By: Natalie Atkins
On Sat July 14th my alarm went off at 2:30am to get up and run the Disneyland Friends and Family 5K with my boyfriend (Ryan), 3 friends (Alia, Scott & Jessica) and 2536 other people. Waking up that early is never easy, but when you know you have others counting on you, you do what needs to be done. My good friend Alia met Ryan and I at the house at 3 am and we were parking in the Disneyland Resort by 4. At 4:30 we had met up with our friends Scott and Jessica and were putting our race bibs on. Check-in was just a couple of tables set up in the Disneyland Resort Esplanade. That is where we turned in our waivers and received out “Race Packets”. We were handed a 100% cotton t-shirt in our requested size, and our race bib. (We are not entirely sure the bib numbers actually corresponded to a specific runner or group of runners, but we were happy to wear them.) We then headed inside the main gates of Disneyland and walked as far down Main Street as we could with the gathering crowd. There were pseudo corrals but we were not grouped by running time, we were grouped by the time we arrived to Main Street. With those who arrived first closer to the Hub and those of us that arrived last closer to Christmas Tree Point. All of a sudden the music started playing there was a count down and an explosion of confetti. This would repeat every few minutes until all race groups had started the race. We started the 3.1 miles at the Walt and Mickey Statue made a left into Fronteirland and ran all the way down to the Haunted Mansion using the main high road, making a full u-turn at the Columbia Pirate Ship and running along the Rivers on America towards The Mark Twain, Big Thunder Mountain and Fronteirland.
We cut along the back road to Fantasyland where we got a little glimpse of the new Star Wars Land wall, but were running towards the Carousel before we could jump into a “chalk pavement picture”. At this point I was expecting to have seen at least 1 character location or, maybe even characters waving at us while riding Dumbo or the Carousel… But no characters to be seen. Nothing new and shiny to look at in the parks other than the normal rides, but in the dark, and the brightly lit rope lights to keep us on track. The castle looked beautiful lit with pink and purple lights at this dark hour of the morning and we got to run right down Sleeping Beauty and Prince Phillips drawbridge. We quickly made a left had turn going up Matterhorn Way passing right next to the Storybook Canal boats, running back stage getting to see how the boats are stored and the Cast Member entrance to the Fantasyland Theatre. Backstage we ran past the old horse ranch and came back on stage in Mickey’s Toon Town. We hit Mile 1 at the top of Small World Mall where there was a sign with Balloons announcing the 1st mile. As cute as the Pixar Lamp and Ball are, we decided not to stop and wait for a group photo and kept going. (please excuse the blurry photos taken while running.) We continued down Small World Mall and ran behind the Matterhorn to continue through Tomorrowland. I just had to stop and show the Tomorrowland Terrace Stage, Home of the Jedi Training, a little love! Before we knew it we were running out the Main Gates of Disneyland and into Disney California Adventure. This is when I remember realizing the sun was rising and the sky was turning a beautiful shade of Pixar Blue. We made an immediate left and ran down Hollywood Blvd past the Monsters Inc. attraction where we passed the Mile 2 balloons and of course Ryan needed a picture with his Captain America shield. We ran past Guardians Of The Galaxy: Mission Breakout talking about
our favorite Guardians quote “I’m Mary Poppins Y’all” and having a good laugh. We scurried through Bugsland then zoomed through Carsland headed back stage for a bit and thats when the smell of tortillas crept in our noses as we ran through the Pacific Wharf. Just as we were rounding the corner of Ariel’s Undersea Adventure we came upon the mile 3 marker. As soon as we turned the corner to go into Pixar Pier there were Green Army Men encouraging us to finish. All the medallions were lined up at the finish line with a Disney Cast Member handing them out. The rest of the walk around Pixar Pier was fun. The had the most amazing DJ, DJ Quami hosting the post run activities and this is where we saw a few of the Pixar Characters doing meet and greets. All in all our group had a lot of fun waking up early and having a Disney Run to start our weekend. Of course I was dressed as a Mermaid and had to flip my fins a bit too!