I had several worries going in to the Tinker Bell Half-Marathon Weekend, which was this past weekend at Disneyland. I was running the 10K, and my personal record for distance was only 3.25 miles. Would I be okay? Would I hurt myself? Would I regret anything?
My other worry was a secondary one, sort of silly but a worry nonetheless. Disneyland, and to a greater extent Disney World, are places of magic, where the real world is concealed from you. Backstage lots and pathways surround the park, and we all know Disney World sits atop a series of tunnels where the actors and employees roam as real people, out of character.
I looked at the race course for the 10K and knew we would run through those backstage areas. What would that be like? No one wants to see Tinker Bell sitting on a curb texting. I’m a grown-up, but I like to see the magic preserved to some extent. My Aunt Carrie was Minnie Mouse for many years, first at Disney World, and then Disneyland. I always wear that as a badge of honor – my aunt was Minnie Mouse – but that sort of factors of into my wish to see the magic preserved. It’s part of my family’s history. It’s dear to me.
But as we ran through the back passageways that weave through Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, I found the magic was heightened in a way. We ran past areas where components of the rides were being repaired; the seats from The Haunted Mansion (easy to identify) were on risers, undoubtedly to be repaired. And instead of feeling deflated by this, I felt happy. What a cool thing to see – the raw material of a ride that I have loved since I was a kid, one whose camp and personality is a source of nostalgia for me now? How wonderful to see that work is being done to preserve it.
We ran past horse stables, where the horses from the parades are housed, and a few handlers had horses out of the barn, allowing people to gently approach and snap a picture if they wanted.
And what I didn’t expect was the people. Third shift workers from distribution, repairs, and custodial departments lined up along the sides of the course, high-fiving us, cheering us on, assuring us there was water or a new mile marker ahead. Some of them wore Mickey Mouse gloves to give us high-fives. These people took time away from their work to cheer us on, and I have to say, that was one of the very best parts of the race, to me.
And y’all – the worries were for nothing. The magic persists. And Amanda and I persisted too. We did a great job with the race, stopping for a few photos, a bathroom break, and a stretch or two of walking.
I was prepared to be in pain the day after the race, but as it turned out, I didn’t have to wait so long. After the walk back to our hotel, and a bit of stretching and a shower, we wandered back out to the parks, but it was short-lived. Y’all: I was hot, dehydrated, tired, and my body was a zone of jagged discomfort. Holy crap. All I wanted to do was lie in bed, and Amanda kept making me drink water. It did help. We were able to make it back out to dinner with friends and see the fireworks on our walk back to the hotel.
In the days after, I was still pretty stiff, and I wanted only one thing: creamy comfort food. I made sweet corn polenta with cherry tomato bruschetta one night, and the following morning, I made this bulgur porridge from The New York Times. With crunchy nuts, tart blueberries and cranberries, creamy bulgur, and sweet maple syrup, it was just what I needed. This recipe, just like my running, is a work in progress, but since this recipe is super easy to customize, it’s one that can be made a hundred different ways, based on what you have on hand and what you like to eat. And, perhaps, how uncomfortable you are after you run a 10K (when, obviously, you need more maple syrup than usual).
Blueberry-Maple Bulgur Porridge
Adapted slightly from The New York Times
Yields 2 servings
1/2 cup bulgur (medium grain)
1/8-1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
1 cup milk or non-dairy alternative (I used vanilla soy milk)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter (optional – and feel free to use less)
2-3 tablespoons maple syrup (to taste)
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup blueberries (fresh or thawed)
2 tablespoons chopped toasted nuts (I used pecans)
The night before: Mix bulgur and salt in a medium-sized pot. Add one cup boiling water, stir, and then cover with lid. Once cooled a bit, set in fridge overnight. Bulgur will soften and soak up water during the night.
In the morning: Stir the milk into the pot of bulgur, and then bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring often (or for a creamier texture, stir constantly) until thickened like cream of wheat, about 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in blueberries, dried fruit, butter, and 2 tablespoons maple syrup.
Serve in a bowl, drizzle with maple syrup (if you like), and top with crunchy toasted nuts.
Note: The bulgur can be soaked up to 3 days ahead and kept in the refrigerator.