The Casual Runner

2016 runDisney Disneyland Half Marathon

Event: 2016 runDisney Dumbo Double Dare Challenge & Disneyland Half Marathon
Event Date: September 4, 2016
Event Location: Disneyland Resort, Anaheim, California

img_9321The Dumbo Double Dare Challenge is a 2-race challenge that takes place at runDisney’s Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend in Anaheim. We will have full coverage of both events that make up this Challenge: The Dynamic Duos 10k and the Disneyland Half Marathon.

Why I decided to run this race

Two reasons: 1) Candace. 2) Disneyland’s 60th Anniversary.

True, I ran the 2014 Dumbo Double Dare and enjoyed myself immensely. In fact, the Disneyland 10k is one of my all-time favorite races. Despite this, I really did not have any burning desire to run this race again this year. However, once Candace decided that she wanted to get her Coast to Coast Medal AND reminded me that this would be the perfect opportunity to experience the Disneyland 60th Anniversary festivities, she won me over. Hey, she definitely knows how to make a compelling argument.

While I would have been happy only running the Disneyland 10k, I could not go all the way to California and not grab my Coast to Coast Medal.

Getting there/the lead-up to the race, The race Expo, and Swag review

You can check out Candace’s great Race Review of the Disneyland 10k for more info on these aspects, because I have a lot to say about the course below!

Check out our tips for surviving a runDisney race expo.

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The gear

Candace is really into CosRunning at runDisney events, so I like to oblige her when I can. She offered to make us runner-friendly Donald Duck and Daisy Duck costumes for the half marathon. By runner-friendly, she purchased running tank tops and shorts, decorated them accordingly, and topped them off with hats to create unmistakable character costumes. I think she did a great job, and the costume functioned just as my normal race day outfit would – so mad props to her. I also wore a pair of yellow Swiftwick Vision running socks in my attempt to simulate duck feet.

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I did a big no-no and wore brand new running shoes for both of these races. I know, I am a terrible Casual Runner, but my last shoes died on me and a shipping delay plus our crazy travel schedule meant that I did not receive my shoes until the day before we flew to California. I suppose I will have to share more insight in a future article, but the New Balance Vazee shoes did work well for me.

The pre-race

Just as with the Disneyland 10k the day before, we were a short walk to the pre-race area. I took care of all of my pre-race routines in the hotel and then we enjoyed an easy stroll to the corrals. Again, as we were not checking bags, we skipped the usual pre-race activities and loaded directly into the corrals. Candace and I were in different corrals, but fortunately I was not alone as I happened upon some great running friends in my corral. I met up with Gail and Kim (those costuming savants from Run all the Races) and Karen who is the host of my newest podcast obsession, Good Job Brain. It was great having the chance to catch up with them all, though we knew that, as we all had different race plans, we would not be seeing each other much during the race itself.

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A big shout out to Kim and Gail!

As for the weather, it was pretty much perfect Southern California race temps in the 60s with low humidity.

Along the course

The starting line is located in the same place as the 10k and you start out heading south on Disneyland Drive, but instead of continuing on to the Convention Center, the course makes a left turn into the backstage area of California Adventure behind Paradise Pier. The best thing that I can say about this revised course as opposed to the one used during the 2014 Disneyland Half Marathon is that the course designer really worked hard to increase the amount of time spent inside California Adventure. The general rule of runDisney races is, the more in-park time the better, and organizers definitely treated us to more time in DCA than prior races. This is a big improvement. PLUS, and this is a big PLUS, we ran all the way around the World of Color Fountains all aglow. It truly is one of the more spectacular, memorable, and magical race experiences a Casual Runner will have anywhere.

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We exited California Adventure on the east side of the resort and then entered the Esplanade from the east before entering the main gates for Disneyland.  Once in Town Square, we took an immediate right turn into backstage areas.  One of the highlights of a runDisney race for a Disney fan is seeing backstage support areas that most guests never get to see. Magic Moment. We entered onstage in Tomorrowland and made our way into Fantasyland, before turning back South to pass by the Carousel and through Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. This is truly a highlight of any Disneyland race.

Once in the Hub the course took us directly down Main Street USA and back out the main entrance. Prior to the race, it was difficult to tell from the official course maps just where in the park we would run, and upon exiting, it occurred to me just how little time we spent on the onstage areas of Disneyland itself. This was particularly disappointing given how much onstage time we received in California Adventure (they giveth and they taketh away).

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We crossed the Esplanade and made our way back into California Adventure and strolled down Buena Vista Street, then turned left at Carthay Circle so that we could exit the park again to the East.  This time, however, instead of crossing over the Esplanade, the course adopted the tunnel UNDERNEATH the Esplanade to make our way North into Disneyland itself. This is a fun aspect (though they missed a chance to disco-tunnel things up, perhaps for future events? Maybe?). To say that I was loving the race at this point would be an understatement.

I thought that we would go back onstage at Disneyland, but sadly, we did not. We made our way underneath the monorail beam deeper into the backstage area (which, don’t get me wrong, is very cool indeed), and past my personal favorite, the Roundhouse where the Disneyland monorails and steam trains sleep.

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Unexpected Magic. Unlike the Disneyland 10k the day before where I ran with friends, I ran this race solo. Just before reaching the Roundhouse, I happened upon a fellow runner, Annette, who I met at the hotel pool the day before. Our groups were hanging out near each other and got to talking and having a good time. Annette and I got to talking on-course and decided to hang with each other for a while, turns out we would end up pacing each other for the next several miles, and had a great time doing so! Thanks Annette for helping me through the (spoiler alert!) worst miles of this race!

We exited the resort property to the north and turned right onto Ball Road, and began a climb up over a highway overpass. The best part about this was that we were treated to the corresponding downhill – and what Casual Runner does not like a nice downhill section? There was a water station on the backside where I decided to stop and make a quick bathroom break.

Side Story Time: As I left the port-a-potties, I noticed a handwritten sign on the next door over that simply said “GROSS.” I thought this odd, but quickly forgot about it, until…later that day, we spoke with a fellow runner (who we will not name to protect the innocent) who is much faster. TMI ALERT (you’ve been warned): he visited that particular port a potty earlier that morning while it was still dark (I told you that he was much faster than me) and, well, lets just say that the seat was not clean. Yeah, disgusting. After a shower and over a few drinks it is hilarious, but still disgusting. He told a volunteer, and evidently the handwritten “gross” sign was the solution. Let his experience be a lesson to you all: before you squat, check the seat!

Back on the course, I’m sad to say that I am pretty much out of good things to say about this race. Thank goodness for my new impromptu running buddy Annette who helped get me through the next 8 miles because they really dragged on.  Don’t get me wrong, there were some highlights such as the Mexican and Polynesian dancers, the marching band, and Angels Stadium, but the entertainment paled in comparison to the offerings at the 2014 Disneyland Half Marathon. It occurred to me that the sheer volume of marching bands along the 2014 Disneyland Half Marathon course made up for just how boring this course is. I know it is wide open and allows faster runners to really stretch their legs, but this course is definitely not my jam.  I really hope organizers reverse course (no pun intended) to both: (1) shorten this section of the course to allocate more miles to the Disneyland resort; and (2) bring more entertainment to this portion of the race.

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OK, no sense beating a dead horse. Fast forwarding to the Garden Grove section, I could see Grizzly Peak in the distance and knew that we were in the last 1.5 miles of the race. Once we crossed over Harbour Boulevard I saw the first spectators I had seen in miles and felt a little pep returned to my step. We made our way back into the familiar backstage areas of California Adventure before coming upon 2 marching bands in the Paradise Pier Hotel parking lot. While I love me some marching bands, we really could have used them a few miles earlier. No matter, I jumped on the chance to participate in the offered high-5 line and thanked them for their support.

We then found ourselves in the finishers chute with a quick and raucous run to the finish line. I do enjoy the Disneyland finishes – the crowds are so close you cannot help but feed off of them.

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The SMOpinion

You get an SMO! You get an SMO! Everybody gets an SMO!

That’s how I felt at the end of this race as it was raining bling at the finish line. I collected my Disneyland Half Marathon, my Dumbo Double Dare, and my Coast to Coast Medals. Not to give them less praise than they deserve, but I love them all and they have great lanyards to match. The redesigned Dumbo medals include over-sized ears that actually flap! We would be embracing the clank in the parks for sure.

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The post-race experience

For as good as runDisney events are, the post-race experience is one area where they are lagging behind many other races. There just really is not a whole lot of noteworthy aspects of the experience when compared to other races we’ve run in the past year. We received drinks, a single banana, and our customary runDisney snack box, but again, no bags to help us carry our items. We did receive Dr. Cool towels, which were a nice touch. Other than that? There was not much to keep us around so we went back to the hotel to shower and then hit the parks.

Playlist Peek

My playlist was all about Disneyland’s 60th Anniversary. I made sure to include the soundtracks for Paint the Night, World of Color Celebrate, and Disneyland Forever Fireworks. Whoever was in charge of the music for the anniversary celebration earned their salary and then some. If you have not yet heard these soundtracks, take a minute to do so, they are great.

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Looking back now

This race definitely left me with mixed feelings. I loved the improvements to the California Adventure section of the Course, but was disappointed by how little time we spent in Disneyland itself. The course is dominated by long stretches with little to no entertainment and no crowds. It just does not make for an interesting, let alone magical, race experience. I hope once Star Wars Land is complete that the in-park time will increase, but it will require a major course redesign – from which this race would definitely benefit.

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I need to mention Disney Photopass. In 2016 runDisney moved from Marathon Foto to their own Photopass photographers. I initially thought this was a good change and thought it worked really well during the 2016 Star Wars Dark Side Challenge, so much so that we purchased Photopass specifically for this trip. The execution for this race weekend was very poor and disappointing. I did not see Photopass photographers at the character stops, and we had to take our own pictures with our own cameras. While that would not normally be a big deal, we did pay for this service and it was not provided in logical locations.

Additionally, the on-course photographers were few and far between, and were not even located at the logical Race Icons or magical moments, such as World of Color or the aforementioned character stops. I think that this is a good program for runDisney events, but one that needs a lot of improvement.

Will I run this again? Well, lets see what changes they make to the course design before I commit to anything.

Still want more? Check out our coverage of runDisney Disneyland Race Weekends:

2016 Disneyland Half Marathon Race Review
2016 Disneyland Dynamic Duos 10k

2016 Cigna Runs Together Meetup (COMING SOON!)
2016 Disneyland Half Marathon/Dumbo Double Dare Weekend Preview
2014 Dumbo Double Dare & Coast to Coast Review Event Expo & Coast to Coast Overview & “Signs” Video
2014 Disneyland 10k (Stitch) Race ReviewCourse Video
2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Race Review & Course Video
2015 Disneyland 10k (Villains) Race Review
2015 Disneyland Half Marathon Race Review

Enjoy the freedom of going wherever your feet, imagination, & determination take you!

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Enjoy the freedom of going wherever your feet, imagination, & determination take you!

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