Last weekend I had the opportunity to run the Inaugural Disneyland Avengers Half Marathon. After running at Disneyland last year, my husband and I had decided that we prefer the Florida races and would stick to those going forward. But then runDisney announced this one. I am usually the one planning the race schedule, but my husband said we had to do this one so who am I to argue?
This was a very unique race for me. Usually when people talk about running at Disney you see dozens of photos and it is a story of personal worst times because of all the stops they made along the course. In all my Disney races, this has never been me. Even if I am not after a PR, there is some messed up competitive drive in me that refuses to stop for photos during a race. (This probably makes me a somewhat neglectful blogger because you very rarely get photo!) Anyway, for a number of reasons I decided this was the race. This was the one where I would throw my time to the wind and stop for photo ops. (In fact, I spent fourteen minutes in line at one point for one photo!) At any rate, I will start from the beginning with my recap.
We flew in to Cali late Friday night, so we didn’t head over to the Expo until Saturday morning. I had heard horror stories of the crowds, but we walked right in. We could have been in and out in ten minutes if we hadn’t chosen to walk around a little bit. (I will say they were out of a lot of merchandise, so we didn’t get much of anything.) After being very underwhelmed with the Expo for the Disneyland Half in 2013, this was a much better experience. It seemed much more organized and the workers were a lot more friendly and helpful.
Sunday morning was a 3 a.m. wake-up call. Gotta love 5:30 a.m. starts from runDisney. I must say, this is much easier for me on the west coast with the time difference! We were bussed to Disney and the corral set-up was well organized (another improvement from our last Disneyland experience). This must have been a somewhat slower field than normal because I had a corral A start. This was a lot of fun to actually see what was going on at the start – and not just on the big screen! It was at some point while standing around in the corral that I realized it was starting to get windy. When we had first set out that morning it felt pretty nice out, but I did notice on my phone that there was a wind advisory.
The first part of the race weaves through both theme parks. These miles seem to fly by because you have more to look at. In reality, they are the slowest miles if you are planning to stop. I remember leaving Disneyland around mile 3 and looking down at my watch to see my average pace was over sixteen minutes per mile. What?!! I must say this made my competitive side feel somewhat deflated, but then I realized of my 48-minute 5K I had spent at least twenty of that in lines for photos. That made me feel better and in a way it was fun to watch the average time keep dropping for mile after mile the rest of the race. I was amazed how many corral-A’ers were stopping for pictures. Rumor was if you started near the front you would hardly have any lines for photos. Not true. But once I made that first long stop, I was all in. There was no making up for that.
This course was different from previous courses at Disneyland, but I honestly couldn’t tell you exactly how. Many people do not like Disneyland as much because the majority of the course is run on the streets of Anaheim. I do not mind this. The streets are wide, flat and straight with good crowd support. The real story of this race was the wind. Oh my goodness, the wind. I have run some windy races, but they were shorter distances (i.e. over more quickly!). I had no idea just how bad the wind was, I only knew that when running into the headwind I honestly had the sensation of not moving. There were a few occasions that I took walk breaks (Hey, didn’t care about my time anyway, right?!) because my pace was maybe only 20-30 seconds slower – you had to work that hard to run.
Another course highlight at Disneyland is running through Angel Stadium. I am a baseball fan, so I always enjoy a course that takes a lap around a park. Other than the parks, this was my main stopping point.
After exiting Angel Stadium it was back to the wind. Much of the course at this point is very wide open, so there was nothing to “block” the wind. This was the point in the race that there was such a strong wind gust I almost fell over. Seriously, people were stumbling. I am not a lightweight and have never felt that close to being blown over. On a side note, this made the water stops very interesting. They could not put the cups out set up on the tables, so they were frantically pouring and trying to hand right to runners who were then (mostly) trying to drop right in the trash so the cups didn’t fly any more than they already were. It was quite the site! Other random things were blown over on the course as well. Several mile marker signs were down, and I’m pretty sure one was completely moved.
The finish line is back at Disney. The wind was so awful by this point that most of the finish line area was shut down for safety reasons – they didn’t want tents blowing over onto people. Disney did a great job managing this though and still made the finish line area run smoothly.
Overall, I thought this was a great race. The weather is obviously something out of the control of race organizers. runDisney did a fabulous job on this one from theming to logistics and I would definitely do it again. I heard later that the winds were sustained at 40-45mph with gusts up to 65mph! Wow.
Have you ever run a race just for fun and taken lots of pictures? Have you done a runDisney event? If not, which one would you most like to do?