The Never Land 5K, a night race through the theme park, was the first event in the Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend at Disneyland, operated by RunDisney. It was an exciting, whimsical event, with typical Disney "magical moments."
The one major drawback to this race was the price: at $100, the Never Land 5K was more expensive than many half-marathons. It was also double the price of the Disneyland Family 5K, held in September. The reason for this was likely to be the "Twilight Ticket" that was included with the registration, which allowed admission to one Disney theme park after 4pm during the Half-Marathon weekend. I'd seen complaints about this online: for Annual Passport holders, the Twilight Ticket was a bit of a waste. I also have an AP, so in 2013, I'd appreciate it if the Twilight Ticket was optional.When:
January 27, 2012. This was a night race, and the first wave started at 10:30 pm.Where:
The Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, Orange County. Why:
Disneyland's races benefit the Anaheim Community Foundation,
which helps families, seniors, children and and adults with many issues; and the City of Anaheim. I really liked that the beneficiaries of the 5K were local residents.Course access:
The race was held at Disneyland, so it was accessible by Metro bus 460, the Disneyland Express from LAX, OCTA bus 43, various shuttles and more. After the race, transportation was a problem. The last 460 bus of the evening went back to Downtown LA at about 12:20, but some of the connecting buses and trains shut down before then. The Disneyland Express stopped running at 10:30. During the other events of the Half-Marathon weekend, Disney offered free shuttles to and from various pickup points at hotels around Anaheim.
The packet pickup was at the Expo at the Disneyland hotel. Fortunately, one could go to the Expo on the same night as the race, so two separate trips to Disneyland were not required.
Disney's pre-race festivities included an appearance by Tinker Bell, who flew over the Castle. Fireworks were also on the schedule, but had to be cancelled due to high winds.
There were several corrals/waves, which were self-assigned. Each wave was treated royally, with confetti canons and a special sendoff from the Emcee.Course:
The course started in front of the Sleeping Beauty Castle, wound through most of Disneyland, crossed over to California Adventure, and ended at Paradise Pier. There were several forays backstage, through areas that are normally verboten to visitors. There were also photo ops with Disney characters, floats from the Soundsational parade, and whimsical mile markers. It would have been very tempting to just meander through the course and spend a few hours taking pictures! At the end of the race, Paradise Pier was awash in color.
The course itself was almost entirely flat, but had a lot of corners and winding paths. There were announcements made over the PA to warn runners any time the course changed directions. Runners:
The Tinker Bell races were geared toward female runners, and women of all ages, shapes and sizes were well represented. There were also men of both serious and casual running styles, families, and older people. Many runners of both genders opted to wear costumes. It went without saying that there were numerous runners dressed as Tinker Bell or Peter Pan. There were also many who chose to wear costume pieces, such as glittery wings and tutus. Many children participated, but not as many as I expected. I'm guessing that this was due to the late hour, the price, and the fact that Disney also held a full contingent of (much less expensive!) Kids' Races later that weekend.
The course was so crowded that it was more of a power walk than a race, but almost everyone was polite. After the serious runners broke away at the beginning of the first wave, most people just meandered along.Chip timing:
None. This was strictly a fun run. RunDisney did give split times, however, so you could check your own pace. Technically, a 16-minute mile pace was required, whether you were running or walking. However, given the huge numbers of people at the race, given that the pace requirement didn't start until the last runner had crossed the start line, and given that the last wave started almost a half hour after the first, I think that one would have needed to fall way, way behind to get swept. I wouldn't have pushed it, though...getting swept from a race at the Happiest Place on Earth would have been a bummer, to say the very least.Shirt:
White short-sleeved T-shirt with the Never Land 5K logo in vibrant color. Swag:
Everyone received a gorgeous finisher medal: a full color vinyl medallion on a midnight-blue satin ribbon with the race name and date. Some people complained because the Disney 5K races get these vinyl "medallions" instead of medals made out of metal, but I was not in that camp. I thought the medallion was beautiful, well crafted and a wonderful finishing prize.
I also want to mention the bib, which was a work of art in itself: the same midnight blue with stars and personalization. For the goody bags: there wasn't much, in all honesty. There was a big race program, but the GEAR bag only included an energy bar. About two weeks before the race Disney sent a link to an "online i-gift bag" with promotional offers; this would seem to be the wave of the future.Expo:
Lots of vendors offered running gear, from shoes to iPod holders, and reasonable prices. There were also free lectures throughout the weekend with RunDisney experts, including Olympian Jeff Galloway. Would I Do this Race Again: Yes. Without question.