Killing time while trying not to die: runDisney mile markers
Oh, hello. Excuse me while I blow the dust off my blog before welcoming you to an installment of the Virtual Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend Blog Hop. I’ll be covering race mile markers and my near-obsessive habit of documenting each one, usually with a blurry and/or goony-faced selfie.
I first started taking photos of each mile marker at the inaugural Avengers Super Heroes 5K, my second-ever runDisney race, primarily because the Mile 1 marker happened to match the shirt I was wearing for the race: the Incredible Hulk.
I then documented all the mile markers in the Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon mostly because it was my first half marathon and it gave me an excuse to slow down and take a quick break every mile. I don’t officially use the Galloway run/walk method (where you take frequent walk breaks at timed intervals), but I do give myself walk breaks at water stations and mile markers. Or whenever I feel like it, really. I also don’t stop for a lot of character photos because of the long lines, so this gives me some kind of historical record.
The Avengers Half was infamous for the Santa Ana winds that assaulted runners and mile markers alike, so most of my mile marker photos are like these:
I didn’t run the Star Wars 5K last year, so I don’t know what those mile markers looked like, but I’m sure they were pretty neat. The downside to the 5K, at least if you’re in the earlier corrals, is that most of the race is in the dark, so getting decent photos is tough. At least there are only three …
Obviously, the 10K has twice as many mile markers as the 5K (science!). The inaugural Star Wars 10K was my first time doing a runDisney challenge, and my shirt was also annoying me, so the selfie-taking part of my brain was preoccupied with just getting through the race in good enough shape for the half marathon the next day. I was also fortunate enough to have finally worked my way out of the last two corrals and started in Corral C, meaning more of the race was in the dark, adding to the mile-marker-photo degree of difficulty.
I’m not fanatical about them needing to be a selfie — if a cast member or another runner is willing to take a photo for me, you better believe I’m doing that.
The 10K has an advantage over the 5K and the half marathon in that the final mile marker is nearly a quarter-mile from the finish, so it’s easier to get the shot. Usually it’s still within Downtown Disney, before the turn onto the finish straightaway.
While the 10K mile markers are usually pretty awesome, the half marathon mile markers are traditionally all the same within each race. Other than the terribly-lit early ones, you will not see a lot of variety in this thrilling gallery. You will see, however, that my learning curve on where to look improved considerably as this race went on.
That last one is always tricky. The finish straightaway is narrow, and people are locked on to the finish line like Luke Skywalker gunning for the Death Star’s thermal exhaust port. The Mile 13 marker is usually up on the grass next to the sidewalk, though, so as long as I can resist the urge to shave 20 seconds off my finish time by skipping it, I can usually grab the shot.
In addition to giving me an excuse to walk a little, mile marker photos also help me keep my sanity once the race leaves the parks and becomes a death march along city streets. I take other photos during runDisney races, but I have none for last year’s Star Wars Half between mile markers 5 through 8 and 9 through 11, because there was NOTHING interesting to take photos of. Each marker is like a little oasis as I try not to die of boredom and/or exhaustion.
By the way, if you’re worried about being swept, the mile markers can also be a reassurance that you’re ahead of pace, even if you have no idea where the balloon ladies are. According to runDisney, pace cyclists will add an orange flag to a mile marker once runners are behind the official pace and in danger of being swept.
One note about taking mile marker photos — I am fanatical about following race etiquette. When I see a mile marker off in the distance, I begin to gradually merge over to that side of the road/path, and I’ll often start to take my phone out of the armband, unlock it and switch to selfie mode. As I get closer to the mile marker, I look over my shoulder to see if anyone is close behind, then put up an arm and loudly yell, “WALKING!” I make sure that when I stop at the marker, I’m well out of the running path, and I keep an eye out for clueless head-down runners who may be heading right for me, despite the fact that if I weren’t standing there, they would presumably be running headlong into the mile marker, Wile E. Coyote-style. (And yet, despite all this, I’ve had other runners yell at me for stopping, even though I can’t possibly be in their way unless they intended to run straight through the marker like the Kool-Aid Man.)