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Ah, the DLHM! Or, DHM if you’re a purist. How do a love/hate thee? Let me count the ways.
First of all, I love and hate the actual course. The corrals are staged on the inclined road which normally leads to the Mickey and Friends Parking Structure and Downtown Disney. If you have friends and family looking for a spot for an amazing picture, have them take a few shots from the 4th or 5th level of the parking structure. It’s a magnificent sea of humanity!
Once you’re past the amazing start line, you run your first 5-ish miles through the resort parks. For the East Coast runners, Disney’s California Adventure and Disneyland are separated only by an entrance plaza. So, it’s easy to transition from one park to another. It’s also a favorite spot for friends and family to cheer, snap pics, and offer high 5s to random strangers while they wait for you to run past in all your sweaty glory.
If your family wants to cheer from Main Street, USA, they’ll need to purchase a ChEAR Squad package through Run Disney. This will allow them to cheer from VIP areas and have access to reserved bathrooms, among other perks.
I love this part of the run. The theme changes every year, so it’s always something new. I love the music they blast and the cast members who encourage you along the way. Costumed characters are spaced out along the route for pictures. I also love the backstage areas of the course. These are sections you’d never see at the parks without filling out an employment application. For the 2015 course, I noticed a few changes in the usual route due to construction for the new Star Wars and Marvel lands. While no ground had been broken that I could see, there were several cranes and other pieces of equipment as well as boxes and crates being moved. How exciting! I can’t wait to see the course once they open the new lands!
Outside the parks, your route takes you to both Angels’ Stadium and the Honda Center. First up is the Honda Center, the home of the Anaheim Ducks NHL team. You’ll notice you’re approaching the Honda Center because you’ll begin to run through a car show. No, seriously. Run Disney lines up local car clubs who wake up as early as we do to line the course with gorgeous collector’s cars. It’s arranged chronologically, so you’ll begin passing Model Ts and other early cars before getting to the swanky 50s fenders. By the time you’re trotting through the Honda Center’s parking lot, you’ll be passing Porsches and Lamborghinis. I think I may even have seen a Tesla or two.
Be on the lookout for a few special edition cars, including one of the Batmobiles from the 1960s tv show, KITT from Knightrider, and a Corvette painted to look like Lightning McQueen! Can you take a picture with the cars? Heck yeah! The owners have put immense time and money into their babies. They love it when you squeal in delight and ask them to take your picture. Just be sure to politely ask, and keep your fingerprints off the paint jobs.
Next destination is Edison Field or Angels’ Stadium. This part of the course is not a favorite of any of my running group. You’ll have to leave the pavement and run along the Santa Ana River. Yeah, that’s a river, folks. The problem is that California’s been in a massive drought for years. The river is totally dry in the summer, and the riverbed is composed of very sandy soil. If there’s any wind, you’ll be running with a face full of sandy dust. It’s also a bit slippery in the footing department. Just keep telling yourself there’s a water station at the stadium.
Enjoy your grand entrance into the stadium. Run Disney packs the stands with local boy and girl scouts to cheer and give you high 5s. You’ll feel like a major league player as you run out onto the warning track. Who’s that on the Jumbotron? It’s you! Cameramen will capture the runners as they come into the stadium at first base and make their way around home base to exit at third. Sometimes, you even hear your name called out over the stadium PA. It’s practically impossible to leave the stadium without a smile.
The rest of the course at this point is a swing back to the parks for the big finish. I tend to hit the wall a little before I can see the Tower of Terror in the distance. For me, that’s the sight I need to rev my engines and ignore the aches and pains.
Now, let’s talk about the elephant in the room. No, not Dumbo. I’ve had a special love in my heart for him since I ran the Inaugural Dumbo Double Dare, which happens to be the challenge race for this weekend. No, I mean the weather. The 2015 race was pretty mild, but I’ve run this course in conditions that I would describe as a punishment from God. Southern California summers are supposed to be hot but dry. Thanks to climate change, we’re getting tropical storms further north, bringing humidity with them. If you’re registering for this race, you need to train for temperatures in the high 90s with 80% humidity. If it turns out milder than that, be grateful as you collect your medals. Each year, I see many runners at the medical stops, on gurneys, or stopped along the course. Hydration is vital for warm weather races. I’ve been guilty of putting hydration on the back burner when I travel to a race, but it can cause serious health issues in hot areas, including death. Please make sure you begin hydrating about 3 days before the actual race. Drink 2-3 liters of water depending on your gender and body weight. During the race, drink at the water stations! I see people skipping water stations at this race too often. I’m a slower runner. If you’re in my pack, slowing to a walk to drink a cup of water isn’t going to kill your PR, but not drinking might do it.
Overall: The costumes at the Disneyland Half Marathon are some of the best around! You’ll see more variety here than at the specifically themed races, like Star Wars. The course has gentle inclines, with just one significant hill that stands out in my memory. It’s in the first half of the course, and it’s the Ball Road overpass that takes you over the freeway. The bottlenecks are only in the parks and the riverbed. Once you’re out on the roads, there’s loads of room to spread out. I love the changing themes, too. It gives the race variety.
So, am I going to continue running the race? The only bad part of the race is the heat and humidity, and those are serious impediments to me. If I choose to pass on this registration, it’s due to weather only.