Are you ready for this one? Here’s my Disneyland Half Marathon race recap… finally.
I’ve taken my sweet time about it, I know.
But wait… hold up… Shenanigans, you didn’t run that one!
You are correct. I did not. This one won’t be the typical race recap.
This one was slightly easier for me: I held a sign and handed out pretzels. And I yelled a lot.
I’ve never attended a race as a pure spectator with the intention of cheering. I’ve gone to races and waited for people to finish, but this was years ago before I became a runner, and it never crossed my mind to watch people run.
A few friends cheered together at the last Walt Disney World Marathon weekend.
They came back with stories of inspiration, determination, and joy after watching the 15,000 half marathon runners go by. I decided it was time to jump into these waters as a chEAR squad member. I recruited two friends who chose not to run the half and we made a plan.
I wanted to catch the runners in two locations: one needed to be at the gates to the parks right before mile 12. The other was up for discussion. I didn’t want to drive too far and risk not being able to get back to mile 12.
After consulting with a Disneyland local, I picked a location to set up right before the mile 4 water station.
We left the hotel around 5 am and walked to the area. We set up, used the open Starbucks potty (thank you, Starbucks!) and handed out signs. We figured most people wouldn’t need the food right away- we’d save that for mile 12.
After picking out signs, we sat on the bus stop bench (really- this was the best location as far as personal conveniences) and waited for the first runners.
I was holding a sign, ringing a cowbell, and screaming! And I had a crazy-wild smile plastered on my face.
I didn’t catch the very first runners with my camera, but I quickly realized I should grab a few pictures.
I noticed a few things.
1- The fast people are dialed in and, well, fast. A few smiled and waved at us when we yelled for them, but for the most part, their mood was set on “focus”.
2- Corrals A, B, and C appear much smaller by mile 4. I don’t think they start this way. It’s logical to consider many runners in those corrals were hung up in the parks taking pictures.
3- A HUGE mass of humanity poured over that hill a few minutes later and didn’t stop for over an hour.
4- If you stay in one spot, all your BRF will eventually come by!
We were looking for one runner in particular, and we screamed like wild women when we saw our friend Jane coming down that hill.
After a quick hug, pictures, and handing off a can of coke, she was off to PR this race.
This location put us in the sight line for a lot of our friends. The time flew by as we shouted, high-fived, cow-belled, and took pictures. I can’t tell you how many times I shouted out “Congrats, Legacy runner!” to the runners in their special shirts.
That’s some dedication to stick it out ten years!
We stayed around until the last runners passed by.
I won’t lie: this view was pretty hard to watch. It was still early in the race, and some of these people were struggling. There were some athletes clearly hurting and working a gazillion times harder than I’ve ever had to work just to keep moving. My heart went out to them.
First came the bikes.
Then came the balloon ladies.
And finally the vans and golf carts.
We witnessed a few runners call the day and climb into the vehicles. From where we stood we did not observe anyone being forced from the course or blocked off. And this was well after the balloon ladies had passed by.
Sweeping happens, but at mile 4 it didn’t look too aggressive on this day.
We headed over to mile 12 and joined some fellow cheerers at this location.
It was both fun to be with others and also annoying to be with them. One lady came over to stand next to use with her VERY big and VERY loud cowbell. Ours had long been retired because- trust me- you really DON’T need more cowbell. Ahem.
But there were some fun people too. Two guys standing right next to us kept us laughing with their inventive callouts.
He even did a few random cheerleader moves.
I was quite impressed (and amused).
I loved standing symbolically in the steps of Peggy Sue, the original holder of the sign.
It was an honor to be part of her tradition.
Random strangers, we were proud of you!
At this point, we broke out the Red Vines, the Pretzels, and the Starbursts. Runners seemed to appreciate a little extra sugar and salt to get them through that final mile.
The sun had come out and the temperatures had risen as well. I know people were ready to be DONE at this point.
Man, I felt it. I’ve been there with this race the past two years and completely understand how hot it can be.
We stayed until the last athletes walked past us. They were still smiling, and still working hard to finish this one. I truly was proud of every person that walked past and it was nice to see that so many actually finished this year. The SAG list was strangely small.
Maybe the awesome course support pushed them through? Ha!
Have you ever spectated at a race? What was your favorite part of being a chEARleader?
Patty Holliday has been running Disney since 2011. She knows just about every tip, trick, and hack there is to cover the runDisney Magical Miles at Disney World and Disneyland. She knows every mile isn’t *always* magical- but with training, tips, and a little bit of pixie dust, they can be a lot of fun! You can also find her at noguiltlife.com and noguiltfangirl.com