A Running DisNerd, Part 3: Finishing in Never Land

Note: This is the third (and last… for now…) part of a series about my experience being a first time runner attending my first RunDisney event. I hope you’ve enjoyed, and if you have yet to read them, click to read part one and part two.

3:00 AM came early on race day. Sure, we had gone to bed relatively early the night before. Disneyland had closed at 7:30, and we headed back to the hotel shortly after that. Nonetheless, when the alarm went off, all I could think was, “What kind of crazy people get up at 3 in the morning to run? ”

Apparently, the answer was us. We were that kind of crazy people, along with roughly 4500 other crazies.

However, any feeling of being tired was forgotten as we walked through Disneyland’s front gates with race bibs securely fastened to the front of our shirts. 4:30 AM, and Main Street was alive with music and lights as runners made their way to the starting corrals.

20150508_043821Even after arriving half an hour early, we were moved into Corral B, the second starting position for runners. We were entertained by emcees, a DJ,  and a visit from Wendy Darling. Suffice to say, it was not an uneventful wait. Surrounded by other runners, both experienced and novice like me, I felt a genuine excitement to get moving. Instead of being insecure about being able to finish, I felt inspired by all of the people ready to take their shot at the race as well! After an early morning National Anthem and a visit from Tinker Bell…

20150508_050209…. We were off! At least, kind of… You see, with over 4,000 people taking off from the starting line, even one corral at a time, it definitely takes a few minutes to get moving. However, once we were moving, I knew there would be no stopping – at least not until we saw characters on the run trail or other photo ops!

I have to say, the folks at RunDisney really know how to make a run, even a simple 5k, a fun and inspiring event. As we began the run, The path was lined with cast members clapping and cheering us all on as we set out on our journey. They continued to cheer us on wherever they happened to be stationed that morning. Mechanics working on ride vehicles backstage, people from their office windows in the TDA building, security guards working the Cast member entrance… they were all enthusiastic and friendly!

We were also told to keep an eye out for Peter Pan’s shadow, and to give our best Peter “crow” whenever we saw it. This led to some quite enthusiastic yelling and screaming in the hour before dawn.

Crow with me!

Crow with me!

I’d also like to add, the running crowd was quite fun as well. Lots of green tutus and wings, costumes (The DisNerd Family ran as peter, Tink and Wendy), and themed teams as well. I wish I had more pictures to share of some of the runners, but being that we were involved in a run, we had to keep going! This included when the rain started coming down somewhere around Mile 1. Fortunately, although it was a steady, constant rain, it was not a torrential downfall either – just enough to get us wet and make many of us cold!

Even with a cloudy sky, Peter's shadow could still be found!

Even with a cloudy sky, Peter’s shadow could still be found!

I’ll be honest and say, as much as I worried about the amount of running I could actually pull off, I found myself wanting to run more! There were points where the path narrowed, and you could only move as fast as those in front of you. Also, with mile markers and characters out, stops were sure to happen. I mean, who could resist stopping to take advantage of this picture opportunity with a little running Wendy?

"I have the strangest feeling I've seen that ship somewhere before..."

“I have the strangest feeling I’ve seen that ship somewhere before…”

I did keep my promise to myself though. I started running (Once I was in a clear enough space to do so), and I finished running. Do I plan on doing more running in the future? You bet. I may never make it to a half marathon, or even 10k, but this event has inspired me to even start looking at local 5k events here in Arizona to see what else there may be to do! Speaking of 10k and half marathons, my hat goes off to all runners in any running event, RunDisney or otherwise! You have my repsect.

As do you, dear readers. I appreciate all of your encouragement and well wishes. I felt your support as I ran, and was even encouraged by a couple readers (and old high school friends who happened to be running other events that weekend) who happened to be there and cheered me on as I passed! It was truly a memorable event, and one I would recommend to anyone, especially fans of Disney, regardless of whether it’s your first or 51st running event. Disney magic, and getting in shape? What can be better?!?

 

You bet I look like a bit of a dork... but this DisNerd finished his first 5k, even in the rain! It's something I'll always remember, and will always feel the support I received from my friends and readers!

You bet I look like a bit of a dork… but this DisNerd finished his first 5k, even in the rain! It’s something I’ll always remember, and will always feel the support I received from my friends and readers!

A Running DisNerd, Part 1: I Don’t Run.

RunDisney Logo Copyright The Walt Disney Company

RunDisney Logo Copyright The Walt Disney Company

If you frequent Disney Parks or follow the Disney Parks Blog (or many other blogs for that matter) online, I’m sure you’ve heard of RunDisney. In case you haven’t, RunDisney is Disney’s, you guessed it, running division. If you’ve heard of a marathon, half-marathon, 10k, or 5k taking place within the confines of Disney-owned property, it’s a RunDisney event. Countless numbers sign up for these events many months in advance to run different themed competitive and non-competitive races throughout the parks. The races have been known to sell out in days, sometimes even hours! At any RunDisney event, you will see all types of runners, including many costumed runners, depending on the theme of the particular run they’re participating in. These races seem to be the perfect type of events for Disney fans, young and old, who are into running as well. And I’ve always thought to myself, “Well, that’s nice for them.”

But not for me. I’ve never been a runner.

Okay, there was that one fifty-yard dash in fifth grade, where I managed to come in fifth place, and actually got a ribbon. However, my running days pretty much began and ended there. I’ll admit, I’m out of shape. I’ve been meaning to do something about that. But running has never been one of my preferred methods. Do I run? Maybe when chased, but that’s about it. Therefore, is RunDisney for me? Had you asked me previously, I would tell you it was not in the cards. At least, this was the case up until last summer, when Mrs. DisNerd mentioned that registration was going to be opening up for the Tinker Bell Half-Marathon weekend in May 2015. The event that specifically caught our attention was the Never Land 5k. If you’ve been reading Confessions for any amount of time, you know through posts such as “Still Living In Never Land” and “Real Character (Or, How Peter and Jake Made Wendy’s Day Perfectly Darling)” exactly how much Peter Pan and his Never Land family mean to us. With that being said, if there were a RunDisney event I was willing to participate in, the Never Land 5k would be the one.So, on that August morning, as registration opened, I registered our family to run in this event, with full intent of getting in shape for the run.

I’m ashamed to admit, this hasn’t happened yet for yours truly, and I’m running out of time. A little more than a month out, and this DisNerd is nowhere near ready. I could blame injury (not the best knee in the world, a sprained ankle at one point), I could blame allergies and sickness, but in all honesty, what I blame most of all is me. Between everything else, there still should have been time to train and prep. It just hasn’t happen, and I can only point the finger at myself.

With that realization out of the way, I feel there is still time to ready myself for a 5k without killing myself. I know I could walk at a brisk pace even. But this is RUNDisney, and now I have something to prove to myself. So begins a month and a half of training, to get into a decent running/jogging shape, and cross the finish line to earn my first 5k medal.

Will winning this make me an honorary Lost Boy? Picture copyright The Walt Disney Company

Will winning this make me an honorary Lost Boy?
Picture copyright The Walt Disney Company

I plan on posting an occasional update on my progress here, as well as sharing my overall experience with a RunDisney event. I’d like to ask you to join me on this journey. I’d also like to hear from you, fellow DisNerds. Any other RunDisney participants out there? I’d love to know your stories or experiences – maybe we can inspire each other! Can’t wait to share with you all at the finish line!

Real Character (Or, How Peter and Jake Made Wendy’s Day Perfectly Darling)

As Confessions moves into 2014 with new ideas and stories, I’m also taking a moment or two to reflect and share a few memorable experiences my family and I had during 2013. This particular instance comes from a trip to Disneyland in September, and serves as an open letter to those who made a possibly sad experience absolutely wonderful.

Dear Residents of Never Land (aka, Peter Pan and Jake the Never Land Pirate),

I write this letter as a long overdue note of thanks for making a five year old’s day at Disneyland so incredibly magical by small acts of kindness that were, in essence, incredibly huge in her eyes – and ours, too!

You see, as I’ve mentioned in the past, Peter Pan and Never Land are huge in our household. While there are other aspects of Disney from day to day, depending on which characters we are “playing” at a particular time, Peter is the constant. Any time we’ve met you at the park, Peter, you’ve always been a highlight and we’ve been excited to see you. So, it was with great anticipation on this trip that our daughter wore the Wendy dress her grandmother had recently made her in anticipation of meeting you.

That day in the park, September 9th, 2013, we arrived and looked for you in the locations and attractions we had met you previously. The early morning yielded no results, although one cast member had mentioned seeing you around Dumbo. Yet, in asking a character handler at the Tangled meet & greet, we were informed that no, you had not made it to the park today. Later, however, we were informed by a cast member at another area of the park, “Peter should definitely be around today!” Being that there was quite a bit of confusion among cast members as to your whereabouts, I ventured to Main Street to chat with the character handlers there to see if I could get a definitive answer. Although I cannot remember the handler’s name, I can tell you what a wonderful help she was. After explaining our situation to her, she stepped back and made a call to the back. Upon her return, she sadly explained that you had some troubles in Never Land that morning. Hook and his fellow pirates were being extra feisty, and you were needed there to reign them in. Sadly, you would not be at the park that day until Soundsational parade time.

While we understood – I mean, these things happen, pirates being how pirates can be – we were nonetheless a little sad. Here our little Wendy had one wish, and that was to meet you and show you her dress, Peter. But being the trooper she was, she held back tears as we went to plan “B.” While she was reluctant to meet Tinker Bell (I guess Wendy and Tink have a bit of a past…), she was more willing to venture across to Disney California Adventure in hopes of meeting Jake (the nice Never Land Pirate) and return to Disneyland later to at least wave to you as you passed by during Soundsational.

Jake, this is where you came in. When we got over to Californina Adventure, you were not out, but were told you would be arriving shortly. The short wait was worth our while, as you instantly recognized Wendy and took her on a magical journey through the streets of Hollywoodland in search of the ever elusive second star to the right. For a full five minutes, the two of you were in your own world, walking down one side of the street and up the other, eyes peeled for any sign of Never Land.

He must be here somewhere!

After finding evidence of a possible path to Never Land (a star in the window of the Animation Building), it was time for you to move on and meet other guests waiting for you. But Jake, you put a smile on that little girl’s face – the biggest one we had seen that day.

At least, the biggest one we had seen so far.

Later that afternoon, we traversed back to Disneyland in order to catch the only showing of Soundsational that day – at park closing. Still unsure of meeting Tink in Pixie Hollow that day (I mean, she HAD wanted to shoot Wendy down, you know…), we made our way to the back of the park for a ride on It’s a Small World. After that, we sat down for a spot at the end of the parade route. As the sun began to set and the parade started, our little Never Lander waited with anticipation to wave to you, Peter.

Waiting For Pan…

Soundsational is definitely a great parade. The music, the upbeat tempo, the cast of characters… this time was no different. Very much worth waiting for. However…the main event was coming up – would you see Wendy and wave back?

Hi, Peter!!!!

Did you see her? Did you ever! Not only did you wave, but you made her feel like the most important person in the world for 15 seconds. When you spotted her, you ran over, got down on her level, and….

“Wendy!!! Where’ve you been? I’ve been looking ALL OVER for you!!! I’m so glad you made it today! I have to get back and catch Hook, but I’m so happy to see you!”

As you ran off to fight those pirates once again, and our little one squealed with glee, you took a moment to point back and tell Tinker Bell she was there. And yes, even Tink was happy to see her!

As adults, many seem to forget the magic of meeting a favorite character in the park. We tend to be the ones gasping at long lines to meet a mouse, a princess, or a boy who never grew up. We scoff at meet & greets and want to get to the rides. But for many of us, we can look at the face of a little girl who just met her hero…

“He stopped the parade just for me!!!” – her exact words!

…and it’s the most important thing about being in a magical place.

So thank you, Peter and Jake. You made a little girl’s day by going above and beyond what many expect. And I am forever grateful for moments and characters like you.

Sincerely,

A Dad Who Never Wants to Grow Up

My dear readers, I wrote this letter with the hopes that it would bring you happiness – to remember what it’s like to see Disney through the eyes of a child. I also did so in the hope that you would help me out with a small favor. See, I would love to see if this could make its way to the “friends” of Peter and Jake that were at the parks that day in September. I really would like them to know of the impact and impression they left on us that day. It truly was magical. Please feel free to share, comment and pass this on to anyone who may be able to get it to these wonderful people. Until next time, my friends, be blessed!

Ask a DisNerd – Favorite Rides and Those Darn Cats!

Good morning, all! Welcome to a slightly delayed edition of Ask a DisNerd! This time around we have two questions to answer, so let’s get right to it, shall we?

First off, Confessions reader Andrew asks: “What’s your favorite Disney ride of all time?”

It would be easier, Andrew, to tell you what my least favorite ride would be, since, generally speaking, I love almost all! But if I had to pick one ride and one ride only, it would go back to one of the original opening day rides.

Peter Pan’s Flight – pretty much perfection in an attraction that has stood the test of time.

Perhaps it’s because of the fact that Peter Pan is among my favorite Disney stories. Maybe it’s the idea of being able to fly in a pirate ship high above London and Never Land. Possibly it’s because it’s such a popular (i.e. long-lined) ride that it’s near impossible to ride over and over again, that it makes each time I ride a special treat. Nonetheless, I am like a little kid each time I get on that ship to begin my journey to the second star to the right. I can’t help but hope each time the ride breaks down. That I’m stuck for an extra amount of time floating over Never Land. To me, that’s a sign of an excellent ride – one that you can’t spend too much time on. One that captures child-like innocence and wonder. To me, that is Peter Pan’s Flight.

“Straight on ’till morning!”

Our second question comes from Confessions reader Tanya, who asks: “Why would anyone name a cat after the devil?”

Tanya, your question stumped me for a while. I was wondering what that had to do with Disney until a little light bulb went off in my head. “Ding! She’s referring to Lucifer!”

Here, kitty kitty kitty….

While I don’t have an answer to that, many theories point to the idea that Walt wasn’t all that fond of cats. Pete the Cat, aka Pegleg Pete, was Mickey Mouse’s first nemesis. The Cheshire Cat, while not villainous, wasn’t very helpful to poor Alice in any way. And those Siamese…. oh, how they tortured poor Lady. But I’m not sure I’m buying this theory. It doesn’t explain cute (and a little mischievous) Figaro or the helpful  to dalmatians everywhere Sergeant Tibbs! Just like humans, there’s a fair balance of good and bad!

So, I was left with asking the final authority on why anyone would name a cat Lucifer: My five year old daughter.

“Well, you see, when they were making Cinderella, they really wanted to name him Luci, but that’s a girl’s name. So they had to come up with a boy’s name instead. They thought about how furry he was and named him Luci-fur!”

Probably not the answer we were looking for, but pretty much as good an answer as I could find!

Alrighty, fellow DisNerds, that should do it for this time! Hope you enjoyed this overdue “Ask a DisNerd” – be sure to keep those questions coming!

Still Living In Never Land

I’ll be the first to tell you: I was never what you’d call a big fan of Peter Pan. In my eyes, Peter was, and still is, kind of a punk. No regard for authority, egotistical, no ambition beyond staying a kid, laughing at Wendy Darling as the mermaids in the lagoon teased, and for all intents, tried to drown her. Sometimes, you can’t help but wish Captain Hook would teach him at least a little lesson.

Nonetheless, over the years, I’ve softened my stance and warmed to the boy who never grew up. In fact, I’ll even say Peter related stories and characters within the Disney realm have become some of my favorites. Most of this I owe to a few things:

My wife, who has always loved the movie and counts it among her favorites. I doubt I would have watched it much without her to watch it with, and I’m grateful for that.

My daughter, whose love of Peter and Never Land is unmatched. My wife and I often joke that Peter was and is her “first love.” She still is enamored with Peter, his Lost Boys, and of course, the Darling children. In fact, we even commissioned a piece from a friend that showcases her love of Peter.

My favorite part of this picture? She’s flying over Never Land, and too busy looking at Peter to notice!

And, of course, Disneyland. How can you ride Peter Pan’s Flight without wishing your boat would get stuck over the fiber optic beauty of Never Land and just stay there? The fact that guests wait in 45 minute lines for a three minute ride is a true testament to how well this ride works as well as to the place it holds in people’s hearts.

But there’s a bigger reason that the older I get, the tales of Peter have become so meaningful to me.

Is this because of the fact that Peter never grew up and I’m longing for my childhood? Is it the dangerous beauty of Never Land? The enticing adventure that awaits (the Pirates on the Jolly Roger seem much more fun to battle than the corporate ones faced in daily life!)?

Maybe it’s a combination of all three..plus a little more. You see, although Peter never grew up, I don’t think that is necessarily a good thing. Wendy realized it. John and Michael did, too. In other stories, the Lost Boys came to see this as well.

Yet, when growing up, you run the risk of becoming a pirate. George Darling was well on his way. There’s a reason throughout the history of stage and cinema that He and Hook are portrayed by the same actor. The difference being, there was redemption for Mr. Darling.

It came in the form of remembering Peter Pan.

“I have the strangest feeling I’ve seen that ship somewhere before…”

As the years go by and I get older, it’s not the actual growing up that concerns me (as it did Peter). It’s the thought of losing touch with the memories of childhood (as with George). If I were to completely let go of those memories; If I forget what it’s like to pretend, to tell stories, to have an adventure just for the sake of adventure… I’m a pirate. It’s important to take on the responsibilities of an adult. But without the memories and feelings of childlike innocence and wonder, we grow self centered, annoyed, sometimes despising the beauty of wonder. And that, more than anything else, is why with each passing year I embrace the story of Peter Pan more and more.

At the end of Peter Pan: Return to Never Land, there is a scene that gets to me every time. If you haven’t seen it and don’t wish to be spoiled, don’t watch. But if you have seen it, or don’t think you will, watch with me. This little exchange between Peter and the now grown Wendy puts it all into perspective for me.

 

I think that now, I mostly relate to Wendy, who was ready to grow up. Although time may take its toll, I will always remember the magic of childhood, and cherish it in adulthood as well. Perhaps that explains my love of Disney, and my childlike amazement I still get whenever I set foot in a theme park or see the company logo flash at the beginning of a movie.

It’s because there’s part of me that never grew up and is still living in Never Land… and I embrace  it wholeheartedly.

The Disney Olympic Team – Final Entrants

As the Olympics come to a close, I thought I’d throw just a few more Disney athletes into the mix. I know this is in no way a comprehensive list, and if anyone would like to add to it, feel free! Without further adieu, here are my choices for Disney characters and their Olympic events:

First off, in the category of high jumps, I give you that spring-tailed master of bounce!

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The 15 Day Disneyland Challenge: Day 11

Note: This post is part of a 15 Day challenge with questions referring to Disneyland or Walt Disney World. For more information, or to see all 15 questions, please refer to the introductory post, The 15 Day Disneyland Challenge. As stated in that post, I am not the creator of the challenge – just a willing participant!

Day 11: Your favorite person (face) character to meet at the parks.

I never really was a big character person. Until I had a kid. A kid who LOVES characters. Then everything changed. Yes, we are now one of the autograph seeking, wait-in-line families who will turn on a dime if we see a character walking past – as long as it’s not a villain. So then, I have to ask the question, who would be my favorite? The answer would lie within another question. Who is my favorite to see my daughter interact with?

The princesses, are, of course, awesome. As are the antics of Alice and the Mad Hatter. However, through all the interactions, my answer would have to go back to my little girl’s favorite:

Peter and my Goose.

Peter will always hold a special place in our heart.  He was her first true favorite character. She was so obsessed with Peter, I commissioned a good friend to do a painting reflecting this. Notice how her eyes never leave Peter, although she’s flying over Neverland. More to the point, she’s flying with him! At the park, Peter has that same effect.

Notice Pinocchio? Another early favorite!

Even To this day, he’s still a favorite of hers. Of course, what child, be it boy or girl, doesn’t dream of flying to Neverland? What adult doesn’t dream of being a kid again? Perhaps it’s because we see him so rarely, but Peter’s interactions with my kiddo are my favorites to watch. He gets down on her level, acts as much the kid as she is, and just has fun! What’s not to love about that?

What about you? Do you have a favorite face character to meet?