“Was that The Flash!? Or should we stay in-universe and go with Quicksilver?”
(Gasp!) NO! It’s the villainous fiend – Santa Ana!! Kicking up winds of to 40 MPH!
Thank goodness many of us were our alternate superhero egos that morning at the AVENGERS SUPER HEROES HALF MARATHON at Disneyland. The Santa Ana Winds didn’t stop Richard and I from defeating this blow-back (no pun intended) and finishing 13.1 miles hand-in-hand, capes flying and getting a victorious fist-bump from Thor as we soared across the Finish Line!
But let’s start at the very beginning. Avengers Assembled from all over the globe in Disneyland for the Inaugural Mission of the AVENGERS SUPER HEROES HALF MARATHON WEEKEND at Disneyland, November 14-16, 2014. This weekend was comprised of 2 races: The Avengers Super Heroes 5k on Saturday, November 15th and the Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon on Sunday, November 16th. As with all runDisney races, the Health and Fitness Expo at the Disneyland Hotel also accompanied the race weekend. This recap will not only tell our story, but also include a review of the event if you are thinking of joining up next year.
We started our mission at 8:15 AM on Friday morning, in the line for Dooney & Bourke Avengers Special Edition purses.
It was a very long line, and we ended up getting to the register at about 11:15 AM. Richard and I weren’t expecting to wait that long! Then we went upstairs to the Expo and waited in another long line to view the official runDisney event merchandise. Now, I usually am very positive and always look on the bright side of things, but I do have to say I was a little disappointed in the selection of merchandise. It was the usual Limited Edition pins, drinkware, running shirts and car magnets. With the purchase of a spot in the 5k or Half Marathon, you already receive a race shirt. How many running shirts does one really need? And because this was a totally new, fun theme of Super Heroes, I felt the designers could have really thought outside the box and could have created some really fun merchandise. How about a green shirt that looks ripped up and the awesome “Smash The Half” catchphrase on the back? Or a Captain America shield drinking backpack? There are so many different creative directions you could go.
I was also disappointed that the shirt we received with our Half Marathon registration was black. I mean, when you think Super Heroes, you think BANG! POW! COLOR!! Bright colors! I was expecting a bright red or bright blue as the race shirt. Not a somber black. However, the limited edition shirt you could BUY was a bright, beautiful blue! But that would set you back even more money.
Overall, this Health & Fitness Expo had very few vendors compared with the other runDisney races I’ve attended. I think vendors did not have enough time to come up with themed items to sell at the Expo. runDisney announced the AVENGERS SUPER HEROES HALF MARATHON WEEKEND rather suddenly in February. With less than a year to plan, I can see how vendors might be caught off guard. Thank goodness for Etsy! But enough disappointment, on to the fun part of the weekend!
AVENGERS SUPER HEROES 5K
Or, make that, the early part. With a 5:30 AM race start time for the AVENGERS SUPER HEROES 5K, my party got up at 3:00 AM on Saturday. My husband, Richard, and I, and my friend Monique readied our costumes (Thor, Thor and Hawkeye) and walked to the Assembling area in the Lilo & Stitch Parking Lot. We arrived at around 4:30 AM. I find it’s always a good idea to get to the race area around an hour before the actual start. A DJ is there to pump up the crowd, there’s lots of picture-taking and Instagram-posting opportunities, and it gives you enough time for Bag Check, one last bathroom break, and heading to the race corrals. And if there is traffic or some kind of emergency, you have a time buffer.
One thing runDisney does very well is create a beautiful setup. The DJ stage was surrounded by Super Heroes and the logo. All the tents were well-marked, the space was large enough to contain all the runners and their cheer squad.
Now, Super Heroes have weapons or things that make them Super Heroes. Captain America has his shield, Thor has his Hammer, Hawkeye has his Bow and Arrows. Richard and I came with matching Thor outfits, complete with Hammers. Monique brought her bow. We were taking pictures with them when a runDisney representative came up to us and said that we had to bag check our items as “no weapons are allowed on the race course.” But we’re superheroes! We ended up checking our Hammers, but then saw several smuggled out on the race course later that morning. *sigh*
Now for the race!
The 5k is a Fun Run, which means it’s not timed. Our running bibs did not have B-Tags. The 3.1-mile course took us through Disney California Adventure and Disneyland, as well as a bit backstage. And one of the best things about a runDisney race? Character Photos! Since this was the AVENGERS SUPER HEROES race, we expected Superheroes, and we got em!
No sooner had we turned the corner into DCA, than we saw Black Widow! Consequently, her line was HUGE. We bypassed her and continued our run through DCA. Hawkeye was in Condor Flats, also with a fairly long line. Since Monique was dressed as Hawkeye, well, we HAD to stop! His line ended up being about 15 minutes.
We exited DCA and ran across the Esplanade to Disneyland. An added bonus to the AVENGERS HALF MARATHON WEEKEND happening in November? Disneyland is all decked out in Christmas splendor! And this happened to be the first time this year that I saw the decor! So we entered Disneyland just before dawn and the Christmas tree greeted us. It was leaning over, so we used our Superhero skills and helped Disney out.
Then we ran down Main Street underneath Christmas Garland, gazing at the beautiful Castle. This is the moment when the very early morning wake-up call and the price of the race are all worth it. Even though you are running with 5000 others, it feels like this moment is just for you.
After stopping for a few pictures, we rounded the corner towards the Matterhorn…and see THOR! Well, if you’ve heard our podcast Skywalking Through Neverland, you may know that I have a small (BIG) crush on Thor… So I took off! “Thor! It’s Thor!” I yelled. To which Richard replied, “yeah, we can skip him.” “NO! it’s Thor!!” And I ran to the end of the very long line. Well, it turns out it was good I did run, as the Cast Members at the front of the line didn’t have a chance to tell me that the line for Thor had just closed! Luckily, the Cast Member at the back was super-nice and let Richard, Monique and I in as the last people in line. Thank you, thank you! Thor’s 20-minute wait was totally worth it, and we got lots of pictures to prove it!
Well, in waiting for Thor, we missed Captain America, as they had closed his line as well. The other photo ops along the race course were Mickey and Minnie in regular outfits (why not add some capes?) and Alice, White Rabbit and the Mad Hatter. We finished our 5k with horrible times, but some great pictures and memories. One of the best parts? Everyone cheering you on! Here’s just a small example:
Part of the beauty of these races is seeing Disneyland at dawn. The sun was just peaking over the horizon and illuminating the course, and especially The Haunted Mansion beautifully!
The 5k course really is a Fun Run. If you are looking for advice, I have one piece. DON’T run it for a PR. You are paying extra to run through Disney Parks. Take advantage of that and take LOTS of photos! Enjoy the race with a group, it’s the BEST!
Oh, and since most runners dress in costume, pick your favorite! We HAD to take a picture with Thor’s Hammer!!
Mission 1: Complete!
Inaugural Mission 2: AVENGERS SUPER HEROES HALF MARATHON
(otherwise known as MISSION: WINDPOSSIBLE)
Sunday, November 16th at 5:30 AM: Richard and I in our Thor running outfits waited anxiously in Corral E, ready to race! This was my 6th Half Marathon, but Richard’s first! We had trained together for the past three months and I was excited to share the experience with him. Richard was a bit nervous. With our busy October, the most we had ever gone was 10 miles. A Half Marathon is 13.1 miles, and it’s an intimidating distance.
5:40 AM, and it was our turn to start the race! This November morning in SoCal was about 60 degrees, and it started out pretty normal. After jogging for a half mile, we started to warm up. The course took us on a bit windier path through DCA and Disneyland, then booted us out into the streets of Anaheim. We went south past the Crystal Cathedral, through Angel Stadium, and then back towards Disneyland. Unlike the Tinkerbell Half Marathon, where nearly 6 miles are spent weaving in and out of the Disney Parks and backstage, this race course spent barely 3 miles inside the Parks. But we did get to run through the Castle, which is another of those “best feeling in the world” moments. As the day was dawning, we were treated to some incredible views of the Park.
Doesn’t that look like a Thomas Kincade painting!?? Simply gorgeous!
Not only that, it was Christmas in Cars Land!
Again, the same Super Heroes as the 5k were out on the course for pictures: Thor, Hawkeye, Black Widow and Captain America. This time, we waited about 20 minutes on Main Street for Captain America. Had to get a pic with Cap!
Mickey and Minnie were also available for pictures, and Snow White and her seven Dwarfs were riding the Carousel. If you were fast you could get a good selfie! Three of the Main Street old-fashioned cars, all decked out in Christmas, were available for pictures.
But overall I was surprised by the lack of other Disneyland picture-taking opportunities. Other races have had parade floats out with characters, several Princesses out, Mickey and Minnie and other characters in different outfits, Disneyland horses or the Disneyland Railroad Engine.
One of the best things about this Inaugural Super Heroes race was the theme. Runners really got into it. There were so many runners with Thor, Captain America, or Hulk costumes. Other people decided to go a bit more obscure with Wasp or Pepper Potts. There was a Green Goblin. and a whole group of women in skin-tight black SHIELD agent uniforms. It was pretty great.
Nearly everyone was in costume, even Iron Man.
Some people were curious as to the lack of an official Iron Man. Well, due to the actual IronMan Triathlon race having a copyright on the image and name at sporting events, runDisney wasn’t even allowed to mention the name or show the Super Heroes’ image anywhere. It was funny to hear the race announcers say, “And here’s someone crossing the finish line who’s made of a metal I can’t say on the mic!”
Once we had completed the Disney Parks part of the course, Richard and I ran out into the streets of Anaheim. This was where the wind really kicked up. All of a sudden we had a great tail-wind, which turned into a head-wind, which whipped into a side-wind…
In fact, it was so windy that most, if not ALL the Mile Marker signs were blown down, broken or simply blown away. There’s a hilarious Facebook Group photo thread, “In Memory Of Fallen Mile Markers.” Here’s a few of the photos:
Richard found part of the sign behind the Mile 6 Marker – it made for a good photo.
Thank goodness for our capes! Despite jogging, Richard was cold, and wrapped his cape around his arms. Then we traversed a narrow section of track between the Crystal Cathedral and Angels Stadium with a partly paved, partly dirt path. The 30 MPH winds kept blowing sand, dust, dirt and leaves into our faces. We soon discovered that our capes were made of porous cloth, and when draped directly over our faces, we could easily see through them. And so we walked a mile like that!
That part of the course between Miles 6 and 8 were really horrible, except for one awesome thing – several cosplayer groups decided to cheer us on between Miles 6 and 7. They had AWESOME costumes of all different superheroes: Loki, Thor, X-Men, ….. We took a LOT of pictures and it totally revived us. After the race, I heard several runners mentioning that they were their favorite part of the race. After each photo we took, we’d walk 2 feet and run into another cosplayer we HAD to take a picture with! I present to you…AMAZING COSPLAYERS:
I want to give a huge shout-out to the Cosplay groups who showed up so EARLY on a Sunday morning and gave every runner in that race a thrill. Club Cosplay, @NerdsLikeUs, @Loki_hates_you. There were more, but these are the links I’ve gleaned so far.
There were several groups out to cheer us on. In fact, one High School band had prepared a whole set of Superhero-inspired music, including “Hooked On A Feelin’.”
After Mile 10, we could see we were getting closer and closer to Disneyland again, which motivated us to run more and more despite the crazy wind. Having walk/ran the first part of the course, Richard and I still had plenty of energy to fuel us those last 3 miles. Richard was surprised at how easy the last 3 miles were.
Between the promise of the end in sight, all the people and Cast Members cheering us on at the sidelines, and our eagerness for bright, shiny medals, the last 3 miles were a blur. Although we did stop for a picture with a great line of Veterans right outside of Angels Stadium. They were cheering all of us runners on, and we were clapping for them! The feeling was completely mutual.
(You can really hear the crazy wind in this video)
And we couldn’t pass up a picture at the Mile 13 Marker (.1 away from the Finish Line).
Richard and I rounded the corner, and there was the Finish Line! 13.1 miles after we started. We took hands and, capes flying, raced towards it. Who should we see cheering us on, but Thor! There he was at the sideline, so we gave him a hearty fist-bump just before the Finish.
And then we crossed the line and…we did it! Together.