I started running January of 1977 when my best friend talked me into signing up for Track & Field. We were going to run the hurdles. I loved the hurdles and I soon began running in the 440 and 1 mile relays. The hurdlers always had a friendly rivalry with the distance runners on who had the harder event. We always were begging the coach to let us hurdlers run a distance race, but he would not. The coach didn’t want us tired for our events. One meet late in my junior year, we were so far ahead in points, it didn’t mater how we did in the high hurdles. We saw our chance, and the coach let us run. I didn’t win, but I pulled out a 4:50 mile. The next week, I was surprised to see that I was listed for the mile and not the high hurdles. I wasn’t very good at the highs, but wait, what? Yep, I was signed up and I ran a 4:55. The final week of the season, I was signed up again, and this time I ran a 5:00. I was slowly getting worse, but I also was not training for distance. I was still practicing for hurdles and relays.
That summer, the Cross Country coach talked a former student into trying to convince me to try out for the Cross Country team in my senior year. Was he crazy? I was a hurdler. I was finally convinced to try and we had an awesome team that year. I ran most of the year as Junior Varsity (JV), but both the JV and Varsity team were pretty close in talent. The coach would swap us for about 1/3 of the races to rest the varsity team and so they didn’t use up all their points for races. Both teams received Varsity letters that year as we all earned enough qualifying points to Letter. The last quarter of the season I was moved up to Varsity when one of the Varsity members was injured. For track that year, I still ran low hurdles, but ran distance races instead of relays. Most of my distance friends had run marathons, but I never had any desire to run one. Those things could kill you. The longest I ever ran was 10 miles.
After graduating from High School, I continued to run local races, but did not run college track. My school had great Cross Country and Track & Field teams. I also wanted to concentrate on school. College was not the same as high school. You really had to work there. My running eventually began to peter out. I would run for a while, then not run for a while. When I started work, I began running to stay in shape for work. This was on again, off again running. In 1987 I started running regular. but even this eventually just became a daily chore. Get up, eat breakfast, go to work, come home and clean the house, make dinner, run…
But I was running. Then in 2011, my wife, a none runner, announced that she and a friend of hers was going to run the Disneyland Half Marathon. Was she crazy? They trained and they did it. I went to support them and to take pictures. The race was amazing. So many people dressed up as their favorite characters and there were some truly amazing costumes. It looked like so much fun, was so well organized, and they couldn’t stop talking about all the cool stuff Disneyland had done to “Plus” the event. They got these amazing, really heavy metal medals. Right then I decided that I was going to run one too. I started training for the 2012 Disneyland Half Marathon. I could do this. I ran 10 miles before, and this was only 3.1 miles more. Of course, I had run that ten miler 31 years before.
I was way out of running shape. Ok so I did have a shape, but you wouldn’t correlate it with a runner. I trained, stopped, started, got hurt, but eventually I made it to the starting line. Would I be able to finish? I wasn’t the runner I use to be. My ideas about how to run were old. Sure the core was still the same. But look at how many people were there just to have fun. So many were dressed in amazing costumes. I wasn’t sure how some of them would finish the race in their costumes. I started the race and was amazed at all of the wonderful things Disneyland did to make the race special. After running about 4 miles through the Parks and seeing so many characters and other amazing things, we hit the streets. Wait, what, we are already 4 miles into the race?
Now I was seeing amazing crowds, high school marching bands, Cheer leaders, Cosplayers, and even a car show. We went through Angel Stadium and the crowds cheered for us. I even saw myself on the Jumbotron. After exiting the stadium, I noticed a lot of people cheering for a Russ. They kept yelling for him to keep going, you’re almost to the finish line. There was only about 3.5 miles to go. I was wondering who this other Russ was until I realized one of the people was looking straight at me. How did this person know my name. I’ll say I was just tired, but I think it was just a brain “f*rt”. Ah, they print your first name on your bid, duh. I was really having to push myself.
The crowds were still yelling. other runners were encouraging me to keep going, almost there. Does it seem like you are always “almost there”? But then, there is was. The finish line. Old skills kicked in and I dug deep. I kicked it in as I had been taught all those years ago. I crossed the finish line with a 2:39:54 time. Really? I ran a 12:12 minutes per mile pace? And there were the medal people. A nice lady came up to me and placed that medal on my neck. It was even heavier than my wife’s medal had felt the previous year. It felt great. I had finished my first Half Marathon, and I was hooked. Sure I was sore and pretty much couldn’t walk for the next 3 days (just kidding, but I was majorly sore). I was proud to wear my medal around the Park that day. So cool to hear so many people’s medals clacking as they walked around the Parks, and I had one too.
Since that Day, I have run several more Run Disney races including 12 more Half Marathons, two 10k’s, 2 Virtual half Marathons, and 9 Virtual 5K races. My races include running at Disneyland and Walt Disney World. I have run all of the Star Wars Light Side and Dark Side Half Marathons. I was on track to be a legacy runner for both the Light Side and Dark Side Star Wars Half Marathons. You have to run every race in a series and get the title after the 5th year. At Disneyland, they would post the names of all of the legacy runners. One more Dark Side and I will be a Legacy runner. They discontinued all of the races at Disneyland due to construction. There is no word yet whether they will start the races again after the construction is completed. If they do start them again, I’m not sure if they are counting the virtual races towards the Star Wars Legacy, will pick up where they left off, or have to start over again. But I will be there if they start running at Disneyland again.
My next Run Disney race is the Star Wars Light Side virtual race that they are running to get people moving and have a little fun. It is also the race that allows you to get the Kessel Run medal if you also run the Rivals Half marathon (formerly Dark Side). My next race at a Park is next April 2020 for the Star Wars Rivals Half Marathon. With the break due to no Disneyland races, I have really been working on updating my knowledge of running. Adjusting my diet, losing weight, learning how to properly use gels during races, how to train better, and to actually be training without injury. I really would like to get a 2 hour race next April. I know if I work hard and put my mind to it, I can do it. My times have been improving. As part of this prep, I started the My Disney Races Facebook and Instagram accounts.
I also truly hope as things start to settle back down at Disneyland, that they bring back the Half Marathons. I know there are political and operational consideration that must be addressed before the races can start again. But I know all of us Disneyland Half Marathon runners want our races back. I love the races at Walt Disney World, but that is such a long trip. It’s nice to be able to pop down on Friday and go home Monday, and still get to spend a lot of time at the Parks. I still don’t have a desire to do a full marathon, and not much motivation to run other Halfs, but I love Disney races and as long as Disney puts them on and I am capable to running them, I will be there.