This weekend, I flew out to Anaheim, CA for my very first Disney Land runDisney event! I signed up for The Inaugural Pixie Dust Challenge last summer and the time had finally come for me to earn the coveted PINK Coast to Coast medal. This is my experience running the third most popular women's themed half marathon in the country (behind the Princess Half Marathon at #2 and Nike Women's Half Marathon at #1). In the end, I'll even tell you which I preferred: Tinkerbell Half Marathon or Princess Half Marathon.
After a cancelled flight and a delayed connecting flight, I landed in LAX pretty late on Friday. I picked up my rental car and headed straight to the expo. Once I got valet parking, I had just 20 short minutes to make it to the expo to pick up my race packet. I walked right up to the line and grabbed my bib and race shirts with just enough time to look around. The first thing I noticed: almost all the merchandise was sold out, including the wine glasses! All I really wanted was the wine glass. After all, I will run 13.1 miles in a big circle just to drink a big bottle of wine, guilt-free. The expo took place at The Disneyland Hotel and was open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Many of the usual runDisney vendors were at the expo.
After waking up bright and early on Saturday morning (3:15am to be exact), I took a ride on the Anaheim Resort Transportation. Four day transportation on the ART was included in race registration fees for the weekend. After being dropped off and walking through Downtown Disney to get to the starting line, I was ready to run. At the Tinkerbell races, bystanders were actually able to experience the energy and excitement at the starting line. Approximately 10,000 pixies took off just after 5:30 am in a total of four corrals. I was in corral B, so I didn't deal with much crowding on the course.
The course primarily took us through Disneyland and California Adventure parks. There were photo opportunities will all the Pixies (except for Tinkerbell) and plenty of water stations along the way. The course took us past Aurora's castle, but of course, actually running through the castle is reserved for The Tinkerbell Half Marathon course, only. The finisher medals were great. All the pixies were included on the medal, even Tinkerbell. I proudly wore my medal around Anaheim on Saturday (I even wore it the blue carpet event at The Tomorrowland World Premier!).
A carbo-load and early bedtime led to an easy 3:15 awakening for The Tinkerbell Half Marathon on Sunday morning. Upon arriving to the race, I was greeted with much more energy and excitement than the previous morning. With 16,000 registrants, The Tinkerbell Half Marathon spread runners across seven different corrals. Placed in corral B again, I did experience a lot of crowding just after takeoff. Although the course was very wide (sometimes spanning across five lanes of traffic), I felt the corrals were too big. This course started off exactly like The Tinkerbell 10k course for almost the first two miles. Tinkerbell made an appearance for photo opportunites around mile 4, with of course an expectedly long wait to meet the Pixie. After going through both parks, the rest of the course took us through neighborhoods and a downtown area in Anaheim. I did not see a character for the entire second half of the course since we were no longer on Disneyland property.
I finished the course with a high-five from one of my favorite characters, Minnie Mouse (my dog is even named after her)! Shortly after crossing the finish line, I was handed a Tinkerbell Half Marathon medal. I then proceeded to the tents to claim my Pixie Dust Challenge and Coast to Coast Challenge medals. Although all the medals this weekend were beautiful, my favorite piece of new bling is definitely The Coast to Coast medal. It features the iconic image of Walt holding Mickey's hand. I received the limited edition pink medal for completing both women's themed half marathons on each coast of the country. Since this is the only race-specific Coast to Coast medal given out by runDisney, the backside of the ribbons feature logos for both The Princess half Marathon and Tinkerbell Half Marathon.
In the end, I had a great experience during Tinkerbell Half Marathon Weekend. Would I do it again? Probably not. I enjoyed The Princess Half Weekend much more. There was an element of magic that was missing from Tinkerbell. The Princess Half Marathon kept the momentum going for 13.1 miles with music and characters all along the way. I would run through WDW back roads any day over downtown streets and neighborhoods in Anaheim. With the larger property, Walt Disney World is more successful at putting on an empowering race for female runners. I recall girls crying tears of joy upon crossing the finish line at The Princess Half Marathon and did not see anything like that at Tinkerbell. Running through Cinderella's castle was much more enchanting than running through Aurora's castle. The atmosphere was unparalleled. Both races were great, but when it comes down to it, I would take glass slippers over fairy wings any day. I will run The Glass Slipper Challenge every single year until I am no longer able to run. At that point, I still may even walk it just for the experience.
The 2016 registration for Princess Half Marathon weekend opens on Tuesday July 14th at Noon. If you are an annual passholder like myself, you can register early beginning Tuesday, June 20th at Noon.
runDisney has announced they will continue to host Tinkerbell Half Marathon Weekend during Mother's Day for future races as opposed to their original January host weekend. Registration for the 2016 Tinkerbell Half Marathon weekend will open up later this summer.
Have you run Princess and Tinkerbell Half Marathons? Which do you feel is the better race?