Just a blind squirrel

… hoping to find a nut now and then

Posts Tagged ‘runDisney

Heading into hyperspace at the Star Wars 10K

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Welcome (or welcome back) to another installment of the Virtual Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend Blog Hop. If you missed my thrilling account of taking mile marker photos, you can find it here.

My first runDisney race was the inaugural Tinker Bell 10K (also my first 10K, period), and coincidentally, one year later, I was doing the inaugural Star Wars 10K. The Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend had taken over the January runDisney slot in Anaheim, with Tink moving to Mother’s Day Weekend. After signing up for the Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon, I foolishly decided I could try to step it up a notch (or a billion) by attempting my first runDisney challenge, the inaugural Rebel Challenge. Keep in mind I had to register for all this months before I knew if it was remotely possible (spoiler alert: it was).

The 10K events are some of the most popular runDisney events. They usually feature a lot of time in the parks, but also just enough street time to allow people a little more serious run experience. It’s also easier to maintain the minimum pace and still have a chance to stop for photos.

Like all runDisney races, the Star Wars 10K starts with a “preshow” in the staging area set up in the Lilo parking lot next to the Disneyland Hotel. This is where you’ll find gEAR check, the ocean of porta-potties and the fancy stage area they use for the preshow and medal ceremonies. Note that Disney has added a security checkpoint before you can enter the zone where both the staging area and the corrals are located, so be prepared for that. For both the Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend and Avengers Weekend, the security checkpoint was a breeze and did NOT require arriving by 4 freaking a.m. like the event guide claims. According to my photo timestamps, the preshow usually starts around 4:30 a.m., though.

It’s also the area you end up in after you finish, dubbed the family reunion area, where you will find the massage tent, medal engraving and bodies strewn everywhere, many buried under runDisney food boxes and banana peels.

The corrals are the next block over, and I’ve learned to check my gEAR bag just before the preshow starts, then the moment it’s about to end, head quickly toward the staging area exit to head for the corrals. It’s not hard to get to the corrals, but there’s only one small exit gate out of the staging area, so the crowd backs up a lot at that point.

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That tiny little gap is where everyone has to exit to go to the corrals.

I like to work my way toward the front of the corral so I can see the race announcers and their guests.

Each corral gets it own start, complete with videoboard graphics and fireworks. It’s hard to take a photo in the dark while running, by the way.

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Comparing the course map from last year to this year’s, it appears we may be getting a bit more park time, likely due to stretches of the backstage being closed for the start of constructing the Star Wars land, ironically enough. Parts of every runDisney race include going “backstage” to areas with offices, warehouses, storage, etc., and I consider that park time, since it’s more interesting to me than a city street. They usually bring out some of the parade floats and other special things for photo ops, though we fear there may be no more horse selfies since the stables are being relocated offsite.

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The Star Wars 10K starts the opposite direction of the Disneyland 10K and the Avengers 10K, heading north on Disneyland Drive instead of south. After meandering around the surrounding streets for a little over a mile, runners cross the esplanade — the area between the entry gates for Disneyland and Disney California Adventure — for the first of two times. The esplanade is a lot of fun because it’s one of the areas where spectators line the course and cheer like crazy.

Running around Disneyland includes some character photo op stops available if you’re not overly concerned with finish time, and the iconic run through Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. I have tragically never gotten a running-through-the-castle shot from the official race photos, so I’ve had to settle for a posed shot after running through it.

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After Disneyland, runners cross back through the esplanade and into DCA. Depending on what corral you start in and how slow you are, the sun may be starting to rise by now, so there are chances for some great photos at Paradise Bay and in Cars Land. These are from other races, since I didn’t take enough time to appreciate the scenery at the Star Wars 10K.

Keep your eyes open for the official race photographers (or pick up the map of the photo locations at the MarathonFoto booth at the expo, where you can also purchase discounted gift certificates for race photos). You too can have cheesy shots like this by paying attention.

One of my favorite backstage areas is running past the rear of Cars Land, by the way. It’s trippy to see the construction that creates such a realistic setting.

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Unlike last year when runners exited DCA behind Cars Land and then ran behind Paradise Pier Hotel before turning down the finish straightaway, this year, runners will head north from Paradise Bay and turn for the homestretch through Downtown Disney, running the length of it with lots of spectators and Starbucks patrons milling about. Disney does a great job with crowd control here, using ropes to merge runners from one side to the other and allowing spectators to cross the path without risk of being stampeded.

One more turn right before the sorcerer’s hat at the Disneyland Hotel, and runners make the short sprint(?) across the finish line. Characters are often on a platform just to the side of the finish or at the finish line itself, and daring folks can try to get photos or, ahem, hugs.

Cross the finish line strong, then meander through the finish area (it’s one way, so once you pass one area, you usually can’t go back) to get your medal, a heat sheet, water/Powerade, ice/biofreeze/other self-treatment items and the famous runDisney snackbox (will it include Almond Roca? the addicting white cheese dip? Skittles? gross hummus?).

finishareaThen it’s choose your own adventure time, with one corridor for those who want to take a photo with the official backdrop and one for those who don’t. (There are also photographers immediately after you get your medal as well, just without the backdrop.)

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Finally, you have the option to head through gEAR check to pick up your bag or turn directly into the family reunion area, where you can also get a massage ($1 per minute in 5-minute increments up to 20 minutes, which I have now made a personal staple) or have your medal engraved (usually $20, cash only, or you can prepay at the expo and get express service).

Speaking of that medal, the 10K medal last year was a HUGE shiny Stormtrooper medal, one of my favorite medals I’ve ever gotten. This year’s is also going to be amazing — a big ol’ X-Wing.

I like to head for Starbucks to watch and cheer for the final finishers, which are often truly inspiring. For the Disneyland 10K, it was a pair of military amputees. There are also plenty of great breakfast options in Downtown Disney if that snackbox didn’t do it for you.

May the course be with you!

Virtual Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend Blog Hop Directory

Written by ChrisShut

January 3, 2016 at 6:05 pm

Posted in Running

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Killing time while trying not to die: runDisney mile markers

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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.

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Surprisingly, this is one of my better mile marker selfies.

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.

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That is one red face.

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.)

If you’re interested in tips for mid-run selfies (this is some advanced-level ninja fu stuff, people), check out this post from the master of the mid-run selfie over at Weight Off My Shoulders.

Check out more galactic guides for the Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend here.

Virtual Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend Blog Hop Directory

Written by ChrisShut

January 3, 2016 at 6:00 pm