Tower of Terror 13K – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Last time I talked about the Tower of Terror race and how we did…and I
mentioned that we were disappointed in it – it just wasn’t up to Disney’s
standards. So here’s all the reasons why we thought that.

The Good

It didn’t rain. 🙂 Ok, so Disney has no control over the weather, but there was the possibility of rain in the forecast, and we were relieved when it didn’t rain.

It was quite a small race by Disney standards – between the 6.5K
and the 13K there were only 4000 participants. That sure made it
at lot nicer at the start area, and at the start of the race. They
also started the 6.5K 6 minutes later than the 13K, so that helped
lessen the congestion that you always have at the beginning of a
race.

The medals are really very nice – Disney really knows how to do medals!
The sliding elevator is a very clever touch, and you know they spent some
money on the medals.

As always, the volunteers and Cast Members were amazing – so helpful and
upbeat. There weren’t a lot of specators for this race until we got
back to the Studios at about mile 6.5, so in a lot of areas there was just
a lone Cast Member waving and yelling encouragement. The four water stops
were well-staffed with plenty of people handing out cups.

The race shirt is actually a t-shirt and not a cool-max running shirt, which
means I can actually wear it for something other than running. The shirt
also is NOT covered with advertisements for the race sponsors like the
cool-max shirts always are.

The race party was really a nice idea – it gave family and friends something
to do in those 1-3 hours while the runners were out on the course. And it
seemed like the spectactors were having a lot of fun dancing to the music
and hanging out.

It was nice having a race that started at 9:30 p.m. instead of 6:00 a.m.
– which meant there was no reason to get up at an ungodly hour and then
stand around for two hours in the cold waiting for the race to start.

For a night race the course was fairly well-lit – there was one section on the
off-road part where one of the lights was out, but with the other lights in
the area it was still possible to see.

Lee says they had plenty of porta-potties near the start of the race. 🙂

The Bad

There was very little information available on the race until a short
time before. The course map wasn’t published until a couple of
weeks before, and all of the other race information, like what time we
needed to be there, what transportation there was, what to do about
baggage, etc. was not available until two days before the race. We
also never received any kind of race packet, and I’m used to getting
that in the mail from Disney about two months before the race! There
was no information saying that we wouldn’t get a packet, so I was
concerned – and so were people on some of the other Disney running
bulletin boards – at least until we found out we were all in the same
boat.

I’m used to Disney races starting on time…but this one started
20 minutes late. Since this was a night race and not a morning
race, apparently they had delays in getting the roads cleared, which
in turn delayed the start of the race. Since they didn’t announce this
until right at 9:30, when we were all crowded together awaiting the
start of the race, that meant that we had another 20 minutes of being
crowded together, instead of only “loosely packed” like runners are
when the start is still a ways away.

When we arrived at the Studios, having walked over from the Boardwalk,
there were no signs at all telling us where the start of the race was.
We finally found a security guard who told us to keep going left along
the sidewalk in front of the park and we’d see the tents. We weren’t
the only people who were confused – there were a lot of runners milling
around the entrance to the park.

While we were running in the parks, there were no barriers or ropes
keeping the spectators separated from the runners, and no Cast Members
manning designated crossing areas, which meant spectators were on their
own for crossing the race route. This wasn’t a problem for us, but we
heard other runners say that they almost got run over by strollers or
almost ran into someone who was crossing in front of them.

The Ugly

There were NO Disney characters anywhere. Not at the start, not
along the race course, not even at the finish area. What? How can
it be a Disney race without characters?? If we couldn’t have a
spooky Mickey, at least Mickey dressed as a Tower of Terror bellhop
would have been nice.

From the race write-up we were expecting some spooky surprises at various
points along the way. All we got was the “Haunted Forest” section near
Wide World of Sports – and those doing the 6.5K didn’t even have that,
since their route didn’t go over to that area. So much for “the 6.5K
only scares you half way and back” as stated in the race literature.
No offense to the Cast Members, many of whom were wonderfully creepy, but
that was really not a very good place for it – it was a one-lane gravel
road and pretty narrow, and runners were having enough trouble keeping
their footing and dodging puddles to really get what was going on.

The “course map” was a travesty. There were no mile markers, no
indications of where the water stops would be, and no detail at all of
what the course was inside the Studios. We couldn’t even tell for sure
where the start and finish lines were! The 6.5K map had a little bit
more detail, but the course it showed inside the Studios did not
actually reflect the real course at all, with all of the winding turns
on the streets.

In Conclusion

Lee’s comment, and I agree, is that this really felt like any other
race put on by one of the big race companies – it just happened to
be on Disney property. Other than the late start things actually
went very well – it just didn’t feel like a Disney race because it
didn’t have the special touches that those of us who have run Disney
races are used to experiencing.

We can only hope that if the race returns next year, they will fix some
of the issues above. If it hadn’t been a Disney race we really wouldn’t have any complaints (well, except the lack of information beforehand)…but it IS Disney, so our expectations were a lot higher.

Laura Gilbreath is a native of San Diego, CA. She has been making the trek up Interstate 5 to Disneyland since she was a small child and terrified of talking tikis and hitchhiking ghosts. She and her husband Lee enjoy trips to Disneyland and Walt Disney World, as well as sailings on the Disney Cruise Line.

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