I have been so hyper focused on training for the New York Marathon that I totally and completely forgot about one of my favorite races of all time, THE DISNEYLAND HALF MARATHON! I grew up at Disneyland. I chose my college because of its proximity to Disneyland. There was one year where I went to Disneyland over 200 times. I ran my very first Half Marathon at Disneyland! It has a very special place in my heart and with the overwhelming popularity of the RunDisney events I thought it would be a good idea to share some tips and tricks to planning the best Disneyland vacation possible.
Have you ever wanted to run a 10k or a Half Marathon? If you hesitated even for a slight second, start with a RunDisney race. The event itself is a well-oiled machine. RunDisney is the Ritz Carlton of the race world. So what makes a RunDisney race so magical? Is it the INCREDIBLE piece of hardware you receive when you cross the finish line? Is it seeing behind the scenes Disneyland? Is it stopping to try to steal a kiss from Captain Jack Sparrow for a life changing photo op? Or is it the 13.1 miles of spectators? Or could it be running down Main Street USA towards Sleeping Beauty Castle, parade music pumping while you proclaim, “This is the most incredible moment of my life?!” Yes, it’s all of that and much, much, much more.
The magic begins with the most stressful 5 minutes of your life, registering. RunDisney races sell out normally in 10-15 minutes. When I registered for the Disneyland Half Marathon the site crashed. My sister and I were at work on the phone with each other (and 10 feet away from each other) just panicking. But luckily my sister figured out how to get onto the sister site and we successfully registered. But I seriously almost wet myself in fear that it would sell out before I could get a chance to sign up. I think they put crack in their race station Powerade because RunDisney events are ADDICTING. And they are growing! In 1 year alone they added two new race weekends, “The Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend” and “The Avengers Marathon Weekend.”
The 4 race weekends Disneyland offers are
The Star Wars Half Marathon weekend January 15-18,
The Tinkerbell Half Marathon weekend May 7-10,
The Disneyland Half Marathon weekend August 28-31 and
The Avengers Super Hero Half Marathon weekend November 14-16.
Looking at these dates I am thinking to myself you clever, clever people. Three of these races take place during the off season when those of us in the know go to Disneyland to avoid the crowds. The best times to go to Disneyland are the middle of January-February and the middle of September-the beginning of November. So given the four race weekends, when do you plan your trip?
Here’s how the weather looks for each race weekend:
Star Wars: January in Anaheim will be in the 50’s-60’s. January isn’t necessarily “cold” in Anaheim but it also isn’t “let’s spend the day in shorts and be super comfortable” weather. It’s sunny and it’s a fun time of year for the So Cal residents to wear closed toe shoes and a sweater. Night time will be chilly enough that you will see your breath but you won’t freeze.
Tinkerbell Half: PERFECT WEATHER. May is the best in SoCal. It’s warm enough that you can run around in summer clothes and cold enough at night that you don’t really need a sweater. It may be a little gloomy and overcast in the morning but will burn off around noon. May in Anaheim is perfect running and vacation weather.
Disneyland Half: It’s gonna be hot. I hope you’re ready to sweat your mickey ears off. But if you like summer and are hoping to utilize the pools this is your race weekend. Otherwise invest in a portable fan/squirt gun and hold on to it for dear life.
Avengers Half: Still warm enough that you won’t see your breath at night and you can probably get away with shorts during the day. This weather will be really nice. Behind the Tinker bell Half this weather will be ideal.
During a RunDisney event, the parks are going to be packed. To maximize the most of your stay and to avoid a grid lock Disneyland, try to plan your some of your days at the park on Thursday, Friday or Monday. What does that look like? See below.
If you are running only a Sunday race:
Option 1: Arrive Saturday morning and spend the day at the parks, run Sunday and hang out at the pool (or go the parks), Monday full day at the park, Leave Tuesday.
Option 2: Arrive Thursday, Friday spend the day at the parks, Saturday spend the day at the parks, and leave Sunday.
If you or members of your party are running Saturday:
Option 1: Arrive Wednesday and hit up the pools, Thursday: Full day at the park, Friday: Full day at the park, Saturday spend the day at the pool, and leave Sunday.
Option 2: Arrive Friday, Saturday spend the day at the parks and/or pools, Sunday: Pools and/or parks, Monday leave.
Going to the parks Thursday, Friday or Monday will mean fewer crowds, more rides and a happier family. If you can’t swing it, going to the parks Saturday or Sunday isn’t the end of the world. But keep in mind you may not be up for spending a day at the parks after you run a half marathon. I did not anticipate the exhaustion I felt after my first half. I was fine for 3 hours and then at 2:00 I left the park and slept for 14 hours. If you think you are going to be exhausted, use the day to hang at the pool.
Where to Stay:
If you have never stayed at the Disneyland Resort, I recommend staying at one of the hotels on site. The Grand Californian is GORGEOUS and is the most expensive. The Disneyland Hotel is also ridiculously magical and is the second most expensive. Paradise Pier is nice and is the least expensive. My favorite places to stay offsite are The Best Westerns right off Harbor Blvd (there are two) and The Desert Inn and Suites. But honestly any hotel on Harbor between the Howard Johnson and Disney Way are knockouts. Some are nicer than others and pools are something you should take into account if you plan on a May or September race but being centrally located is key. All of these hotels are a 10-15 minute walk from the gate. Most other good neighbor hotels have shuttles which are convenient but being able to send someone to the room for a sweater, snacks or a nap is a game changer.
Tip: Hotels book up but cancellations happen. Call every day, twice a day for a month if you have to. I promise you it sounds tedious but you will find a room. They will eventually recognize you and help you out. (We’ve had a 100% success rate.)
Alright magic runners, that’s a lot of pixie dust to swallow. Tomorrow we will talk more RunDisney tips, resort food, rides and entertainment! If you are planning a trip and have any questions, throw them my way RunSelfieRepeat@gmail.com. Until tomorrow, #RunSelfieRepeat