I need to jot some notes here about the Avengers half marathon before it all escapes my memory. Has it already been two weeks since I last ran? Geez, life. Slow down a bit, would you?
So I ran it faster than I did the Star Wars Dark Side half in April, but I don't attribute it to any improvement in ability. I just had a better idea of what I was capable of this time around, and didn't hold anything back when the starting gun sounded. Also, I walked away from this race uninjured. Er... I didn't feel any more pain than usual lingering from April's stress fracture. Hurray for achieving the most underwhelming goal I've ever set for myself.
Here's my new ranking of half marathons I've raced, updated from last May:
6: Star Wars Dark Side Challenge: Orlando, FL
I expended a ton of physical and emotional energy in trying to assure this race would be my best ever, only to end up with my worst time. And an injury that still haunts me. This race made me realize that the Disney World races are just not as cool as the Disneyland races. Disney World is so big that in order to get you from the start to the finish in 13.1 miles, you get to spend very little race time in each of the parks - most of the course is on overpasses in between the parks. Disneyland is small enough that you get to spend significant race time in the parks, AND the city of Anaheim participates in a big way too (see #1 and #3 below).
And all of mile 11 at Disney World was uphill. Not cool, Disney.
When I last created these rankings, I predicted that the Avengers Half at Disneyland - no matter what happened - would be better than the Dark Side Half. And I was right.
5: Rock and Roll Half: Philadelphia, PA
My time of 2:02 was decent enough, but I was so freaking bored. This race had no loops or clover leafs, and city roads were closed off, which made it impossible for race supporters to cheer you on. It was great to see my husband at mile 3-ish, but I really could have used a familiar face around miles 10-12. There was also a killer hill at the end. Dislike.
3 (TIE): Wine and Dine Half: Orlando, FL AND Avengers Half: Anaheim, CA
So here's the deal... The Wine and Dine Half was awesome not so much for the race itself, but for the incredible after-party. The ability to take over Epcot until the wee hours of the morning (4am) made it all worthwhile, and got me thinking I might even be able to do a full marathon if it was at Disney. BUT since I did this race in 2013, Disney has made some changes. The Wine and Dine Half is no longer a night race. So if you had to choose one over the other in the future, I would say the Avengers Half is now going to be the better race.
The Avengers course was fun, especially for all of those super photogenic people that got to take their pictures with Spiderman, Hawkeye, and Thor. I actually don't own a single photo from the race, and can't even find a race GoPro video like I have in the past, so enjoy this photo I stole from the Disney Photopass site:
Disneyland is a much smaller resort than Disney World - so you get to run the first 6 miles through the parks, and then you are out in the streets of Anaheim. Mile 9 brought us into Angels Stadium, and we got to run across the baseball field as a DJ announced our names over the stadium speakers. And - because I had run the Dr. Strange 10k the day before AND ran a half marathon at Disney World in Orlando in the same calendar year - I walked away from this race with FOUR medals!!
The only reason this race doesn't earn a higher ranking from me is because it now holds my second worst race record ever.
2: Unite Half Marathon: Piscataway, NJ
This was my first half marathon - decently priced, close to home, and had a great course that clover-leafed around the starting line so I had lots of spectator support throughout the race (thanks to my father and stepmother). My family also were easily able to get to the finish line through some back roads. This race gets a bump too because it holds my best record.
1: Star Wars Half Marathon: Anaheim, CA
Shocking, right? Like I mentioned about the Super Heroes Half, races at Disneyland keep you in the parks for the first 6 miles, and then you are out running the streets of Anaheim. We didn't get to run through Angels Stadium for this race, but it didn't matter - the entertainment was even better once we left the park. High school marching bands and cheerleaders lined the streets, along with members of the 501st. I don't know if this has been the case every year, or maybe the one I did was extra special because it was the inaugural race. If you ran it in 2016, let me know if it was just as cool!
People show up in the best costumes at these Star Wars races. There were certainly some good costumes at the Super Heroes half (including a girl dressed as my hero, Quicksilver), I think the Star Wars races bring out a whole different breed of running nerds that set the bar pretty high.
So there you have it. Six half marathons in the books. Maybe that's enough for one lifetime.