What I would give to be a part of such a team - now that would be a dream come true! Oddly enough, someone (not me, I swear!) asked if he was hiring and he said no. Faron went on to discuss the possibility of more races in the US as well as in Disney parks abroad - which really made the room happy. An interesting fact about Faron: he's run 24 runDisney races and the Disneyland Half was going to be his 25th!
Next up was the wonderful man who created the program that makes it possible for me to run: Jeff Galloway.
Those of us who follow Jeff's tweets knew he had taken a bad fall, had fractured his hip and had been recovering for a few months. He was nice enough to share his story with us. He used his walk/run method to get back into running weeks after being sedentary. He was careful not to push himself too hard and started at a 10 second run / 40 second walk interval. Jeff went on to discuss the incredible mind/body connection created by running and the fact that we add hours to our lives by exercising and taking care of ourselves.
Jeff gave us very specific advice with regard to running in high temperatures: take it slow. Frequent walk breaks will keep our core temperature low. The earlier and more often the breaks are taken, the less likely we are to experience exhaustion.
When he was ready to take questions I raised my hand right away. I had been dying to ask him about Goofy's Race and a Half Challenge ever since the day I signed up for it. I needed to know, "Am I crazy? Can I do this? I think as the training goes on I am starting to have doubts!" He told me to keep following his training plan and to not panic, get paranoid or freak out. He said the majority of the time it's the freaking out about the thought of a full marathon that can really set you back. His advice was to walk the half marathon, and enjoy. Then walk/run the full marathon the following day at a slow and steady pace. I was listening carefully and tweeting his advice along the way.
Next up were the two lovely ladies I'd met earlier in the day: Sarah and Dimity, the Mother Runners.
These ladies spoke about things I could relate to: finding the strength to get out of bed in the morning to go for a run, balancing work, kids and running, and most importantly - making time for yourself. As all working parents know, it's the making time for ourselves that's the hardest part. We have people who demand so much from us at different hours and locations of the day that the thought of tuning out to go for a run seems like a terrible idea when in the midst of chaos. But in reality, we all know that's the best time do it. Dimity said something that really stuck with me:
This is so true and is now my favorite running quote! You can go for a long run with someone and truly dig deep into conversation because your focus on the road allows you to let go of the emotional blocks that sometimes keep us from communicating properly. Dimity is a smart cookie!
The always energetic Suzy-Favor Hamilton followed the ladies and shared with us her struggles and successes as an athlete, daughter, mother, sister and wife.
You would never guess by her outward appearance, but Suzy suffered from severe postpartum depression. Her depression crippled her to the point where she could no longer run and had thoughts of taking her own life as her own brother had done years before. Thankfully, her husband was supportive and recognized Suzy truly needed help. It seems as though through therapy and medication, Suzy has reached a point in life where she doesn't need to strive for perfection to be whole. Did you know she loves to dance?
After the dancing, we met the boss, Mickey! We all posed for pictures for Mickey, the event guests and each other. (Below is just one picture - the rest are in this gallery.)
Thank you runDisney for this awesome event!
After all the picture fun it was finally time for breakfast! We were treated to a delicious private breakfast at Flo's V8 Cafe. This was my first time at Flo's and being a retro girl, I just loved the decor!
I enjoyed my breakfast in the company of great ladies: Sarah & Dimity from anothermotherrunner.com and Heather who I'd met via Twitter. It was fun talking about the Bay Area, running and cycling with Sara & Dimity who are both familiar with the area and know others at Specialized. They offered great advice on finding other runners to join in with me when it gets too lonely and recommended great shops in the Bay Area to visit.
After breakfast, another runDisney treat:
Off we went to Condor Flats where we split into groups and enjoyed two views of Soarin: one from the guest side, and one from the Backstage Cast Member side. So incredible! We were seated in the prime viewing spot during our ride - top row, middle of screen.
Afterwards, we were walked downstairs where we viewed the attraction from under/behind the screen. The screen is actually somewhat transparent from behind and we were able to watch the next group board and react to the attraction. We could also see the movie and hear it (very loudly) right from the source. This being a true Disney Backstage area we were not allowed to take photos or video. I wish I could share this with you as it was pretty epic.
Once we made our way out of Soarin', we were escorted to the front entrance of the park where Lynnette and I discussed our plans for the next stop: EXPO! At this point we all said goodbye and everyone went their separate ways.
Thank you so much runDisney, Disneyland, DisneySports and California Adventure for this incredible event. All of the staff & Cast Members were a pure joy and this meet-up was first class all the way. I met great people and made memories that will last a lifetime. When it comes to making dreams come true, Disney knows exactly what they are doing!
If you would like to be part of an event like this, be sure to follow: @runDisney, @DisneySports @DisneyParks on Twitter as well as the Disney Parks Blog. The announcement for this meet-up was made on Twitter a couple of weeks before the race, and the meet-up was held 2 days before the race.