Latest reviews by Riley Fickett

(2022)
"Race Review: Hilton Head Marathon 2022 🌴"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

Last weekend I had the privilege of traveling to Hilton Head, South Carolina to run in the Hilton Head Marathon with Team BibRave! Hilton Head was set to be my 20th state in my 50 marathons in 50 states journey, so it was sure to be a super special trip. This was going to be a quick 36 hour trip for me, so I tried to pack in as much as I could during my time in SC. I was traveling solo, but luckily I was able to meet up with my sister and two fellow BibRave Pros - Andy and KB - while I was there!

I arrived on Friday afternoon around 2pm. As soon as I landed I picked up my rental car and headed over to the Palmetto Running Company where race packet pick up was taking place. Because this was a smaller race, it didn't host an expo or anything like that, so they hosted packet pick up at a local running store instead. It was actually quite a nice change of pace from my normal race experiences! I tend to run really large city races which basically require you to go to an expo to get your gear. I forgot what it's like to have a simple place to pick up your bib instead of having to build in a trip to an expo! Finding the store was really easy - about a 10 minute drive from the airport - and all I had to do was present my registration to the volunteer to pick up my packet! I was given bib #38 (which really clued me in as to how small the race would be lol) as well as an awesome puffer jacket as part of my race packet. Definitely one of the cooler pieces of participant race clothing I've gotten with a race registration!

After picking up my packet and dropping off everything at my AirBnB, I was able to meet with my sister, Andy, and KB at a local Italian restaurant for dinner called Pomodori (shout out to KB for arranging!). All of us were traveling solo so it was so nice to make arrangements to meet up and spend some time together. The food and company was so fantastic and a great way to start off the trip!

I gave myself an early bed time as I was super duper exhausted from the travel, but not before laying out my traditional flat runner! I love being able to rock BibRave orange for races and this was my first BibRave race of 2022 which made things super exciting! We were looking at a chilly morning (mid-40s), but the temperatures were set to rise to the mid-high 60s throughout the race so I wanted to dress cool and comfortably. It was looking like perfect racing weather so I was looking forward to it!

I woke up around 5:15ish the next morning so I could start eating breakfast and getting ready for the race. I always like to give myself some extra time to get ready in the morning so I'm not feeling rushed and adding more stress to an already nerve wracking day. It doesn't matter how many times I've done it before - I'm always nervous the morning of a marathon! After eating, getting dressed, and giving Brett a call for a little pep talk, I was out the door and on the way over to the start line.

I linked up with Andy and KB again and we all headed to the start line together. It was so great to have folks there with me to chat with and to help calm the pre-race jitters! Hanging out with these two was definitely the highlight of the trip. I always love hanging with fellow BRPs!

After a quick warm up and bathroom break, it was time to line up for the start! Standing at the start line made me realize just how small this field of runners was. I did not find out until later but this marathon had less than 100 runners participating. I'm used to running marathons that have a couple hundred, if not a couple thousand participants, so this was definitely a change of pace for me. I was nervous that I was going to spend a lot of this race alone and I really had to mentally prepare myself for that. I tried to approach this more like a long training run than a race - I do those by myself all the time! πŸ˜‚ 8am rolled around and before we knew it we were off!

This course is double-looped, which to be honest is probably my least favorite course design. It's one of the most mentally challenging designs because not only do you have to do the same course twice, but you also have to run right by the finish line and keep going while all the half marathoners get to stop πŸ˜‚ Not fun! In addition to the double-looped course, there was quite a lot of highway running which was a bit disappointing. Miles 3-6, 9-12, 14-17, 21-22.5, and 23.5-25 was practically ALL highway. We did have a bridge that went over this really beautiful inlet (which full marathoners got the pleasure of hiking up 4 times πŸ˜‚) but aside from that one view there was a lot of time spent on a lonely highway. That was probably my least favorite part of this entire experience, unfortunately.

Luckily, I really enjoyed the rest of the course which brought us through some really beautiful park sections! As predicted I didn't spend a whole lot of time around other runners because the field was so small which I thought was going to be a really big obstacle for my mental game, but it actually felt quite peaceful. There were so many really quiet sections of the course which I thought I was not going to enjoy, but it was actually a very welcome change to the craziness of the big city marathons I tend to run.

In addition to having some nice, quiet miles, ALL of the volunteers on the course from race staff, to police detail, to every one at the water stop, were SO friendly. I'm sure it wasn't the most exciting event to volunteer for considering how few runners there are, and I'm sure it was especially boring for the folks who were volunteering in the later miles where I'm sure large chunks of time went by between each runner. However, every single person I encountered on the course had a huge smile on their face and cheered me on. I definitely appreciate everyone that volunteered that day!

As far as my race went, I had a FANTASTIC day of running! I was feeling nervous about how I would perform (as I always do) because to be honest, running had definitely taken a back seat once the semester got started. I was not very consistent at all with my work outs just because of how stressful work has become in the last few months. However, I felt fantastic through almost every mile of that race which I was totally surprised by! I think the weather conditions had a lot to do with how I was feeling. It was honestly a perfect day for running - mid-60s and overcast with low humidity. It felt so fantastic to be out there and cruising through the miles!

This race definitely presented an interesting mental challenge with the way the course was laid out, so my main focus of the day was to stay calm and collected which really played to my benefit in the later miles. I remember thinking how great I felt at mile 18 and 19 and I don't think I've honestly been able to say I felt "great" at that point of any marathon! It really wasn't until mile 24.5 that I felt truly gassed out and ready to be done. I think it's incredible that I was able to feel so great for such a long period of time, and it's encouraging to know that I can feel that way during a marathon! It just makes me want to work harder in training just to see how much further I can go!

My absolute favorite part of this race was the finish line. Not because I was excited to be done (which believe me, I was), but because of how hyped the finish line volunteers were for every single finisher that came through the chute and across the finish line! There were large gaps between each finisher, which allowed the volunteers at the end to really cheer hard for each runner who finished and make each runner feel special. I know I certainly did! I crossed the finish line, they handed me my medal, a water, and a shot of Nuun, and made me feel so proud of my accomplishment. πŸ₯°

Again, I just missed a sub-5. Similarly to my experience at Rock n' Roll Arizona, it was definitely in the back of my mind that I could shoot for a sub-5, but I didn't want to get my hopes up too high during the run and ultimately disappoint myself if I didn't accomplish that time goal. I had gone into the race with the sole goal to finish so I did my best to stay focused on that. I know that I'll get sub-5 again, and very likely I'll get sub-5 again SOON. I just gotta do all the right things to get there. For now, I'm just pumped that I finished STATE #20 BABY!!! 40% done!!!

FAVORITE THING ABOUT THE HILTON HEAD MARATHON: The volunteers! Everyone was so stinkin' friendly and made me feel so supported on the course. I so appreciated every single person who spent their Saturday supporting me and the other runners working to accomplish their goal of finishing!

LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT THE HILTON HEAD MARATHON: The course design. I'm not personally a fan of the double-loop, and I really wish we were able to get some more ocean views and less highway miles on the run. We were on an island, after all! I understand it's tricky to block off 26 miles of traffic though, so even though it happened to be my least favorite part of this race, I know the organizers did the best they could to come up with an interesting and scenic route for us. It's definitely not a deal breaker in my opinion!

If you're looking for a smaller race in a scenic location, or looking to escape the harshness of winter in your area for a racecation, the Hilton Head Marathon might be just the race for you! I honestly think that the volunteers really made this experience special for the runners. Everyone was so friendly and encouraging and kept me in great spirits through all 26.2 miles. If you decide to sign up for this race, you will absolutely feel supported the entire way through. Definitely give it a go!

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(2022)
"Race Review: Walt Disney World Marathon 2022 ✨ Goofy Challenge Day 2!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

Today I will be talking about Day 2 of the Goofy Challenge at the 2022 Walt Disney World Marathon! Make sure you check out my review of Day 1 at the Walt Disney World Half Marathon if you haven't already!

Marathon day started a little bit later than Half Marathon day for me because I let myself sleep for about 30 more minutes. That doesn't sound like a lot, but in runDisney time that extra 30 minutes means EVERYTHING! πŸ˜‚ I woke up around 2:15am and got myself ready. For the Marathon, I wanted to dress like the man himself - GOOFY! I figured it was only appropriate since I was doing his challenge and whatnot πŸ˜‹

I was out the door by 2:45am, on the bus by about 2:55am, and got to the start staging area around 3:15am or so. Still quite early, but I didn't feel as rushed to get to the start. My legs were in rough shape after Saturday (which I go into detail about in my Marathon vlog!) so all I really wanted to do when I got to the staging area was find a place to sit and eat my breakfast of a granola bar and a banana. I still took some photos before settling in, but it felt so nice to just sit on the bleachers and take in the atmosphere!

Like the Half Marathon, I made my way over to the start staging area around 4:30am. It was a muggy morning and it was supposed to be really warm that day, so I did not have to wait long before they sent us on our way. I think I was running by about 5:15am, so much earlier than the Half Marathon. A cool moment for the Marathon is that I ended up very close to the start line with my wave of starting group 4, so I got front row seats to the starting fireworks which was so incredible! An amazing way to start my race!

Unfortunately I had a hard time pretty much all the way through this race. During the first few miles I was feeling pretty nauseous and the humidity really wasn't helping. I knew early on that this marathon was going to be tough, so I stopped and walked whenever I felt the need (which was awesome) and used character stops for breaks. As you'll be able to tell through the photos in this post, I stopped A LOT πŸ˜‚ It really was so stinkin' humid through the first 10 miles or so, so I tried really hard to get as many miles behind me before the sun got too high in the sky.

The start to the marathon isn't the most entertaining part of the course. It's tough to really enjoy your surroundings when you're running in basically pitch black darkness, but I think they did a pretty good job of putting out a lot of characters during these miles. You do run through a bit of Epcot in these first few miles but because it's so dark you basically can't see anything haha. Luckily the day started to break around mile 7 for me which made the race a bit more interesting. It's nice to actually be able to see the folks around you!

Magic Kingdom isn't until about mile 10 on the course for the Marathon so I didn't get the same magical moment of seeing the castle lit up in the dark, but I definitely still teared up coming into the park and turning to see the castle πŸ˜‚ Something about the crowds, the music, and the sight of Cinderella Castle after putting in so much effort to get there just gets me so choked up everytime! I hope that the joy I feel running down Main Street never fades. πŸ’–

I didn't spend as much time in Magic Kingdom as I did during the Half Marathon since I still had SO MUCH left of the race to run and the sun was rising quickly, but I did take my time getting a couple of character photos and just taking in my surroundings. Running through Magic Kingdom will literally never get old!

I actually got a pretty solid castle photo from Photopass during the Marathon! Not only do I look like I'm feeling 1000x better than I actually was πŸ˜… but this photo makes me giggle so much because I'm totally Mike Wizowski-ing the two men running behind me πŸ˜‚ I hope they got these on their Photopass app as well and laughed!

I saw Goofy in Liberty Square and of course I HAD to stop! This was the cutest character interaction I had. He absolutely loved my outfit and gave me a little round of applause πŸ₯° It was so so cute and it's another moment I will never forget! πŸ§‘πŸ’™

There were a couple more photo opportunities before leaving the backstage area of MK that I wanted to take advantage of. I knew that the next stretch of highway was going to be a long one headed toward Animal Kingdom, so I was basically trying to delay that experience for as long as possible πŸ˜‚

I felt really great going through Magic Kingdom, but mainly because I was so distracted by how much fun I was having haha. Really once we exited the park and we hit mile 12, panic kind of started to set in. I had already been on the course for so long, we had so much further to go, and I felt pretty terrible. Luckily I didn't really feel that nauseous anymore which was a major plus, but my feet and legs were really in shambles. On top of that, the sun was starting to get higher in the sky and it was already so warm. I was really questioning whether I would be able to get myself to the finish line at this point.

Luckily once we got to about mile 13.5, there was a bit of tree coverage and shade so we weren't in the direct sunlight for most of the way to Animal Kingdom. Not to mention that just like the miles leading up to MK, the lined the roads leading up to AK with plenty of character stops and entertainment to keep the fun going through the tough miles! I didn't get too many photos along the way to Animal Kingdom but I did get quite a few video clips, so make sure to watch my vlog to see what I saw along the way 😊

Finally making it into Animal Kingdom was a welcome distraction! I'm disappointed that this year Expedition Everest was closed for refurbishment during Marathon Weekend because I totally would have taken advantage of the opportunity to sit down at that point in the race πŸ˜‚ I was hoping to find a Simba waffle to snack on because I have heard of folks getting snacks and drinks while in AK (I definitely saw quite a few folks with beers!) but I didn't really feel like stopping to wait in line at the concession stands so I just kept it moving.

The few miles after exiting Animal Kingdom were quite brutal. It was all highways and zero tree cover. All we were doing is baking in the sun for about 3.5 miles before making the turn to Blizzard Beach. We did get wet sponges at mile 19 which were honestly life savers. I was bummed because there were so many Toy Story characters (prob one of my top 3 Disney movies!) along this stretch, but I did not want to wait in line for characters in the blazing hot sun when I already felt pretty terrible. I did snap a selfie with Bullseye though because when do you ever see Bullseye out?!

Eventually we turned right toward Blizzard Beach and honestly this is where I started to break down mentally. My feet had never hurt so much during a marathon, I was hot, I was sleep deprived... I straight up was not having a good time πŸ˜‚ There was a moment right before mile marker 21 where I was just in tears because of how bad I felt, and a man checked in with me to make sure I was okay. I love how supportive the running community is and I appreciated so much that this stranger checked in on me in this moment. Even though I felt terrible, I told him I would be okay and that I appreciated him. Another unforgettable moment. ✨

I was still hurting pretty badly all the way to Hollywood Studios. As soon as we entered by the Tower of Terror, I knew I had to sit and take a break in the shade on one of the benches. I sat down for about two minutes or so to kind of collect myself before hopping back out into the sun and running through the rest of the park. I will say that Hollywood Studios - both in the park and outside by the skyliner - had GREAT energy and even though I felt terrible, the energy really did perk me up a bit. I knew I only had a few more miles to go before I could officially be done!

Eventually I made my way into the Boardwalk area, which then leads you into Epcot again! The crowds in these areas were so fantastic. Even though the park goers looked slightly confused, so many of them were cheering for runners which was so encouraging! I actually saw two park goers wearing Patriots jerseys, so I made a point to scream "GO PATS!" as I was running by which they really enjoyed 😜

At this point of the race (miles 24-25), every step was agony. I was actually trying to actively avoid the Photopass photographers altogether but they still managed to beautifully capture my pain as we made our way through world showcase πŸ˜‚

I knew that Shannon was waiting for me at the finish line and I was SO DANG CLOSE so I kept telling myself to keep moving forward. I could NOT wait to get to the finish so that I could finally sit down πŸ˜‚ Honestly when I turned the corner and saw the finish, all of the pain left my body because I was FINALLY AT THE END! If you look at my finish line photos, you would not be able to tell how awful I felt. Again, NEVER TRUST SOCIAL MEDIA! πŸ˜‚

I was so so SO happy to be done with that race! As much fun as I had, I felt terrible basically the entire time and unfortunately I was a lot more focused on finishing than enjoying the moment. A lot of how I was feeling was totally my fault and 100% preventable, and I've learned a lot of lessons through my first Goofy Challenge experience, so I definitely think I need to go back so I can do better next time!

I waddled my way through the finisher's chute, grabbed my Marathon medal, my finisher's Mickey ears (which, by the way, is my favorite thing that they do for marathon finishers!), and my Goofy challenge medal, and wobbled my way to find some shade to sit in while I waited for Shannon to come find me. My phone almost died and I was pretty concerned it was going to turn off and we wouldn't be able to find each other πŸ˜‚ but thankfully we found each other and could kick off our celebration together!

The Walt Disney World Marathon is a challenging marathon, and I really wasn't expecting it to be. I think the biggest challenge is being mindful of the run with all the distraction around you. It's so easy to forget to fuel, it's so easy to spend way more time on your feet than you're used to, and generally it's really easy to underestimate this marathon because you're at Disney. My biggest lesson from the weekend is to take better care of myself. It's a race weekend and even though I want to pack all the fun I can into my time at Disney, that's going to have some serious repercussions when it comes to race day. I know when I return I will be approaching these races VERY differently!

That being said, this race was incredible. Running 26.2 miles through the parks was amazing. There were dozens of characters and entertainers stationed all around the course, the volunteers were all so lovely and cheerful and encouraging, and the runDisney community is unlike any other. The way these races make you feel keep you coming back, and I cannot wait for my next runDisney race. Maybe Marathon Weekend 2023? 😏

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(2022)
"Race Review: Rock n' Roll Arizona Marathon 2022 🌡"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
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Course Scenery
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The weekend after the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, my insane self packed up my bags yet again and traveled south west for the Rock n' Roll Arizona Marathon! This harebrained idea came about when I discovered that I had some Rock n' Roll Tour Pass credits to burn from all the race deferrals I had during 2020. Wanting to utilize a credit to check off another state but not having too many options, I opted to sign up for Rock n' Roll Arizona, scheduled for the weekend after the Goofy Challenge 😬 Look, it seemed like a good idea at the time! πŸ˜… I was definitely super exhausted after my Disney trip, but I had committed so I packed up my bags and headed to the Grand Canyon State for state #19!

This was a quick solo trip with the only goal really being to show up and run. I didn't have any plans to sight see or anything like that. I just wanted to get there, run the race, and head out. I left early Saturday morning for AZ with the intention to fly back on the red eye on Sunday night. It was definitely going to be a whirlwind! However, it had been a while since I've traveled solo for a racecation and I was kind of looking forward to it. It's nice to not have to worry about anyone else's schedule while traveling every now and then!

I arrived to Phoenix around 12pm local time and headed straight for the expo. Like I explained in my Rock n' Roll San Antonio review, once you've been to one Rock n' Roll expo you've kind of been to them all. I'm sure they change things up year to year, but I don't blame them for making the expos similar in each city. Being a traveling race company, I'm sure that makes things much easier, logistically speaking!

I had quite a bit of time to kill after the expo as my check in time wasn't until 5pm at my Air BnB, so I opted to grab lunch at Willie's Taco Joint (where I accidentally ordered a literal bucket of chips) and a frozen latte from Bad Ass Coffee of Hawaii (which I hoped would make me feel like bad ass on race day πŸ˜‰). It was such a nice temperature outside so I found a spot to sit with my coffee and enjoy the scenery a bit before finally heading to my digs for the evening.

I was so exhausted from traveling that I didn't have energy to do much else besides shower, order Uber Eats for dinner (chicken & tortellini!), lay out my flat runner and head to bed. I was nervous about the race because of how I felt during the WDW Marathon and my body just being so exhausted, so I wanted to get as much sleep as possible. I'm pretty sure I passed out at 8:30pm (which to be fair was 10:30pm eastern which was what my body was operating on haha).

Because of the time difference, I woke up naturally before my alarm and I felt pretty well rested! I ate some oatmeal for breakfast, got dressed, packed up my gear bag and headed over to the start line. My accommodations were about a mile from the start so I just opted to walk over. Looking back on it, walking a mile to the start before running a marathon seems ridiculous, but I think I was still in runDisney mode where you're basically forced to do just that whether you want to or not πŸ˜‚

While I was waiting for the start, I was able to meet up with a former student of mine, Alex! She and I were actually both at the Rock n' Roll Savannah Half Marathon in November and didn't realize it until after the fact, so when we realized we'd both be at RnR Arizona we made it a point to find each other! It was so great to see her, especially after so many years!

I wasn't waiting long at all before I was off and running. Compared to my experiences in Savannah and San Antonio, they got the runners out on the course very quickly in Arizona! I think waited a total of about 10 minutes or so before I was running, and we were moving toward the start the entire time. Kudos to Rock n' Roll for getting us out on the course ASAP!

One thing that I'll say about Arizona is that it is BREATHTAKING. I could not keep my eyes off the beautiful Arizona landscape the entire time I was running. It also didn't hurt that we had absolutely perfect weather conditions for this run. I was definitely nervous to run in a warmer climate after training in the cold, but temps and conditions for this race were absolutely phenomenal and I was loving it!

I felt surprisingly great for the majority of this run. I really wasn't sure how I was going to feel because of how terrible I felt during the WDW Marathon, so my main focus was so get to the finish and enjoy the run. (Really my main goal was finding a giant cactus to take a selfie with πŸ˜‚) BUT I was feeling so great, even at the half way point, and I started to realize that I was on pace to go sub-5. I tried not to let myself dwell on that possibility because I didn't want to push my body and totally fall apart in the later miles, but I would be lying if I told you it wasn't in the back of my mind through the majority of the second half!

Around mile 16.5 is where things started to get difficult. This is where we turned onto some bike trails and we stayed on these trails for about 3 miles or so. This section was GORGEOUS and we had these beautiful views of incredible red rocks everywhere you looked. However, these trails were HILLY AF, and after having a mostly flat course for the first half, it was a surprise to turn onto these hills and it definitely shook up my mental game a bit. I tried to focus on putting one step down at a time, and to also really appreciate the beautiful scenery around me because... WOW 🀩

At about 19.5 - right after the beautiful bike trails of doom - I actually got to see our BibRave Community Manager Laura, which was so incredible! She's local to the area and was so kind to come out to cheer on a few of us BibRave Pros in our race. It honestly meant SO MUCH to me that Laura stuck around to see my slow self make it to mile 19.5, and she even brought me a little baggie of mid-race pretzels and jogged with me to mile marker 20! Seeing a friendly face cheering me on at that point of the race gave me such an incredible boost and motivated me to get through the last 10K!

I was definitely gassed out after seeing Laura, and I knew the last few miles were going to be a slog. On top of that, the sun was really starting to take it out of me at this point and I was overall just ready to be DONE. What I do appreciate about these Rock n' Roll races is that the on-course entertainment is just top notch. It seems like every single mile there's a band or DJ hyping up the runners and it was no different in Arizona. While these last 6.2 miles were mentally and physically challenging, I tried my best to just make it to the next performer and enjoy the music they were providing for the runners on the course.

After chipping my way through the 20s, I finally turned a corner, ran all the way down the bridge, and finally, across the finish line to capture my 19th state!!!

I also earned my 4ever Young Heavy Medal at this race! For every city you run within a Heavy Medal season (typically it's within one year, but because of COVID they're currently counting 2020, 2021, and 2022 for one season), after running the second city and beyond you earn an additional Heavy Medal! This is my fourth city with Rock n' Roll since 2020, so I earned the 4ever Young medal, which coincidentally matched my outfit perfectly!

I'm also a big big fan of the marathon medal I earned at RnR Arizona! It's the shape of the state of Arizona, and it perfectly captures the gorgeous scenery of the area we ran through. If there's one thing I'll remember about this race it's definitely the scenery, so I'm so glad that it's reflected on this medal!

I had a bit of time after the race before I had to head to the airport, so after showering and resting for an hour or so, I went out to grab some dinner, a celebratory beveragino and dinner at Four Peaks Brewing Company (where I found out my server was from a town about 20 minutes from me in Massachusetts πŸ˜‚) and - per a recommendation from a friend that said if I did nothing else I should do this - grabbed a frozen coffee from Dutch Bros. Y'all... I need Dutch Bros to set up a franchise in the northeast like now πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚. Why don't we have any good frozen coffee up here??

Overall I had a fantastic time at Rock n' Roll Arizona. As usual, Rock n' Roll put on an incredible event and I would 100% return to run this marathon again. The course was gorgeous, the entertainment was incredible, and the volunteers and staff were so amazing in making sure everyone had a fantastic time. 10/10 would recommend for your Arizona race!

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(2022)
"Race Review: Walt Disney World Half Marathon 2022 ✨ Goofy Challenge Day 1!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
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If you follow me on any platform, you'll know that I participated in the 2022 Goofy Challenge at the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend back in January! I apparently can't shut up about it πŸ˜‚ I'm going to break up my reviews into two posts as I have a LOT to talk about, but I'm here today to give you a review of my experience running the Walt Disney World Half Marathon - Day 1 of the Goofy Challenge! GAWRSH!

Before heading to bed I wanted to make sure I had all of my race essentials laid out. Brains don't work at the highest capacity at 2AM, so making sure you have everything ready to go before you go to sleep during a runDisney weekend is crucial πŸ˜‚ For the Half Marathon my plan was to wear a Powerline inspired outfit! I wanted to have Goofy-themed costumes for the Goofy Challenge, and I was so excited to STAND OUT as Powerline for the first race of the weekend! ⚑

I unfortunately did not sleep to well the night before the half. The bed I slept in was in direct line of the air conditioning and I was too cold to fall asleep, but after putting on a sweatshirt and sweatpants and socks I was able to sleep a little bit. I did do the whole "wake up every 45 minutes because I'm certain I missed my alarm" dance until about 1:45am when I finally pulled myself out of bed to get ready and head over to Epcot for the race!

I was a little paranoid to get to the staging area in plenty of time. Folks who did the 5K and 10K were saying that security was taking a little bit longer than usual so I was out the door by 2:15am which was honestly aggressive now that I look back on it πŸ˜‚ Needless to say I got to Epcot in plenty of time (probably around 3am), and I'm fairly certain our bus was one of the first ones to arrive to the staging area. I had a LOT of time to kill, so I took plenty of photos, took in the atmosphere, and even drank an entire iced coffee before heading to the corrals at 4:30.

I was in starting group 4 and I headed over to the corrals around 4:30am. It wasn't long before they started sending folks out, and I think I was on the road by 5:30 or so! Knowing that I had a few more starting groups behind me before the balloon ladies, I felt really comfortable taking my time with the run and stopping for photos whenever I felt like it. It was such a change of pace from 2020 Princess Weekend when I was in the last corral and constantly looking over my shoulder for the balloon ladies! πŸ˜‚

I think my favorite moment of both races was entering into Magic Kingdom and running down Main Street during the Half Marathon. This was the first time runDisney has run down Main Street since Princess 2020 (which I was also there for!), and we had waited so, so long to experience that moment again. I can't lie, I definitely got emotional seeing the castle and was running down Main Street with happy tears in my eyes! πŸ’–

Another magical moment was being able to get to Magic Kingdom before the sun came up. I had not been able to do that during Princess weekend in 2020 and I have always heard running down Main Street when it's still dark and the castle is lit is something else, and I have to agree. It looked SO beautiful.

I definitely took my time going through Magic Kingdom on Half Marathon day! For those unfamiliar, Magic Kingdom is roughly one mile of the course - between mile 5 and 6. When I checked my splits at the end of the race, my Garmin told me it took me about 31 minutes to run mile 6 πŸ˜‚ Very clearly I was having a blast playing in Magic Kingdom! ✨

Running back toward Epcot was also such a blast! Once the sun started to rise and I could really see all the runners around me, it really brought that sense of comradery that these events always tends to provide. I love cheering on everyone around me as we get into the later miles and making that final push toward the finish line knowing you're almost there is a feeling like no other. I'll also never forget the cast member that said to me "Welcome to Epcot, Powerline!" as I hit mile 12! ⚑

Before I knew it I was racing toward the finish line and I crossed with the biggest smile on my face! RunDisney was officially BACK and I was just so elated and grateful that I was running in Walt Disney World once again! 😊

I absolutely love the half marathon distance at Disney. This course was identical to the course I ran at Princess 2020, and I absolutely love it. Going from Epcot, through Magic Kingdom, and back to Epcot is the perfect 13.1 mile route in my opinion, and I would definitely do this race again whether it would be part of a challenge or just on it's own! Walt Disney World Half Marathon gets a 10/10 in my book! ✨

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(2021)
"Race Review: Rock n' Roll San Antonio Marathon 2021 πŸ’€"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

Last month I ran the Rock n' Roll San Antonio Marathon in San Antonio, Texas! After the heartbreak that was the Rock n' Roll Savannah weekend (aka not running my 18th marathon in my 18th state due to weather), I was antsy and ready to capture another 26.2! I'm happy to say that the weather was in my favor for this one and I was able to finally check off state #18. Let's dive into how the weekend went!

This trip was extra fun because Brett traveled with me to Texas, and we ended up meeting up with our good friends Erin and Cullen in San Antonio. We hadn't seen them since July so it was so nice to finally be traveling with them again! As soon as we met up at the airport we headed over to the expo so I could pick up my bib and race gear.

With Rock n' Roll, most of their expos are set up very similarly. They set up the expo hall so you have to walk through the entire event before leaving. From an event planner perspective it is a very smart way to set up the expo to ensure that participants are seeing every part of the space before leaving! I think Rock n' Roll also does a great job of giving you plenty of photo opportunities and really makes the expo an ~experience~ rather than a chore. I will say, though, that if you've been to one Rock n' Roll expo you've basically seen them all, haha. They're all quite similar, which makes sense because they're all put on by the same company!

It sounded like for the San Antonio weekend, they were having some trouble with getting participant shirts in on time. There's been so many supply chain issues since the start of COVID that it's totally understandable that this happened (and I mean… do I really need another participant shirt? πŸ˜‚), but Rock n' Roll also did a fantastic job of letting us know in plenty of time that shirts would be delayed and we would pick them up at the finish line and not at the expo. I didn't hear anyone being bothered by this, and I think the crystal clear communication by Rock n' Roll had a lot to do with that!

After the expo, Cullen, Erin, Brett, and I all went down to the Riverwalk area for dinner! We went to this restaurant called the Iron Cactus which had TOP NOTCH Mexican food and we stuffed ourselves completely full before heading over to our AirBnB for the night.

Before bed I did my race-day-eve ritual of laying out my flat runner! The weather was predicted to be a bit warm so I was kinda nervous how that would impact my race. I needed to dress cool and comfy for the run, and I think I achieved just that!

In the morning we were out the door before the sun came up. The start line is right in the middle of the city, so parking near the start wasn't entirely possible. We got somewhat close to the start line before I hopped out of the car and headed down to the starting area on foot. This was by far the biggest race I had been a part of since the start of the pandemic, so the corrals were FULL, but the energy of the starting area was fantastic and I was so happy to be there! Erin, Brett, and Cullen were even able to come find me at the corral before the race started which was incredible! I loved being able to hang with them while we waited for the race to start!

The way the corrals were spaced I ended up being at the VERY FRONT of the starting waves! It was so crazy to be in the very front. I definitely felt SUPER out of place because I'm used to hundreds of runners being in front of me. I knew I needed to take it all in, though, because it's very rare that I get to be in the front of the crowd. After some photos and some cheering at the start line, we were off!

Standing and waiting for the race to begin, the weather honestly wasn't that bad. However as soon as I started running, the humidity really showed itself and it got super sweaty super fast. This, of course, affected the way I needed to approach the race. Although I didn't really train for a sub-5 leading up to this race, I was curious to see if I could pull it off again in San Antonio since the course was relatively flat through the entire race. However when I got to about mile 3 I came to the realization that it was just too muggy for me to really push myself in the way I needed to hit a sub-5 pace for 26.2 miles, so I took it easy and enjoyed the run.

The first half of the race was filled with so much to look and so much entertainment! Rock n' Roll always does a great job with on-course musicians and DJs, and I feel like this race did a really great job of also representing the culture of the city. San Antonio is known for being a really big military city, and this marathon does a lot to honor veterans. Mile 5 was one of the most notable miles of the race because the first half is lined with photographs of fallen servicemen and women, and the second half is lined with folks holding hundreds of American flags and cheering as hard as they can for the runners. I'd be totally lying if I told you I didn't get a little bit emotional during this mile!

Miles 7-11 really leaned into the Mexican culture and influence in this region which I absolutely loved! There were folks in cultural attire on stilts, there were sculptures of mariachi skeletons, and miles 10-11 was completely lined with mariachi bands and folks doing traditional Mexican dances. It was honestly SO COOL and one of my favorite parts of the race.

We hit the marathon/half marathon split around mile 11 which is always interesting because the crowd always thins SIGNIFICANTLY, but I was thankful that I was actually getting to run a FULL instead of a half after what happened in Savannah! In the words of Brett when I texted the group I hit the split "F--k a half marathon!" πŸ˜‚

The back half was a little bit less exciting, which I wish race directors would be better about. There definitely were some bands here and there, but it just seems so much quieter during the second half of the race. It's always such a bummer for the folks who choose to run the full marathons. I get that ALL of your runners are participating in the first half, but you gotta give your full marathoners some encouragement when their struggling!

I was able to see Brett, Erin, and Cullen at mile 14 which was perfect timing! I was starting to really feel tired from the humidity and I needed an energy boost. Seeing my cheer squad always brings me so much joy and gratitude, and it's the first time they've been together cheering me on since Rock n' Roll New Orleans in February 2020! I'm so thankful for them!

Miles 14-20 were all through this bike trail and I actually really enjoyed this section of the race. It was nice and calm and peaceful on that trail, and it actually felt like I was around more runners during this section. Something about the smaller space made me feel more like we were all sharing the experience of the run together through some of the toughest miles of the marathon. Rock n' Roll was also able to squeeze in a couple of entertainers during this part of the course as well which was so much fun to see!

I saw the Cheer Squad again at mile 20.5 which again was a huge boost. I feel like they picked the PERFECT points of the race to come and cheer me on and again, I so appreciate them traveling all around the city of San Antonio to come and see me for literally 30 seconds haha. Spectators - runners will ALWAYS appreciate you, even if you only see them for a short amount of time during the race! This would be the last time I would see them before the finish line.

Everything was going pretty smoothly for the next couple miles, even though I was a sweaty mess and I was so ready to be done running haha.

Then, came mile 23, which was almost 100% uphill πŸ’€

I did try to run a little bit but honestly it was not worth it at that point of the race lol. Everyone else around me was walking so I really felt no shame just walking it up the steepest hill in all of Texas! Even after we hit the 23 mile marker we still had a little bit to go. It was ROUGH!

Luckily we got to the top of the hill eventually and a lot of mile 24 was downhill. At that point of the race we were so close to the finish that all I was focused on was getting to the end! As we got closer to the finish the crowds really amped up and we ran toward the finish line through a party-like atmosphere which was so uplifting after running all morning!

Eventually I got into the finisher chute, turned the corner, and saw the finish line as well as my pals! It gave me one final boost to push as hard as I could to get myself across the finish and complete state #18! Final time for Rock n' Roll San Antonio Marathon was 5:14:57, which I feel so great about considering how humid it was! Not too far off a sub-5 at all 😊

After the race I finally met up with the crew and we took some finish festival photos! I actually earned an additional medal through the Rock n' Roll Heavy Medals program. I was able to pick up the medal for the 1718 Challenge, for completing the Rock n' Roll New Orleans Marathon in 2020 and the Rock n' Roll San Antonio Marathon in 2021! I also was able to pick up my participant shirt, just like they promised!

Overall we had a fantastic time in San Antonio, and I really loved running the Rock n' Roll San Antonio Marathon. I know folks have a lot of opinions on the Rock n' Roll series but I've personally had some really great experiences running these races. I think the Rock n' Roll team has some really great customer service and they put on fantastic events. I really appreciate all the communication that they gave to participants regarding our shirts, the entertainment they provided along the course, and the effort they put into making the Rock n' Roll San Antonio Marathon a truly unique experience from start to finish. I definitely recommend participating in a Rock n' Roll series event if you get the chance!

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