Posts Tagged by Race Course

Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon: A Race Course of History, Heritage, and Legacy

In the three years that I have been writing Running at Disney, I’ve found that one of the best things about this experience has been getting to know my fellow Disney runners and reading their stories.  I’ve had the privilege of getting to know John this year when he stared writing Anaheim Antics for RAD and it has been wonderful to follow along in his journey towards his first half marathon.  I’m so proud of what he’s accomplished (wait until you see his time!!) and lucky to call him a friend.  I can’t wait to see where his legs take him next, but for now here is the the big race!

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When I first signed up for the Avengers Half Marathon, I knew I would want to write about the experience for RAD. What I didn’t know was that my actual race experience would differ from my expectations, and not for any reason that had to do with training, fitness, or endurance. In this case, it was the course itself. Winding through several Orange County sites of interest, the course was a personal. Many of the sites on the route were places that held personal and fond memories for me, and numerous other runners.

The start of the race was, of course, on Disneyland Drive, which was once known as West Street. West Street, along with North Street, South Street, and East Street, mark the borders of the original 1857 settlers’ colony of 200 arches, which became the City of Anaheim. Today, few people know the history of these four Anaheim streets, despite crossing them every day.

The starting line, looking north on Disneyland Drive

The starting line, looking north on Disneyland Drive

After winding through the Parks, the course continued down Harbor Blvd, and then turned right on Chapman Avenue. Chapman Avenue is named in honor of Alfred Chapman, who served as Los Angeles City Attorney and Los Angeles County District Attorney. But he is most known as the real estate businessman who, with partner Andrew Glassell, founded the City of Orange in 1888 (Anaheim borders Orange just east of Disneyland). I had the privilege of growing up in the City of Orange, and previously worked at Orange City Hall, so this bit of heritage was rather personal to me.

A beautiful but blustery sunrise on Chapman Avenue

A beautiful but blustery sunrise on Chapman Avenue

The course then wound through a site that was even more personal, and more famous: Christ Cathedral. Previously known as the Crystal Cathedral, it was the home base of Possibility Thinking preacher Rev. Dr. Robert Schuller. Dr. Schuller founded the church (originally known as Garden Grove Community Church) in 1955, the same year Disneyland opened, and built the Cathedral 25 years later to accommodate a growing congregation. Many will recognize the church’s Welcoming Center as Starfleet Headquarters from Star Trek: Into Darkness. On the church’s south side is a decorative display of gold bells, which was donated by Disney Cast Members attending the church in the 1960’s. In its heyday, the church had arguably more of Cast Members in its congregation of any other church in the area. After Dr. Schuller retired, a series of poor management decisions forced the congregation into bankruptcy. The property is now owned by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange, and known as Christ Cathedral. The former Crystal Cathedral congregation renamed itself the Shepherd’s Grove congregation, and moved to a new location just down the street: Our next stop on the course.

Sunrise at Starfleet Headquarters, aka, Christ Cathedral

Sunrise at Starfleet Headquarters, aka, Christ Cathedral

The course continued south on Lewis Street, passing the current home of the Shepherd’s Grove congregation. Many will recognize it as the home of the nationally televised “Hour of Power” television program, the longest running religious television broadcast on the air today. This is also my church home, where serve as director of the Shepherd’s Grove Handbell Ensemble.   It was very heartwarming to see members of the congregation line the route to cheer the runners on as we passed by, especially at 6:30am.

Shepherd’s Grove, home of the “Hour of Power”

Shepherd’s Grove, home of the “Hour of Power”

The course then continued down Garden Grove Blvd, then up the Santa Ana River Trail, and then through Angel Stadium. Angel Stadium is home to the Angels Major League Baseball team, which Disney owned controlling interest from 1996 until the team was sold to Arte Moreno in 2003. Under Disney’s leadership, Angel Stadium underwent a $118 million renovation, turning it into a state of the art facility. Many OC residents like me have grown up here, spending countless weekends in the stadium seats rooting for our Halos. The treat for the runners this day was being able to run through the Stadium itself, running the track around the field. One could easily imagine the good old days of Walt Disney sitting with original team owner Gene Autry in the suites overlooking the field.

Angel Stadium

Angel Stadium

The final leg of the race headed back to the Park, with the Matterhorn straight ahead. Several friends warned me about hitting the wall around mile 11, but it never happened. Perhaps it was the sight of the Matterhorn, or perhaps I was just in good form. I regained some of the speed I lost around mile 7, when encountering brutal wind gusts. The most grueling part of the course was just prior to mile 13. It was a straight shot up the Downtown Disney access road to the finish line, but for some reason, time seemed to pass very slowly. As the crowds got louder, and the finish line came in sight, it seemed like forever until my feet crossed that line. But when I did, it was such an insatiable feeling, as though could run 100 miles more.

Seeing the Matterhorn said the finish was just 2 miles away

Seeing the Matterhorn said the finish was just 2 miles away

Needless to say, I’m a huge fan of this half marathon course. It’s mostly flat, easy to traverse, runner-friendly, and with plenty of points of interest to keep you interested. I truly hope they use this same course for upcoming Disney half marathons. Local residents will no doubt fine many personal touchstones along the route, and out-of-town runners will discover new gems in the jewel that is Orange County’s Resort District.

Oh, and how could I forget to mention my own achievement?   This was my first ever half marathon. My final time was 2 hours, 6minutes, 47 seconds, for a pace of 9 mins 40 seconds per mile. That pace put me 1060th out of 10463 runners. Now it’s on to the Star Wars Half Marathon weekend, where I will be participating in the Rebel Challenge!!

Next Up: The Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend!

Next Up: The Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend!

RADically yours,

John

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John grew up in the Orange County area of California, always living in the shadow of the Disneyland Resort.  Known as the consummate storyteller to his friends, he has had an admiration of Disney since childhood, and is most interested in the Company’s history and heritage.  His favorite memory to date is setting foot in Walt’s apartment over the Main Street Firehouse.  John lives by what he calls the three F’s: faith, fun, and fitness.   Being healthy isn’t about adding years to your life; it’s about adding life to your years.  Nothing sums that up more than making Disney races a goal in every fitness plan.

A Better Course for runDisney 10K Races at Walt Disney World

I’m not impressed with the current 10K race course at Walt Disney World.  After running my first 10K in Disneyland on the BEST race course I’ve ever run, I was incredibly disappointed when I saw what WDW had in store for their 10Ks.  When I actually ran the course in February during the Glass Slipper Challenge, it was exactly what I had expected…boooooooring for the first half and then fun for the second half.  For someone who always struggles through the first few miles, this long stretch of road on Epcot Center Drive was the worst thing.

WDW-10K-Medals-Better-Course

With Disney’s Hollywood Studios being so close to Epcot, I wondered why couldn’t this race go through both parks?  Was it too far?  So I headed over to Map My Run to see if it might be possible, and guess what??  It is!

WDW-10K-Medals-Better-Course-Map

Look at that…same start and finish line in the Epcot parking lot, but with a run through TWO parks.  It works perfectly!  Let’s check it out…

The first mile is the same as the current course as we head out East through the Epcot gates, but instead of making that sharp right onto Epcot Center Drive, we go left and head South on World Drive for about one mile.  I’ll admit, the first 2 miles or so are still pretty crappy, but the good news is that we are now entering the Studios at mile 2.5!

WDW-10K-World-Drive-Epcot-Leg1 copy

We enter backstage behind The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and we enter the park next to Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster (similar to the Wine & Dine Half Marathon Course).  We run up Sunset Boulevard, down Pixar place, up the Streets of America and then back down Hollywood Boulevard to the park exit.  That’s just about a mile in the park!  So instead of entering your first (and only) park at 3.5 miles, you’ve already been through one and are moving on to your second!

WDW-10K-Hollywood-Studios-Leg2

The course will then follow the jogging path down towards the Boardwalk and Crescent Lake.  We will go past the Yacht & Beach Club Resorts and onto the International Gateway to enter World Showcase right at Mile 5.

WDW-10K-Crescent-Lake-Epcot-Leg3

The final 1.2 miles will be spent in Epcot rounding World Showcase Lagoon (in the opposite direction from the current course), through Future World and back out into the parking lot for the finish!

WDW-10K-Epcot-Leg4

This course is exactly 6.2 miles and in my opinion MUCH more entertaining!

Will it cause some additional traffic problems on World Drive and Buena Vista Drive?  Probably.  But because it is a 10K, all the runners should be off of those roads by 7:00 am at the very latest…plenty of time before any of the parks open.

Will it be more costly to have to staff two parks for the race instead of one?  Sure.  But seriously, with all the money they are now charging for these races, I think they can probably spare the expense.

What do YOU think?  How do you feel about the current WDW 10K course?  Do you like my course idea? Where would your ideal WDW 10K take you?

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