Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend: Disneyland Half MeetUp Recap

As I sit here in Row 2 of my flight and look out over the California landscape, I am finding it tough to recap my weekend experience into a short blog post. Actually, I could sum it up in just a few short words, it was amazing. From the moment I touched down in Long Beach until I stepped off the plane back in Boston, the experience was incredibly enjoyable. I met a lot of great people, ran a few decent runs and experienced a nearly perfect vacation, even though the weather was less than ideal for races.

From the East Coast to the West 
We took off from Boston heading east over the Atlantic Ocean before making the 180 degree turn west. The sun was shimmering off the waves and I settled in for a lengthy flight. I hadn’t flown JetBlue in years, but they had a great deal on nonstop airfare to Orange County, plus free television in every seat so I could watch college football for the whole trip, a win in its own right. If possible, I highly recommend flying into Long Beach Airport. It’s quintessential California, with outdoor access to planes, a swanky bar and enough organic food to make even the strictest nutritionist happy.

It was later in the evening when we got to the Disneyland Hotel. This is where things got a little iffy, as I had reserved a premium level resort view room, but instead received a pool view adjacent to the elevators. At first, my wife and I were hesitant, but were so tired that we decided to just go to bed and talk to the front desk in the morning (turns out the room was fine – we never once heard the elevators or people talking out in the hall).

runDisney MeetUp
Friday morning came fast, especially since my jetlag had me three hours ahead of the current time. But, more importantly, I was participating in the runDisney meetup. This was my third meetup, and for this one I had the pleasure of participating with runDisney partner New Balance running shoes and apparel. Luckily, the meeting place was right outside the entrance to our hotel tower so I had the opportunity to sleep in a little more. Checking in, I ran into fellow Twitter friends, Linzie (@seesharprun), Erin (@LoveDisneyRun), Jenn (@JennRunsDisney), Connie (@Conniekos), Dan (@DanMcNeely) and Heather (@HeathersLG). Additionally, a lot of runners recognized me from Twitter/Blog and introduced themselves, which it was nice to meet you guys in person. 

Credit: Disney
Hanging out with Team NB. Credit: Disney

The event was also chock full of celebrities: Sean Astin (Goonies, Rudy) who is a big runner and motivational speaker, Joey Fatone (high school classmate & NYSNC alum), Tara Gidus (runDisney nutritional expert), Ali Vincent (1st female winner of NBC’s “Biggest Loser”) and of course, the running great, Jeff Galloway.

In previous meetups, we used to hit the road in two groups, one fast and one less fast. But this morning was a little different. Before we took off, the New Balance running techs took everyone through a few exercises from their Good Form Running Clinic (Good Form Running), which champions smart running through four key principles: Posture, Mid-foot, Cadence & Lean. Long ago when I was a heel striker, I received my first stress fracture. My physical therapist turned me on to GFR and I have been a champion ever since. The NB team made it simple and fun to participate and I noticed a lot of chatter among runners how the demonstration was beneficial.
NB Team sharing Good Form Running. Credit: Disney
Get moving. Credit: Disney
After warming up, I decided to run with the fast group. Since I had been experiencing heel issues and hadn’t run for two weeks up to the event, I wanted to see how it would handle in speedy situations. I’m happy to say my foot issue was almost completely non-existent the whole trip! I had also been training in NB 890s, but mainly slower, long runs and wanted to see how they would feel at a faster pace. Given I tend to run in more minimal shoes, I was a bit hesitant, but I’m happy to say they were light, comfortable and speedy.

We started at the Disneyland Hotel and sped through Downtown Disney, heading towards the parks. 
Credit: Disney

We took off through the gates of Disneyland and headed down Main Street U.S.A. (every time I visit that park, I can’t get over how small the castle is in relationship to Disney World). We then headed over to Fantasyland where we were offered a ride on the Mad Tea Party. I’m not one for spinning rides, but Linzie and I hopped in a teacup and gave it a spin. We decided to go easy, given the weather was hot and surprisingly sticky (it felt more like a Florida morning and less like a southern California one). 

This is going to be bad.
 After finishing up at the Mad Tea Party, our run took us all over the Magic Kingdom of Disneyland which I really enjoyed. I have run so many races that don't offer a full run of the Magic Kingdom, so it was nice to spend some time weaving about it (especially, since this MK isn't my typical one).
Credit: Disney

Did you know they moved the Matterhorn? Kinda. Credit: Disney
Weird not seeing the Peoplemover in operation. Credit: Disney
Tweeting & running, a bad combo. Credit: Disney
 Next, we headed over to Disney California Adventure where runDisney setup breakfast and a covered area for us to relax. I have to say the redesign of DCA is pretty awesome. Disney is so good at setting the scene and they hit the mark on a classic view of California. DCA reminds me of the early days of MGM Studios, before it started to lose its identity.
Literally in awe of the park's redesign. Credit: Disney
After everyone sat down to breakfast, met with some characters, then each of the guests of honor took turns discussing their expertise:
Skankin' with Alice & the Mad Hatter. "Pick it up! Pick it up!"
Faron Kelly from runDisney: No new races (yet), but new medals. Overall, they look nice. I’m a little irked they changed the W&D medal, as I dug the Epcot theme. But, still the medal is pretty nice.
Credit: Disney
Lots & lots of medals. Credit: Disney
Ali from New Balance: runDisney sponsorship has been an awesome partnership. rD shoes have been extremely popular and look for a new design next year. I’ll keep you all in the loop if I hear any more.

Credit: Disney
Sean Astin: He had some great stories about why/how he started running and how it’s a family event now. I think meeting him was the highlight event for me. Not because of his Goonies fame, but more of him just being a cool guy and making everyone feel like he’s an old friend.

Credit: Disney
Just hanging out.
Joey Fatone: He talked about how he started running and his new show on Disney’s Live Well network. Since Joey and I were in high school together, we hung out in back of the group and reminisced about old times and caught each other up on what’s been going on with other old high school friends.
Credit: Disney
Tara Gidus: Disney’s nutrition expert spoke about smart eating and how it affects your running. She’s got a great sense about this stuff and presents it well.
Credit: Disney
Ali Vincent: It's important to stay motivated and work towards your personal goals. She also has a new show on Disney's Live Well network.
Credit: Disney
Jeff Galloway: This guy is the man. How do I get him to personally coach me?
Listen to what this guy says. Credit: Disney
There were some other odds & ends, such as a sneak peek at ABC’s new show “Once Upon a Time in Wonderland” and the usual facts & figures from Bob Hitchcock about how rD events are getting increasingly popular and to expect great things in the future.

Awesome time with awesome people! Credit: Disney
After the speeches, we took a few group pictures and said our goodbyes. I headed back to the room, but before doing so, I did a mile or so around the resort as a shakeout run and to see if I could get used to the heat and humidity, which I never did.

As with every meetup, the runDisney guys do it up right and I had a great time. The highlight I would say, though, was meeting so many people in person that share my passion for the sport. Running is ever increasing in popularity and these runners are leading the way with their enthusiasm and expertise.

Over the weekend, I’ll be working through the rest of my trip: expo experience, races, etc. Stay tuned for more.