Archive for the ‘Running’ Category

2013 Chris Smith 5K Challenge Review

The Chris Smith Memorial 5K Challenge was hosted by Cedar Point on Sunday, June 16, 2013 in Sandusky, Ohio. Here is my review of that race event.

A few months ago, a serious runner friend of mine, Frank, contacted me about this race because he knew I was close, liked running (although at about half his pace) and thoroughly enjoy Cedar Point. Due to some scheduling issues, I wasn’t comfortable registering right away. However, with some assistance from Frank, I received answers from the race director’s staff that satisfied my needs. My friend, Daniel,  and I registered and planned on making a weekend vacation out of it.

ImageI wondered about the namesake of the race. Christopher Smith was a highly involved teacher, mentor and community philanthropist. Part of the race fees are given to local area schools and community groups in his name to continue with his passion for making the world a better, happier, safer place.

The biggest concern I had was about packet pick up. Due to work, we would not be able to arrive during the official race packet pick up times, which were Friday and Saturday early afternoons at one of the Cedar Point owned hotels. We were assured that we could pick up our packets the morning of the race, as long as we arrived early enough, without issue.

Early registration was $35 (after June 1 was $40) and included:
• Free parking at Cedar Point the day of the race ($14)
• Discounted admission and early entry to the park, starting at 9 a.m. ($9 off gate price)
• A Tech performance T-shirt (guaranteed to all who register by June 1)
• NEW THIS YEAR: A collectible race medal for ALL participants!
• A souvenir photo with Snoopy and his pals
• Race packet and refreshments
• Disposable chip timing system

Cheaper than a runDisney event, but still more expensive than a 5K around town. I felt the perks and swag and medal (of course I want a medal) were worth it. We registered and booked a hotel room, using my travel agent.


Saturday morning I laid out our race clothes. Good thing I did. I decided to forgo my normal Vibram Five Fingers and utilize my runDisney New Balance shoes. I had forgotten to get out my running socks until I double checked my outfit. Running in shoes without socks isn’t enjoyable. Saturday afternoon we made the two and a half hour trek to Sandusky, Ohio. Once checked in at the hotel, I laid out the race clothes on the desk and we decided to see the quaint charm of “Historic Downtown Sandusky”.

I’m not entirely sure why, but we did not practice advice that most people give. Needless to say, we stumbled back to the hotel a little after 2am. The alarm went off at 5:20, but I was already up. There was hail and thunder and lightning outside the window. Grand. Would they cancel the race? What was their policy? I didn’t read one. Ugh. We got dressed and went anyway, half-heartedly hoping it would continue to lightning and they would call the race so we could go back to sleep.

We arrived and picked up our “packets” at 6:02am. They couldn’t find my bib. After a bit of searching, I was assigned a random back up extra bib. Runner 409. They didn’t have any parking passes, either. It wasn’t a huge deal, as the parking gate attendant let us through with our registration and I had my platinum annual pass if that didn’t work, but it was listed as being included with race registration. They looked at Daniel’s bib for his shirt size and asked me what my size was. I had requested a medium, Daniel requested a small. We were both handed mediums. Why ask what size if you only have mediums? Why did you have us request sizes if you weren’t going to have the size we ordered? There were still at least two dozen race participants check-in after we did, so we weren’t the only ones who got a medium, one-size-fits-or-you-don’t-get-a-shirt, tech shirt. The volunteers were friendly and tried to be helpful, but weren’t able to answer many questions and once someone more official came over, she was rather artful at dancing around a specific answer for anything.

The weather was gradually clearing, yet we still decided to return to the car, about 15 feet from the start line to get out of the rain and have our breakfast juice (apple, strawberry, kiwi, pineapple for that day). About 6:50 we made sure to use the facilities, check the race course and walk back to the start.

Without much fanfare (I am sure I am spoiled by runDisney starts), we were off. There were about 165 people in our wave and 180 in the second wave, following us 30 minutes later. Crossing a bright green line of tape put across the roadway while we were drinking our juice. Almost the first mile was in the parking lot. If you’ve run a 5K at Walt Disney World, this will be rather familiar to you. So much so it was a running joke until we entered the park. (Yes, the pun was intended.)


Image courtesy of Cedar Fair

The rest of the course and finish were inside the park. I wish I could tell you it was memorable. We ran past rides, games and attractions. None operating, of course. There was one character on the course. Franklin, from Peanuts, was in the Camp Snoopy area of the park. He had a character attendant, but she was rather aloof and wasn’t receptive enough to use my camera for an on course photo.


There was a Cedar Point employee posted about every 50 yards to ensure the racers were staying on course and that Cedar Point property wouldn’t be defaced. Of all of these people, one—one single woman—cheered. Except for her, nobody smiled or clapped. Nothing. It was like running past East German guards along the Berlin Wall.

Much slower than most folks, we crossed the finish line. The photographer had stopped taking photos. The person handing out medals was about two strides past the finish line; which meant we came to a dead stop right away. Even at the slower pace which we were keeping, we still had momentum and physics to fight in order to stop. Frank was waiting at the finish as well as some other friends from home, which we hadn’t known were going to be racing.


Our times. Daniel and Unknown Participant 409 (me)

By now the sun was peeking out through the clouds and the puddles were starting to shrink. However, due to the rain and the puddles, we were soaked head to toe. We only found the post-race refreshments because we happened to stumble upon them. Never saw Snoopy for a photo op. Even though our race registration would have gotten us in the park an hour before general opening (9 instead of 10), we decided to go back to the hotel and freshen up to play in the park.

ImageIn my opinion, it was a decent event. There were some logistical issues, as is possible with every event. It was a safe and clean course. That being said, I am not sure I would repeat this event. If I had friends running it again, I would join them; but, I wouldn’t do it solo.

RunDisney Updates, Rumors and Goings On

It’s National Running Day in the USA, so I thought it would be an appropriate time to make sure you are up to date on some of the happenings with runDisney.

Disneyland Half Marathon, Disneyland 10K, Dumbo Double Dare, Disneyland 5K

Last week, the course for the Disneyland 10K was certified by the USA Track & Field Road Running Technical Council. For this certification, a course map needs to be submitted showing the route so it may be measured to prove the correct distance. Thanks to the internet and public record, here is the map for the Disneyland 10K. Continue reading

Running Events Around the Continent, Part 1

With the change in the weather, I have been a little preoccupied with getting outside.  I don’t mind the chilliness as much as I do the ice, snow and salt that winter weather entails.  Because I just want to get out and have some fun, I started thinking about what events were being offered around the continent this year.

Since the ground is a bit moist and squishy, I’m going to talk about one of the newer race genres—The Mud Run. Typically most of these are less of a distance than a classic endurance event and involve obstacles and as the name implies, some sort of mud. Not a little speckle on your shoe, either. Most Mud Run Series show pictures of participants coated and caked in mud. As with the obstacles, how muddy you actually get is dependent upon your level of daring and determination.

The only one of the featured three that I have attempted is the Muddy Buddy.

muddy-buddy-logo-squareThere are actually two types of Muddy Buddy events, a team event and a bike/run event. The team Muddy Buddy Run consists of a course 3-4½ miles in length, 5-9 obstacles and involves the pair staying together, as some of the obstacles require a team effort to complete. The Bike/Run event also involves a team, but this team does not race together until the very last obstacle, the mud pit. This event’s course is 6-7 miles and has team members alternating where one team member runs to the next obstacle, while the opposite team member bikes to it, parks the bike, completes the obstacle and then becomes the running team mate.

The Muddy Buddy Series is hosting 9 events across the United States in 2013.

In my opinion, this is a fun event that would have a challenge rating of easy or moderate for the obstacles. Participants receive an event T-shirt and bib for registering.


Another series that is gaining rapidly in popularity is the Warrior Dash. The first Warrior Dash was held in 2009. In 2013, there will be 39 Warrior Dashes across the US and Canada. The Warrior Dash is a 3-4 mile course with 8-12 obstacles. The obstacle challenges are more involved, daring and even more dangerous than in other similar events. This race can be done as an individual or as a group. All obstacles are at the participant’s discretion, although skipping one could lead to disqualification from prizes.

This looks to be an enjoyable event that would rank moderate or difficult on a challenge scale for its obstacles depending upon your physical and mental abilities. Participants receive a bib, event T-shirt, fuzzy Viking hat, finisher medal and a ‘complimentary’ glass of beer after crossing the finish line (subject to local laws and ordinances) with their registration. I would like to do this event this summer when it is near me, or maybe take a weekend trip to visit friends and do it near their place.

logo_tough-mudderThe final Mud Run event I am highlighting today is the Tough Mudder. This is the ‘granddaddy’ of them all. The Tough Mudder was designed by former British Special Forces officers to simulate the training required to join that prestigious unit. The course is 10-12 miles and 25-30 obstacles. These obstacles are not for the faint of heart. They are dangerous, if you are not prepared. Challenges involve: diving in ice cold water, up to a mile through a mud pit, live electricity, jumping from 15’+ into water, fire, tight spaces, and complete submersion under water/mud. Team participation is encouraged but not required.

This is an extremely difficult and challenging course. Although obstacles can be skipped if felt unsafe or hazardous to your health and well being. Participants receive a race bib, an event T-shirt, an event sweat band and entry into the after party with their registration. Finishers receive a complementary beer (where local laws and ordinances permit). This is an event that a group of friends and I have been discussing participating in. I do not see this on my calendar for 2013, but I could easily see it appearing by 2014 or 2015 at the latest.

What do you think about Mud Runs? If you were to do one, what type would you look to do? Would you travel for one or do one that was local? I look forward to hearing your opinions on this genre of running and sharing others in the future.

runDisney Sticker Shock

Early registration for runDisney’s banner events opens this week to Runner’s World Challengers, Annual Passholders and DVC Members. One discussion that usually springs from signing up for a runDisney event is the price point. In line with much of what Disney offers, it does not come cheap. That being said, I think you get a lot of bang for your buck. In case you haven’t investigated race pricing, here is a chart with the 1st tier pricing (available until June 18th) for the 2014 Marathon Weekend along with some other races I looked up.

Race (Distance in Miles)


Cost Per Mile

WDW 5K Family Fun Run (3.1)



WDW 10K (6.2)



WDW Half Marathon (13.1)



WDW Full Marathon (26.2)



WDW Goofy Challenge (39.3)



WDW Dopey Challenge (48.6)



Rock n Roll Cleveland Half (13.1)



Rock n Roll Nashville Half (13.1)



Rock n Roll Nashville Full (26.2)



Rock n Roll 2013 Tour Pass


Entry into up to 30 races.

Detroit’s International Full (26.2)



Detroit’s International Half (13.1)



Detroit Free Press 5K (3.1)



As you can see, runDisney events are more expensive than other events held around the country.  But do you get your money’s worth?  Let me give you some examples of why I feel the cost is so much higher and then you may be better able to answer that question for your situation.

Restrooms. I have to tinkle.  (Yes, now as I am writing this. And again while you are reading it. And again once you are done reading it.)  I can usually make it on a 4-5 mile outing without finding facilities.  A half marathon is near impossible for me.  It’s how my body works.  RunDisney provides a copious amount of port-a-pots.  Yes, there may be some lines pre-race.  Fifteen thousand people trying to take care of business in 400 units in a short amount of time will cause lines.  Once the course, there are frequent facilities.  And when running through a park, the brick and mortar restrooms are available. Here is a course map of a half marathon I did a couple years back.  This is my nightmare course.  Note the two boxes halfway on the long out and back.  Those are not banks of port-a-pots.  There were two–one on either side of the 6’ wide course.  There were a whopping ten at the start/finish area.  Twelve bathrooms for 5,000 racers (not including spectators).

Health and Fitness Exposition.  This is one of the things that a lot of people gloss over for runDisney events.  I too am guilty of doing it.  You’re at Disney World (or Disneyland).  Why do you want to sit and listen to lectures?  The expo has far more to offer than just that.  The vendors that set up are genuinely dedicated to your experience and helping you make the most of it.  The sponsors usually have giveaways and freebie swag.  You can sign up friends and family for runner tracking (wouldn’t dear Aunt Sally love to get a text after you crossed the first timing mat of your ½ marathon, well before dawn?).  Sit down for a minute or two and listen to one of the guest speakers.  You don’t need to invest the whole day in listening to all of them, but a couple minutes could give you an epiphany.

Runner safety.  With all things Disney, safety is paramount.  There are multiple first aid stations along the course.  There are cycling paramedics riding on the course, alongside racers.  Road hazards are minimized due to Disney’s infrastructure and where they cannot be, they are highlighted and racers given notice on course (i.e. speed bumps, terrain changes).

Pre-race, Post-race and On Course Entertainment.  There are no other races that can offer what runDisney can in this arena.  Photo ops with characters, running through a castle, racing through the magic; after all it is Disney.  There also seems to be much less ‘quiet’ run time.  There is almost always music of some sort along a course.

Disney branding.  Like it or not, items that carry the Disney name cost more; staying at a Disney resort, dining at a Disney eatery, cruising aboard the Disney Cruise Line, or taking an Adventure by Disney.

Would I say that every event that someone wants to do be a runDisney event?  No.  Would I suggest that a novice runner give a runDisney event a try if they were a Disney fan?  Absolutely.

What are your thoughts?  Can you justify the price difference to do a runDisney event?  Is it something you would make a trip out of or just participate if you were already planning on being there at that time?

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