about a week before every major running event, their social media department puts out a blog post inviting anyone who's interested to a meet-up. if you're lucky enough to get in, you get to meet some key people on the run disney staff, take part in a warm-up run through the parks (whether it's disneyland or disney world), get some free swag. it's usually on the friday before the race, and it's quite a hot ticket. there are a limited number of spots available, and it's a first-come, first-served kind of thing. the blog post goes up with the details, you send your e-mail, and then you sit and wait to hear back.
i tried to get into the one they hosted in september, before the disneyland half. i had no idea how tough it was to secure a spot, and was super bummed when my name didn't appear on the list of attendees. so this time, i kept a close eye on the run disney's twitterfeed and then basically stalked the blog every half hour on the morning the announcement was expected. i got my e-mail all ready to go, refreshed the site constantly, and when it finally popped up at 12:30 that afternoon it was a mad dash to copy & paste the e-mail address for responses and hit "send." i was so on the ball, the time stamp on my e-mail read exactly 12:30, maybe about ten seconds after the blog post was published. i was feeling pretty confident, and when i got the e-mail with the subject line that began with "congratulations!..." i totally squealed and fist-pumped.
like the runs themselves, these meet-ups have a super early start time so that they can be done before it's time to open the parks to the public for their regular day of operation. and so i found myself on the freeway at 5:30 in the morning, heading down to anaheim for an awesome morning of half marathon-prepping fun. i snagged a crazy sweet parking spot, scampered out of the car and found a group of excited fellow runners waiting under mickey's sorcerer hat.
i checked in, changed into the run disney shirt i was given, and put my jacket and car key into the bag i was given. i got to chatting with one of the other girls there as we headed down for a quick potty break, and then we joined the group as we got ready for our 2-mile run.
we had a few special guests in the group - jeff galloway, the official run disney trainer and olympian, and sean astin, who's a running enthusiast and run disney devotee. cool, right?
i'd been a little nervous about this run, since i'm really still a novice and not particularly speedy. the requirements for the meet-up included a pace of at least 12 minutes per mile, and while my training runs are typically anywhere from 10-11.5, i was still concerned that i'd totally bomb and make a fool out of myself. but then i found out that we were going to do a walk/run/walk jeff galloway-style - and for that morning it was to be a 30/30 pace (meaning, alternating between a 30-second walk and then 30 seconds of running). sweet. i was golden.
we took off from that very spot, led by a golf cart that held the official event photographer, making our way through downtown disney, then into the gate that led us onto disneyland's main street. as we began, i was a little startled at the chicks who literally elbowed their way through in order to get to the top of the crowd and right in front of the photographer. i mean, damn. i'm a picture whore and a half, but really? my goodness.
i didn't take a whole lot of pictures because i was focused on keeping up with the pack, but it turns out that 30/30 thing was more than doable. in fact, i got a little frustrated with it once i got the hang of it - it seemed like i would just get into the groove and then it was time to slow back down to a walk again. not really something i want to do on the regular. but i didn't let it bring me down - i was having way too much fun getting to run through an empty disneyland. we hung a left at the end of main street, heading through adventureland and past fun stuff like the pirates ride and the haunted mansion.
the exact course is a bit of a blur in my pea-sized memory, so i don't really remember how we ended up back out in the hub and running through the castle into fantasyland.
on the other side of the castle is pixie hollow, home of tinkerbell and her fairy friends. it was here that we stopped for our first photo op, done in groups of about 10. as i waited my turn, i grabbed the opportunity to say hello to sean and take this. see how excited i was? come on - this is dave from encino man! 50 first dates' doug! and, if you're into disney junior...it's special agent oso himself!
after that, a picture with tinkerbell kinda paled in comparison. sorry, tink.
when the walk/run resumed, we crossed through the esplanade and headed into california adventure.
and then all too soon, it was over. we gathered in front of the carthay circle restaurant for a water break and more photo ops.
can you see me? it's like looking for waldo.
but just when we thought it was over...we found ourselves heading into cars land, to my most favorite cars-themed ride - no fastpass required:
my new friend and i chatted up jeff galloway on the walk there, and didn't have to be asked twice when the photographer waved us over for a shot.
we were all frozen stiff by then, and cheered when we heard it was time to head over to the grand californian hotel's napa rose restaurant for breakfast. i managed to make my way to the front of the group for the walk, so you can actually see me in this shot. sort of.
it was just before 8:00, and people were already waiting for the park to open. we got lots of curious looks as we sashayed right past them.
after everyone had had a chance to grab something to eat and warm up a little, we heard from the run disney reps and then listened to a few speakers - sean astin, jeff galloway, ali vincent from "the biggest loser," and tara gidus, run disney's diet guru.
they did a few prize giveaways, too. i was pretty stoked when sean astin pulled my name out of the hat, winning me a run disney travel bag. woohoo!
the meet-up concluded with a cooking demonstration by the disneyland resort chefs, who presented us all with a black bean cake topped with a poached egg and red pepper coulis.
oh, and a final parting gift: a 1-day park hopper pass, plus a parking voucher that covered us for that day.
as part of this elite group, i'd been hoping they'd either allow us early entry into the expo, where our bibs and race tees waited for pick-up. alas, it was not to be. and so i headed right over to disneyland hotel and got into the line, which was already pretty stinking long.
this was my third time doing this, so it was all pretty much old hat to me by then.
but this was pretty exciting - a peek at the hardware i'll be earning next month!
as i was leaving, my buddy jeff galloway was onstage giving the audience a great pep talk and running a last-minute training Q&A session.
and i couldn't resist stopping for this:
the girls were coming down to meet me for some disneyland fun, so i got to hop onto the monorail that goes from downtown disney right into tomorrowland. on the way there, i got a glimpse of the start line for the half.
the parks were pretty crowded, since it was friday and the start of the half marathon weekend. we managed to have lots of fun, riding a few rides and saying hello to a friend.
ah, disneyland. so much fun from sunup to sundown!