Last year, when I found out my hip was broken, the bargaining phase of my grief weighed heavily on still being able to participate in the Pixie Dust Challenge. Seeing as how my hip wasn’t going to heal until the beginning of June, a full month after the race, and no amount of bargaining was going to heal my hip any faster, I had to sit that race out. My life is really really really hard you guys.

Instead, I got to be pushed around Disneyland in a wheelchair because I was still non-weight bearing during the park visit. The people pushing me kept complaining about the fact that I didn’t get the motorized scooter… but I had to draw the line somewhere. Also, just so we can all stop saying “but at least you got to go to the front of the line”: Disney doesn’t let disabled people or people with a temporarily broken hip skip the ride line. They were tired of crappy people dragging comatose family members out of the hospital just so they could jump to the front of the line… or hiring disabled children so their spoiled children didn’t have to wait in line. THANKS for ruining EVERYTHING crappy people!

Somehow we still had a decent time. And as I moved out of my moping phase, I was VERY excited to run the Pixie Dust in 2017.

Almost a year later, and one week before the Salt Lake Half, I was diagnosed with another stress fracture. This time it was in my shin. However, a shin fracture turns out to be something that heals WAY faster than a hip. No crutches, no sitting around on my butt, just a PREFERENCE that I not run on it while it was healing. AND it would ONLY take 3 weeks to heal. Which meant that although the doctor preferred I didn’t run the Salt Lake Half (I listened!) he had absolutely no concerns with me running the Tinker Bell Half.

I rode the stationary bike at the gym for three weeks, bought new shoes the week of the race, and had one (approved!) practice run before heading down to Anaheim. Walking around the expo (instead of on crutches and in a crappy mood) was super fun and I’m not being facetious. Instead of wishing I could crutch into a hole and die, I invisibly slipped from booth to booth looking at things and getting zero sympathy from random strangers who wanted to discuss various running ailments they’d had.

We saw Guardians of the Galaxy at the Downtown Disney theater, and then had dinner at Naples Ristorante again, because it’s the only pasta place in Downtown Disney. I made the terrible choice of pepperoni pizza, which on any other night would have been lovely, but pre-race food it is not. And then I began my crazy spiral that kept me from sleeping that evening.

Tinker Bell 10k

I was VERY nervous about running the 10k. I was terrified that my shin pain would return during the race and that I wouldn’t be able to run the half. But three hours of sleep and I was ready to go on Saturday morning with a “que sera sera” mindset; the world would NOT end if I had to walk the entire Tinker Bell – I’d still get my medals. With that knowledge, Chad set off to beat more records and I ran/walked my way through a lovely course that has turned “Following the Leader” into a song that I’d very much like to never hear again. What happened to the other songs in Peter Pan, runDisney???

We found out later that there was a huge upset to the way runDisney races were managed (more on that here) and in response to criticisms on the 5k, there were last minute character and music additions to the 10k.

Blissfully unaware, I spent the run worrying about finishing in under 60 minutes and getting that damn song drowned out by my own music. As I rounded the last turn up to the finish line, my heart sank as I watched the clock tick over to one hour. I kept running and about 30 seconds later it occurred to me that I had started in Corral B (instead of my assigned A) so that I could start off with Chad (since it’s a female themed race, the highest corral men can get into is B). I was about 5 minutes behind the clock time… so I was under 60 minutes, just like I wanted. And pain free, happy dancing ensued.

Afterwards we met up with the group, and Doug was waiting WITHOUT BEIGNETS and this T-shirt. Chad and I started a tradition of waiting for the runners at the finish line with beignets several years ago. Since Doug is our official group cheerleader, he took up the mantle, and last year, Laura was supposed to help him but she was grouchy at 6am (as one is), so she said, “10ks don’t get beignets!” and a t-shirt was born.

We still went and got beignets anyway.

Then we all spent a good chunk of time at the pool testing the water slide. Then we wandered over to a VERY early dinner at Tortilla Joe’s (see above for Downtown Disney pasta options) and I had lots of rice and beans and shared fajitas with Chad. Despite the fact that I felt this dinner was far superior to the previous evening’s choice of pizza from a pasta restaurant, I’m still on the lookout for other pre-race dinner options outside of the park. Then I went back to the hotel room to worry some more about my first half marathon in a year.

Tinker Bell Half Marathon

The morning started off poorly even before we got to the corrals. In the past, there were tables and tons of security guards, and they kind of patted you down and gave you the once over and searched your bag if you had one. This morning there was one guard per park hotel and each was slow as molasses. Back to that article about the race changes? It seemed like in scrapping the volunteers, they also scrapped every single plan that had been working for the races and started over. It was a mess.

Chad and I made it to Corral B just before the race was set to start, and they delayed the start time about 10 minutes because, we can only assume, EVERYONE was having trouble getting to their corrals. When the race finally started, we were stuck in a two mile bottleneck. And we kept getting slowed down further to be shoved through smaller and smaller openings. It was very frustrating.

At the 10k mark, when you are out of the park for the better part of the remaining race, the lack of volunteers was glaringly obvious. There were no high school cheerleaders or bands lining the race course as there had been in every race previous. There were handfuls of very kind neighbors and race friends holding signs and cheering people on but there were also giant swaths of dead space and police officers bored out of their minds. Some of the water tables just had cups (usually the volunteers are holding them out for you) and a handful of people picking up the area or filling cups to put out. It definitely wasn’t the runDisney experience I’d come to know (or pay for).

Somewhere around mile 9 my right hip flexor got really angry with me and I realized, quite suddenly, that I was running on empty. My walk run ratios became more walking and less running. It was worse than when my runner brain tells me I’m not going to make it and my rational brain tells my runner brain to shove it. Because my runner brain and my rational brain were agreeing: I was going to crawl across that finish line if I had to, but I was definitely running on fumes.

I managed to make it to the finish line, but definitely not under 2 hours which is what I was foolishly hoping for after not running for three weeks. After I was done being angry with myself, I got over it, because I had all three of my shiny shiny shiny medals and it was time for more beignets.

I really love the Pixie Dust Challenge medal, but I’m not a huge fan of the creepy dead-eyed Half Marathon medal.

As always, after the half, we rush to shower and change and head to the parks to really enjoy the sights and rides while we are limping around under the weight of all those medals. And torn hip flexors. Hey, at least this time I wasn’t in a wheelchair. Hooray for small victories.

The Matterhorn Bobsleds and Midway Mania had just added Fast Passes, so we of course had to get our hands on some of those.

Peter Pan will probably never have a Fast Pass at Disneyland, but it always leads to the opportunity to annoy the shit out of everyone by holding up the line to take photos and post them to instagram while you’re waiting.

Speaking of songs that will never leave my head… We also got some great seats to watch the Electric Light Parade. Tinker Bell totally waved at me.

And while I’ll never ride the fun wheel, I will always enjoy taking photos of it. And drinking one.

Event Specs

Event Managed by: runDisney
Location: Disneyland (+0.5)
Personal Participation Count: 3 of 3
Event Expo: Yes
Event Expo Size: Large

Race Start times: 5:30 am (-0.5)
Race Day Weather: 60-68 degrees
Race Features: Female Theme, Costumed Runners Encouraged, ChEAR Squad, High School Bands, High School Cheerleaders and Dancing Teams, Cast Members, Disney Characters, Disney Animals (-2)

10k Water Stations: 2 | Every 2 Miles
Half Marathon Water Stations: 7 | Every 1.5 Miles
Energy Supplement Station (Half Marathon only): Yes | Cliff Shot Station at Mile 9
Race Courses: Mostly flat, a couple of hills, several miles through both parks
Running with Traffic: No, roads are blocked for race

Finisher Medal: Yes
Special Category Medals: Yes

Event Rating8 out of 10