I probably sound like a broken record by now, but I’ll say it again…Spectators are the BEST!! There have been so many races that I have been feeling pretty low and all it took was for that one spectators to say “Good Job!” to get me back in the game. Earlier this year, Christina (who you might remember from the Avengers Half Marathon) was a spectator at the Star Wars Half Marathon and captured all the fun on the other side of the ropes. Loving the signs!
Being new to the running world, I’ve only been on one side of the course.. The runner side. But what about the thousands of spectators? Obviously some of them are there to cheer for their family, friends, or teammates. Or like our amazing friend Peggy Sue, they are out the cheering for complete strangers and putting smiles on runners faces with their creative signs. So for the inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon I decided to head what is going on on the other side of those racing fences.
I’ve been a part of Team Muscle Makers for a couple races and so I decided I would go and cheer them on.. But where? Should I make signs? Research was necessary.. I went through my pictures because I knew I had taken pictures of signs that had motivated me along the course. I also Googled race signs. Who knew there would be so many results? My favorites, “Smile if you aren’t wearing underwear” and Peggy Sue’s “Complete Stranger, I’m proud of you!”.
I’m a crafter at heart so I had to make my sign noticeable and perfect. I made one really big sign that said “Team Muscle Makers On a Scale of 1 to 10 You’re 13.1” and a smaller sign the had “Mickey Loves Team Muscle Makers” on one side and “#whyirunDisney” on the other. I also made a handful of smaller signs with just marker in case anyone decided to join me at o’dark thirty to cheer on the runners.
Since I’m a huge Star Wars fan, I had already planned to go to the expo (hello, merchandise!) but I had never really paid attention to the Expo Speaker Series at either of my two previous runDisney races. I had no idea that they actually had a speaker just about race information. Wow, was that helpful! They went over a lot of stuff I knew but they talked about the course in good detail so I had an idea of what direction everyone would be headed and about what time. I was ready!
I left my house about 3:30 which was much earlier than I needed to realistically but I wanted to get there early and find my spot. I went over to the family reunion area and visited with the runners I knew and helped take our team photo.. Team Muscle Makers had 80 runners in the Half (our largest team ever) and raised close to $80,000!
At 4:30 when the corrals opened for runners, I started to make my way through Downtown Disney to find myself a spot. My original plan was to find a spot along Harbor Blvd but being that it was Mile 4-6 of the course I didn’t want to be standing out there alone in the early hours. So I headed for the esplanade in between the two parks. Walking I met a couple of other women who were trying to find locations to cheer for their boyfriends, and we settled on a spot right outside the Disneyland main entrance (about mile 1.5). By this time is was maybe 5am, so we chatted amongst ourselves, with the Disney security guards who were keeping the course clear, and I made sure the settings on my camera were right. The space quickly filled with spectators and Star Wars themed signs.
Finally, it was race time! Fireworks went off and we patiently (or maybe not so patiently lol) waited for the first runners. I knew it wouldn’t take long for the wheelchairs and the elite runners to get to us and I was ready. Boy are they fast!! The costumes were great and everyone was having a blast but I quickly realized that my signs couldn’t really be seen and it was too crowded through that stretch to get good photos. I quickly moved about 50 feet across the esplanade to where the runners where exiting Disneyland to head to DCA. It was a much better spot and I was able to cheer on my friends from there. The sunrise was amazing!
Once the balloon ladies passed me I decided it was time for breakfast. I knew I wouldn’t make it to the finish line to see the elite runners cross anyway so I headed to Starbucks. When I was finished there, I headed to my next spot where I planned to watch the rest of the race. I stationed myself about mile 12.9 right after the crossover that way there would be no one blocking me in. I got there just as the sub-2:00 finishers were coming in.
While I was cheering from that vantage point I got to see some amazing costumes coming through, including some I don’t know how they ran 13.1 miles in! There were several Leia in gold bikinis (mostly guys!), rebel fighters, an AT-AT, and plenty Jedi and Vaders. While I was cheering, I met more and more spectators including a couple of little ones who were there to cheer one their mom. I handed them over some of my extra signs and they were happy to cheer on the runners too! I stayed there until the bikes came in with the last runners, and then packed up and headed for home.
Being there and cheering everyone on was amazing! And it really reinforced something for me. Runners come in all shapes, sizes, ages, and skill levels. And no matter where you fall in any of those categories, everyone is encouraging and welcoming. Im proud to be a part of an amazing community and that’s #whyirunDisney.