It’s a Light Side vs. Dark Side galactic battle; which runDisney coast is right for you? If you are a member of the Walt Disney World Resort Fleet, be prepared for a significantly different race experience. Jump in your cruiser and let’s embark on your journey to a runDisney event far, far, away…
– There are only 3 Disneyland Resort Hotels, so they book up in light speed on race weekends. So quickly, that I suggest you book your hotel before the race registration opens. (If you choose to use the services of the recommended runDisney travel providers, this is not an issue.) In the event that you do not succeed in registering for the race (horrors) you may always cancel your reservation. (You might also shoot for the stars and secure a race bib through the runDisney Charity Group Program. WIN.) If Disney on-property immersion is not your thing, and if this is your first race in Disneyland it should be, you can also book with one of the many nearby Good Neighbor Hotels. With far fewer Disneyland Resort Hotel options, you may need include speedy hotel booking into your race training!
– There are actually 6 potential airport choices when traveling to Disneyland Resort. Though you may find the cheapest fares to LAX, I suggest you resist that urge! You will not find Disney’s free Magical Express service on the West Coast, which means transportation will cost you precious time and tuppence. When traveling to the inaugural Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend, I spent an hour and a half sitting in LA traffic on a not-so-magical Disneyland Resort Express bus. It set me back about $40 for a round-trip fare (now $48), and I was appalled to hear the local DJ, not Mickey Mouse, on the radio the entire time. The much nearer John Wayne or Long Beach Airports are now my default destinations, and I pre-book a SuperShuttle for about $20 round trip. Yes, your trip to Anaheim will take a bit more planning and budget allowance too.
– In the category of “race transportation” you can make up any of that time spent sitting on I- 405 in spades. Every Disneyland Resort Hotel is in walking distance to your starting line!!!! (Many of the Good Neighbor Hotels are as well.) There is no necessity to wait on a line at your hotel for a bus, which translates into an extra hour of sleep time for most runners. For these reasons, Disneyland does not offer the Race Retreats that you may be used to. In fact, many racers opt to head directly to the corrals and bypass the usual runDisney pre-race DJ warm-ups. Expect to spend far less time standing around in chilly corrals!
– Perhaps the biggest difference you should prepare for is the fact that unlike Walt Disney World Resort (approximately 25,000 acres) property, 13.1 miles cannot be run entirely on Disneyland Resort (approximately 500 acres) property. For some West Coast races, you may in fact only spend 2 or so miles running through a Disney Park! As you can surely guess, Disney characters will not be available when you leave Disneyland Park or Disneyland California Adventure Park. While you may not get the chance to pose with Tinker Bell on the surrounding streets of Anaheim, you will be treated to crowds of chEARing, performing, candy-dispensing fans that you do not normally see lining a runDisney race course. If you loathe the long, tedious stretches of roads between the Walt Disney World parks (including the dreaded overpasses), then you will be delighted by the local chEARleaders, bands, and Disneyland neighbors motivating you throughout the mostly flat courses.
– Speaking of smaller parks, the good news is that there will be far less wear and tear on your legs as you tour your favorite attractions. Even Downtown Disney District is potentially at your doorstep.
– Arranging your dining choices pre and post race can be challenging at Walt Disney World Resort; if you miss that 180-day window there is a slim chance you’ll get your pasta a Tutto Italia the day before your race! Dining at Disneyland Resort is a much more laid-back affair (it is California, after all), but race weekends are always a different animal. I advise that you don’t wait long after your 60-day mark to make the coveted Napa Rose post-race celebratory meal reservation! Also be aware that because of the size differences, you may choose from about 330 restaurants on the East Coast, and only roughly 95 restaurants on the West Coast. If you are a picky eater, or a runner who adheres to a strict diet, make researching the Disneyland website your best new hobby.
– The impact of running on Walt’s footsteps cannot be underestimated; through his castle, past his apartment, on his Main Street, U.S.A. A runDisney race weekend takes on a powerful dimension when held at Disneyland.
Pixie dust does indeed fly on both coasts. East, West, runDisney you will.