I had only been running for about a year when I arrived in California for my first race.
The weather could not have been more perfect and all I had trained for was only a sleep away. To use the phrase “on cloud nine” would be an understatement.
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Our first stop was the race expo and because we were staying at the Disneyland Hotel it was just a short walk from our rooms. With my husband Steve and our dear friend Gator in tow, I hurried down to packet pick up for my bib and race packet. The guys retrieved their GEAR package wristbands which would gain them entry to the reserved seating at the finish line the next morning.
After checking to be sure my D-tag was working, it was back upstairs to explore the race exhibits.
The expo was filled with all sorts of tempting runner treats so we set out to do a little shopping but frankly I was just too nervous, so we opted to try to the parks as a distraction. The rest of day could describe most typical Disneyland vacations only I remember very little.
We strolled around Disneyland taking in our favorite rides and shows before sitting down to a delicious dinner at the Blue Bayou. After dinner it was off to bed because we had a very early wake up call.
Attempting to sleep the night before your first half marathon is not a skill I was to master. The best I could hope for was not to disturb my sleeping husband. But before I knew it, it was time to get up so I jumped into my clothes rushed anxiously out into the dark where I was immediately consumed by the sights sounds of race morning.
What I found were throngs of people all in their running gear and barely awake walking in unison towards the sounds of a lively DJ with a very loud sound system. I jumped in line and followed the crowd to the staging area where a group of Green Army Men led us in a lively warm up dance before sending us out to the corrals for the start of the race.
The course took us through Disneyland and Disney California Adventure before turning backstage and then out on to the streets of Anaheim. The parks were sprinkled with characters but again, I was too excited to stop (well most of the time anyway).
The most anticipated point in the race came when we reached the stadium of the California Angels baseball team. Hundreds of scouts had gathered inside and out creating the sensation that we had just hit a grand slam for the home team as we made our way around the baseline.
When we exited Angel stadium we had reached the home stretch which would return us to the Disneyland Hotel where it had all begun just hours before. Cheering spectators lined the last ½ or so mile and it was pure adrenaline pushing me to the finish. If you look closely at the picture you can see that Mickey and friends were waiting with high-fives for all.
I had done it! I had finished my first half marathon!
The emotion of it all hit me suddenly as my run turned back to a walk. It had been a perfect race. I had run my first half marathon at a Disney park, which is huge for an avid Disney fan like myself. I had shared the course with a wonderful new running friend. I felt strong so I guess all the training had paid off. Why I had even managed to find Steve and Gator among the throngs of people at the finish line and see the enthusiasm on their faces –a treasured memory that will stay with me forever.
But as these thoughts raced through my head I realized I was still moving forward and looked up to see that the best was yet to come. It was shiny, heavy and an outward sign of one of the biggest accomplishments of my life. I was about to receive my very first half marathon medal!
Later that day with my medal around my neck we joined the thousands of other runners in the parks. Disneyland epitomized the happiest place on earth as complete strangers, bound only by the events of the day, exchanged kudos and stories from the course as if they were old friends.
It was a magical.
My first half marathon was in the books and I was charged and ready for another. But before I moved on, there was one important task I had to complete and that was securing a picture with the big cheese himself. After all, what would a marathon at Disney be without a picture with Mickey Mouse?