I know it’s been a few months since this race but I didn’t want to lose the opportunity to share my thoughts on last November’s Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon in Anaheim, California.
My wife and her dear friend run the site Mousekemoms and decided they wanted to run the runDisney Super Heroes Half Marathon weekend, specifically running the 5K. When my wife asked if I was interested in running the half marathon, I can’t say I was jumping up and down with joy (Disney-style, that is) but since it was just two weeks after my Halloween Harvest Half Marathon, I thought sneaking another half in would be awesome to complete the year with three half marathons.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the race – I really did. But much of the Disney and Super Heroes themes were lost on me. With all that said, let me fill you in on my experience and what you might expect next time you sign up for a runDisney event.
First, the cost of the event is not for the faint of heart with a grand total registration fee of $212.13 after tax. The amount did include a nifty race through both Disneyland and California Adventure, a quick run through Angels Stadium (with announcer calling out my name), a pretty sweet long-sleeved tech shirt, and commemorative medal (which a few of my friends are planning on running next year just to get the medal), however the gouging was present…Disney-style.
New “Favorite” long-sleeved tech shirt and medal
Don’t get me wrong, I know that Disney isn’t cheap and I really did enjoy the race. But unless you really care about the fact you’re running through the different parks, it just might not be what you want to spend your hard-earned money on. I did enjoy the race, but a similarly priced National Park race would probably have been a preferred option for someone that prefers the great outdoors (with way more animals than people) to a Disney event. 🙂
The pre-race expo was held at the Disneyland Hotel. We could tell we were headed in the right place because a large number of racers were all coming with their goody bags from the hotel’s direction. When we arrived at the hotel it did take a bit of time to find the location of the expo, likely due to the sheer size of the hotel. But once we found the expo, the transitions from bib pickup to the vendor booths were smooth and straight-forward.
It was at the expo that we had the surprise of a lifetime. Earlier that year while in Southern California for my first Spartan Super of the year, we met a really great family that we spent a lot of time with during that trip. As I got into line to pick up my long-sleeved shirt, I look up and the guy helping me (in my size – they had one line per size) was the husband we had met just 10 months before! We had a great time catching up. He and his wife actually support the event and in exchange receive tickets for a free pass to Disneyland; not a bad deal at all!
There were a few hundred vendors sporting their wares from Clif Bar to New Balance sporting their runDisney running shoes. We really enjoyed walking the aisles and checking out the latest tech gear. I was tempted to buy a new pair of headphones, but after spending the money on the race and travel, I decided my $70 could be spent better elsewhere. 🙂
The highlight of those vendors though was meeting Jeff Galloway – US Olympian and founder of his Run Walk Run method for running (err, and walking) half and full marathon distances. From what I understand, he is affiliated with all the runDisney events and can likely be found at the expos and races from Disneyland to Disneyworld.
Transportation To/From the Race
While at the expo, we found Anaheim Resort Transportation (ART) and were surprised to find that not only were they offering free transportation to and from the races (for hotels surrounding the Disneyland property), but they were also giving out free 4-day shuttle passes for those same hotels as well. We had already purchased 4-day passes, thinking they were only providing free transport during the actual races, but were told to request a rebate from their office. I won’t go into too much detail, but I’ll likely be calling them yet again to try to get that rebate. I share this story with this thought in mind: Don’t buy your transit tickets until you go to the expo. Get the free tickets and you won’t have the hassle I have now.
The shuttles on the morning of the races weren’t as filled as I would expect. They dropped us off where the ART buses drop off their passengers right in front of Disneyland, requiring me to go through security, walk across the section dividing Disneyland and California Adventure and then through most of Downtown Disney to get to the entry point for the race. It wasn’t as painful as it sounds, but just don’t think you’re going to be dropped off right where the race begins.
Lastly, I didn’t realize until getting to the start of the race that the shuttles wouldn’t be available for return to the hotels until almost 9:30 am, just about two hours after I finished the race. The reason for this is the shuttles were blocked from leaving the parking lot due to the course being in their way. This is an unfortunate oversight and one that seemingly could have been remedied by taking another route back to the hotels. I wound up walking back the 1.5 mile stretch back to the hotel, chalking it up to a good cool down after the race.
As mentioned above, I had to go through security to get to Downtown Disney and then wound up having to go through security again to get into the race area. I was a little hesitant after being in line for almost 30 minutes the day before waiting to get into Disneyland (yes, I walked through the parks for three days before the race – not a great idea) and was dreading the line race morning. I was extremely thankful as security seemed to be much more lax for anyone that looked like a runner. The lines were quick and I was able to get from point to point quickly.
I have to hand it to Disney – one thing they specialize in is managing and directing thousands of people without breaking a sweat. That was the case for the expo prior to the race (once we found the expo) as well as the race itself. They were very strict in their corral assignments. I was in Corral B as I had proof of completing another half marathon in just under two hours and thankfully didn’t have to wait long for the race to get started.
You can see the first couple of minutes in the video below that we started to run pretty much straight from the start. The first couple of miles were a bit of elbow bumping (non-intentional) but nothing that kept me from really starting to find my pace.
I can’t vouch for later corrals, but my wife that ran the 5K did mention it took them almost 30 minutes to get started. She was in the last corral but wasn’t phased by it a bit – just was grateful to be there and take in everything Disney. Let’s just say her and I have different views on Disney. 🙂
The aid stations were placed pretty evenly through the race. As you can see in the video, each aid station had tables on both sides of the course, with each one offering either Powerade or water. The volunteers were amazing and really cheered us on each step of the course.
Right before entering Angels stadium (about mile 8) there were a number of Clif products available – with everything from gels to bars. I had brought my own nutrition and skipped that, but it was a nice touch.
I really did enjoy the race. About 4-5 miles into the race my normal big smile spread across my face because all my jitters were gone, the light was coming out, and I was running. I really do LOVE to run!
At the start of the race though it was pretty dark. This wouldn’t have normally been a problem, but I usually find myself finding an unconscious attraction to lane markings – with these early streets having those blasted reflectors right on those same lane stripes. What this meant is that within the first mile I had found myself with a slightly twisted ankle (thankfully nothing serious) and a bit unnerved and frustrated at not being able to see.
We ran through many of the back lot areas of both California Adventure and then into Disneyland. It reminded me just how magical of an experience it is to experience the parks as those back lots were drab and so anti-Disney. But it was pretty cool to experience those moments that most visitors in the parks don’t usually get to see.
The park areas were amazing – especially my favorite moments of running through Cars Land in the dark with the beautiful red rock arches and skyline passing me by. If nothing else, I could admire the magic that Disney has to offer as I really felt like I was back in my home state of Utah experiencing a sunrise like no other.
I will add that running by It’s a Small World all lit up for Christmas was a pretty cool experience as well. Just don’t share with anyone that it’s my favorite ride in Disneyland. I just might get a few jabs from friends, wondering at my taste in theme parks.
One thing to watch for when running through the parks are the curbs. After entering into Disneyland, I actually found myself taking a step that didn’t exist (a.k.a. – off a curb) and didn’t enjoy the next step. I survived but imagine that other runners might not have been so lucky. So if you find yourself running a Disney event, watch for those curbs as you run through the park. You just might be glad you did.
Due to the smaller size of Disneyland and California Adventure (as compared to Disney World) there was a good portion of the race ran outside the parks on the surrounding surface streets. Sure you are running towards Angel’s Stadium, but outside the park you won’t find any Disney-sanctioned characters (there were some non-sanctioned – a few in very realistic costumes). There were a number of marching bands and other high-school groups along the way making it a fun experience both for the runners as well as the spectators as well.
Along those same streets, there were a few non-approved aid stations along the way (some with latex gloves to be more sanitary), but I skipped those as I just never know what to trust. I would hate to find myself wondering later whether those aid stations were to blame for any GI issues later in the race.
Finally, running alongside the infield in Angel’s Stadium was a pretty special part of the race. Having my name called out over the loudspeaker and seeing all the fans in the bleachers made it a fun experience, even for someone that isn’t a huge baseball fan could appreciate.
The run over the interstate must have attributed to the 47 ft elevation gain as I’m not quite sure where else it would have come from. The course was otherwise flat, excepting the run into and out of the stadium due to the ramps we ran across.
The weather was perfect with it starting just a bit cooler than I hoped (too cool to stand but perfect for running) and just a little warmer than I hoped at the finish, with an average temperature of 55 degrees Fahrenheit according to my Garmin.
The only last note I might make is regarding the running surface inside of the parks. I’m not a big fan on running on anything harder than asphalt and the surface inside the parks was harder than I would have normally enjoyed. The running in the back lots and the surface streets outside the park were generally asphalt so those were perfect, but inside the parks themselves left a little for me to be desired. And no, I don’t plan on running the Houston Marathon anytime soon for those exact reasons – no concrete for this guy.
I have to admit I was a bit disappointed in the post-race food. Sure, when you have to shuffle a large number of people through the area I suppose you can’t just have open tables of food. After receiving my medal, they handed us a green banana (I’m sure that others were yellow) and a box of barely edible packaged snacks – most of which I don’t consume as I’m a vegan. I did miss having access to a number of fruit options and other normal post-race food. Again, I do admit that most people were probably ok with the box-snack approach, but for something desiring whole-foods and plant based diet, that just wasn’t it.
I’ll share here that if my wife decides she wants to run another runDisney event that I’ll be in for either the half marathon distance (which is the longest Disneyland offers) or the full marathon distance (if we ever make it to Disney World for an event). I apologize that much of the magic that Disney has to offer was lost on me, but it was great to see everyone lining up for pictures with characters and enjoying the whole experience.
The run was fun, the organization great, and the medal and shirt were outstanding. All in all, it’s a race that you likely have to experience at least once. After that, it’s up to you. 🙂
For a full video of the experience check out the following video:
Running for Life!