If you are looking for a magical experience and an opportunity to get your family excited about your half marathon training then stop reading this and go sign up for a RunDisney race. I ran my first RunDisney race at the 2017 Tinker Bell Half Marathon on Mother’s Day and it was amazing.
This post is going to focus on the Tinker Bell Half Marathon Race itself – future posts will include planning a RunDisney vacation (i.e., how to enjoy the parks without wearing yourself out), the registration process, having your kiddo in a Kids Race, and the race expo. For now, I’ll focus my attention to the actual race day.
Three Key Points for the Tinker Bell Half Marathon
If you only take away three things from this post about the Tinker Bell Half Marathon, make sure they are:
- Smile every step of the way and buy the Disney PhotoPass for your vacation.
- Throw away your time goals.
- Have someone at the finish or along the route to cheer you on so that you’ve got another reason to smile.
Getting to the Starting Corrals of the Tinker Bell Half Marathon
On Sunday, May 14, 2017, at 4:10 AM, my alarm clock woke me from the sofa bed in my hotel suite. My toddler was fast asleep in her crib in the bedroom, as was my husband. To not wake them, I slept on the sofa bed in the living room. By the light of my cell phone, I got dressed, opened my mother’s day gift (a Mickey Mouse backpack!), and exited the room. As I walked the dark streets, other runners were exiting hotels and joining in on the pilgrimage to the start line.
The Tinker Bell Half Marathon final instructions brochure indicated that I should plan to be in my corral one hour before race start, which meant 4:30 AM, but I felt that was too early. The corrals and starting areas were very clearly marked, but getting to my corral involved a lot more walking than I had anticipated in order to get to the security check points. Even without line-ups at security, it still took 35 to 40 minutes to get from hotel to corral, which would have been a 12-minute walk most days.
I wasn’t cold waiting in my corral, but I’d have been more comfortable had I worn a long sleeve top. I typically wear a top on race day that I throw off at the start and a charity group picks them up, but I didn’t see any of that at this race.
Tinker Bell Half Marathon Pre-Show and Race Start
The Tinker Bell Half Marathon pre-show was energetic and achieved its purpose of getting thousands of runners pumped up about the miles ahead. I was actually feeling nervous and dreadful standing in my corral. All of my training was complete, but in the days leading up to the race my knee had started to ache and I hadn’t been eating as healthy as I normally do. I tried to stay positive by repeating the mantra, “no expectation, no limitations.”
For the Tinker Bell Half Marathon, I was in corral B and we started about 1 or 2 minutes after corral A. When Tinker Bell fluttered across the big screen above the start line and we broke into a run, I realized that it was going to be hard to pace myself as I was instantly overwhelmed with excitement and adrenaline.
Entering Disneyland at Start of Tinker Bell Half Marathon Race
Entering the back lot of Disneyland at about 1 mile was very emotional. I’d dreamed of running through the park and it was finally going to happen. When we turned left in the back lot, I could see that our entrance into Toontown was only a few strides away. It was finally happening – I was running through Disneyland! I’d been in Disneyland twice in the days before but we hadn’t visited ToonTown so it had been almost 20 years since I’d seen it.
First Encounter with a Disney PhotoPass Photographer
Exiting Toontown I saw my first Disney PhotoPass Photographer of the Tinker Bell Half Marathon Race and I was sure to smile my widest smile to them. Just outside of Toontown was the first character stop. I’m not up to date on all of my fairies even though the Tinker Bell Half Marathon is all about Tinker Bell and her squad. Since I did not actually know who these fairies were I decided to keep going.
In the first miles, I was still wrestling with how I was going to run the race. Only two weeks prior, I had run a half marathon and had been just over two hours so I knew I could break that today. I ultimately decided to embrace the magic of the Tinker Bell Half Marathon race and not worry about my time. I was going so smile, wave, and get lots of pictures. To anyone thinking about running a fast race you ought to reconsider.
Fantasyland in the Tinker Bell Half Marathon
The Tinker Bell Half Marathon course hugged right at Storybook Canal entrance and continued into Fantasyland. The attractions were running and I could see Dumbo in flight. Time for a selfie! Then I ran between King Arthur’s Carousel and Pinocchio and followed the path to Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. I was warned that while there were photographers capturing us running through the Castle, you could not actually stop running for them to take your picture. To try to guarantee myself an awesome Tinker Bell Half Marathon race souvenir, I slowed down and ran through the Castle with the biggest smile. I felt like a kid again, and as for the souvenir pic, I have 13 from that moment to choose from (two different angles included below)!
I went to the right of the roundabout and I saw a Cast Member holding a picture frame cut-out. Nobody was stopping so I jumped over and got a picture of myself in this memorable spot.
First Stop for my Character Photo in the Tinker Bell Half Marathon
Next I was on Main Street and I almost ran right past Chip and Dale! My first characters of the race! The line was short, maybe one minute. Each character spot had multiple Cast Members that paired with people at the front of the line so they could take your phone and snap pictures while the Photopass photographers also snapped your pics.
The Disney firetrucks were even on display and as we passed by City Hall, we could see Peter Pan and Wendy waving at us. I had a mental checklist of who I should be on the lookout for during the Tinker Bell Half Marathon since it was themed for Tinker Bell. I was too scatter-brained to notice during the Tinker Bell Half Marathon race that all of the non-Tinker Bell related characters were actually dressed with pirate accessories.
Running through Disney California Adventure
As the Tinker Bell Half Marathon exited Disneyland and dashed across to Disney California Adventure, I was actually able to connect to wifi so I sent my husband a text letting him know that my knee pain had vanished! As a Canadian, without wifi my phone is as good as a paperweight in the USA. Knowing my body wasn’t breaking down was a positive sign for the rest of the Tinker Bell Half Marathon Race.
Running between park entrances resembled a finish line area, as there were dozens of people lining the way, screaming and cheering with every step I took. I entered Disney California Adventure through an unofficial entrance, which was beside Soarin’ Around the World. There were pirates lining the way up towards Grizzly River Run shouting their best “Yarrr!” at us. I enjoy running on trails around Vancouver, BC, so it was nice to run through all the trees in Grizzly Peak – it felt like we were really in nature.
Take Me to Paradise… Pier
Soon I was running past the entrance to The Little Mermaid, which happens to be one of my favourite attractions because I can sing all of the songs. Combining memories and nostalgia makes running the Tinker Bell Half Marathon race seem not as daunting. I was constantly smiling and trying to soak in the whole experience.
With my two year old along on this trip I didn’t have the opportunity to stay for World of Color (bedtime was much earlier than start time), but fear not, as we entered Paradise Pier, the fountains of World of Color were dancing for all to see. There was not an official photographer here so I stopped for a selfie instead.
As I ran down towards California Screamin’ I was starting to realize that in-between selfie stops, I was running at a pace that would be difficult to maintain. It was also difficult to talk myself into slowing down when I was overflowing with excitement [see picture below as evidence].
The Lost Boys Need a Mom
King Triton’s Carousel was nearby and I wanted to get a picture of it for my daughter. The closer I got I realized that it was the Lost Boys from Neverland riding it round and round. One of the Lost Boys asked me if I’d be his mother and since it was Mother’s Day I told him yes.
This got loud cheers from all of the Lost Boys and as I ran away [bad new mom] they were shouting for me to read them a story. What a hoot! Having the attractions all operating and characters peppered around kept me looking forward to each mile. Pluto was posing for pictures before I exited Paradise Pier and entered a back lot.
The Remaining Lands of Disney California Adventure
The Tinker Bell Half Marathon course ran through another back lot and then it popped us to the start of Cars Land by Radiator Springs. More smiles for photo ops!
I was pleased to stop in for a photo with Mater and McQueen – probably the only characters in the Tinker Bell Half Marathon not offended by my sweaty odour.
After a quick run through “a bug’s land”, we were into Hollywood. Running down the main drag here I almost missed a photo with Captain Hook. My Munchkin ran into Captain Hook a few days earlier and he scared the beejeezes out of her – later I learned any character would have that same effect. If my Munchkin saw me posing cordially with her arch nemesis it could upset her even more, which is why I struck a “mean momma” pose.
The Last Park Hop of the Tinker Bell Half Marathon
I crossed between the parks again and entered Disneyland for the last time – it is a blur to me where we were in Disneyland at this point, but I know I hit the 5km marker in a back lot near Tomorrowland. We ran from the depths of Tomorrowland towards the Castle and then veered away from the Castle and towards the Matterhorn. I assumed this is where Tinker Bell would be since it was right by Pixie Hollow and after all, it was the Tinker Bell Half Marathon! The line to meet Tinker Bell was the longest, but still only about four minutes for me (corral B).
The Tinker Bell Half Marathon and the Streets of Anaheim (9k to 18.5k)
After meeting Tinker Bell the course curved into more of the back lot and it never returns to the accessible areas of Disneyland after that point. In a sense, you are off to never, neverland… on the streets of Anaheim. While you are in the restricted areas, you catch a glimpse of Cast Members moving about as they start their day.
For me, I knew nothing about Anaheim and at this point of the Tinker Bell Half Marathon, I realized I had 14 more kilometres to run and for the first time my body was starting to not match my all-smiles appearance. This was my dilemma part of the Tinker Bell Half Marathon – I wanted to walk because I felt out of steam, but that meant it would take me longer to get to the finish line and get to brunch! I did not find Anaheim to be the most exciting place to run, but there were porta-potties, bands, and spectators along the way to keep me going.
The Finish of the Tinker Bell Half Marathon (2.5km)
The last kilometres of the Tinker Bell Half Marathon dragged, but it was nice to be in a restricted area of Disneyland – it felt like I was an insider. This was the only part of the course that I had been on before and as I looped around the Disneyland Hotel I finally felt like I’d really accomplished something huge: running a half marathon after three days of walking and eating my way through Disneyland! As the Tinker Bell Half Marathon course entered the home stretch, I could see my husband and my Munchkin. With 100 metres to go, I kissed my loves and finished strong to the finish!
Thank you for reading my Tinker Bell Half Marathon race report. I started strong, smiled a lot, and then reflected on the joy of the first part of the race to get me to the finish line. I would most certainly run the Tinker Bell Half Marathon again. I’ll gladly answer your questions in the comments below.