February 10, 2014

runDisney Race Corrals - Love em or Hate em!

This is a controversial topic. No doubt there will be many runners who agree and many who will disagree with my opinion.  Since I have written this post many times in my head during long runs, it seemed timely considering that the Princess waivers and corral placements were published a few weeks ago.  As I waited for my waiver, many thoughts were racing through my head.  You could hear me breathe an audible sigh of relief all the way to Christine's house in the next state when my number came up on the computer and I knew it was in line with my past race results.  I have been placed in corral B for Glass Slipper Challenge which makes sense given my 1:59 half proof of time.

After a few years of apparent shenanigans with people providing some less than truthful race results to change corrals at the expo, runDisney has implemented some changes.  And in most cases, this is a good thing!  However, it seems to create an increasing level of anxiety as everyone waits to get their corral placement since corral changes are no longer made at the Expo.  If Track Shack has made a mistake with your submitted proof of time, you could be out of luck and placed in a corral that's not consistent with your proof of time.  With the race entry fees as high as they are at the runDisney events, there should be some way to rectify this problem.

One of our ideas (see also: if I was queen for a day) is an online form that would include standardized fields for updating your proof of time.  This would make it easy for the runDisney and Track Shack folks.  If the form included a place for a link to official race results, this would also ensure consistency and truthfulness in reporting…not that we think this is the case with most runners but apparently it was an issue!  Clearly, I will not be the one to solve this problem and hopefully runDisney will recognize that there is room for improvement with their race registration system in regards to corral placement.


Back to the release of corrals and waivers recently for the Princess weekend, I already know of several people who have been put in inappropriate corrals. One friend has been placed in the last corral because she has a charity bib and they did not submit her proof of time or her estimated finish time with her registration. This is an unfortunate issue with her charity and not a runDisney issue; but if offered an opportunity to provide her time, she could be placed in the appropriate corral with a change at the expo.  

As we all know, there were countless concerns about the placement of challenge runners during marathon weekend.  We were fortunate and didn't have major issues with course crowding based on our placement in corral G.  Based on what we heard and saw from friends attempting to change corrals at the marathon weekend expo, it appears that they stuck with the no changes rule and only extraordinary circumstances were considered for corral changes (Note: we saw some folks with stickers for corral changes but don't know details of their circumstances).  Several blogger friends wrote numerous posts on their frustration and you can read about one here.  The other concern raised during the marathon weekend was the placement of the challenge runners. If you signed up for the Dopey Challenge or the Goofy Challenge it was clear that you were not put in the same corral with an equivalent proof of time as a runner who was registered for just a single race.  While it might seem like a runner could not do their best in these types of endurance challenges, is it fair to put them back several corrals because they might not do their personal best?  And ahem, we did PR the marathon!

Last year runDisney allowed corral changes at the race expos. You simply provided a copy of your race results to an employee at the runner relations booth. They used a chart to determine your placement and placed a sticker on your bib with the new corral letter.  Obviously there were problems with this system or they would have kept it in place.  It's a darn shame that they had to do away with this because we were able to benefit from this option as we improved our times throughout the year.  Many people used this system and it was particularly helpful to newer runners as they improved their speed.

I spent a lot of time in line at Runner Relations!
As an experienced runner, I understand the necessity of being placed in the appropriate corral to keep yourself and other runners around you safe.  At the end of the day, we all want to enjoy our races and most of all have fun!

How do you feel about the new system?
(Pam)

41 comments:

  1. The only Corral change stickers that I noticed were on bibs of Runner's World Challenge runners, because these runners were also wearing the RW wristband. RW advertised as part of race registration that runners that registered with them would have preferred corral placement, but (and this was the story we were told when we picked up my husband's Dopey Challenge bib from RW) all the RW bibs were misprinted, hence the need for the stickers.

    Regardless of RW runners having preferred corral placement or not, I agree that something needs to be done. I really like your suggested idea of an online portal through which official race results can be linked and verified. This would definitely help address the lying that some runners did in order to get into a higher corral. Isn't there a computer geek out there who can write web code for such activity and then make tons of money selling it to runDisney and Track Shack?

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    1. Interesting. We saw the stickers and we were also in Race Retreat where all the Runners World people also had their pre race retreat. There should be something that can be done for online verification.

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  2. I hate the new system! I registered with Children's Miracle Network Hospitals on 12/23. I wanted to submit proof of time but Run Disney would not take it since it was past the 12/1 cut off date. I stated that (in my opinion) it was not fair for people that registered later with charities to not be able to submit proof to be placed in their correct corral. RD told me to have CMNH submit my proof with my registration. I tried e-mailing them to make this happen but my e-mails went unanswered. I contacted RD again and a man over the phone went ahead and took my proof and stated he was 99% sure it would "take in the system". However, when I printed my waiver and saw the corral list......RD put me in Corral P! Needless to say, I am not a happy camper. With my pace I should be in at least Corral H or I. I know I will finish in 3 hours or less. Of course ANOTHER call to RD has rendered useless as the bibs have already been "printed". I am now in contact with the Director of Corporate Sponsorships with CMNH to see if anything can be done since RD told me to contact them again. Very frustrating as I should be able to fix this at the expo.

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    1. Oh and I wanted to add that being in Corral P makes me a nervous wreck and ruins the experience for me.

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    2. I'm going to sound like a heartless runner, but I think that if people are able to register for charity bibs less than 3 threes before the event, you can't expect them to take your time into the system. The cut off was November, and this was for a race that was sold out in many cases back in April. The fact people are still able to get charity bibs or bibs through travel companies this late still blows my mind (that's for a different discussion) and there needs to be communication between RunDisney and the specific charity or travel groups saying they CANT submit times if past the cut off. If it had been before the cutoff and the group neglected to submit your time on your behalf,that is a different story.

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    3. Jen, I am so sorry that you are unhappy with your corral. It is no fun to be disappointed before you even arrive for race weekend. Be sure to go to the front of the corral and plan to just enjoy the course instead of taking lots of character pics.

      Andrea, our friend was registered long ago with a charity and the ball was dropped. It is a human error and clearly should be addressed. this girl is being so good about the mistake and will enjoy her race anyways.

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  3. I've been fortunate thus far and not had any issues with the corrals at runDisney events, however I have read about a lot of the issues going on of course. I really REALLY hope that runDisney implements a better verification system for future races so people will stop lying. It is absolutely ridiculous to lie about finishing times.

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    1. Agree Lauren, online verification and there should be no place to include an estimated finish time.

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  4. Most of my corrals have been correct. But most of the time I don't even start in my correct corral. I usually go back to start with my friends. A few years ago for Princess Half I was in corral A and it was amazing! There were no lines for any of the characters and even though I stopped tons for character pictures I PRed! This year at marathon weekend I was supposed to start in G but went back to I with my friend. It was horrible. It was crowded with people walking more than running. And they blocked the entire road walking so it was hard to get through if you were running. But I can't blame it on runDisney since I didn't start in the corral they put me in. I don't like that you can't change corrals now though. I think if you have an official race time you should definitely be able to move up. Especially since you have to register for runDisney races 7 months ahead of time! That leaves tons of time to improve your race times.

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    1. Mindy, Yes, there are many factors that go into a race experience depending on what is your starting corral. As you know from starting up at the front and towards the back, it can make or break your race. If there are no checks and balances, runners will continue to try to "work" the system, which is exactly why we can no longer change corrals at the expos.

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  5. Personally, I had no problems with changes of corrals at expos. I've used the system several times as well. I don't have an answer, but I do like your suggestion! :0)

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    1. Thanks Karen. This is something that really needs to get fixed so strong runners are not starting with the walkers and vice versa.

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  6. Alright. So I haven't had any issues myself in the two RunDisney races (Wine & Dine, Dopey) and also, these two events both used the new Proof of Time system. For me, as a relatively fast runner, I thought this new system sounded fantastic. I couldn't believe that an event this big did not do something like it before and only took peoples "words" on how they'd do. Plus the old corrals were gigantic. I was in A in W&D and B for all of Dopey weekend. The smaller grouping of this corral made it spread out so quickly, and by having honest race times required, I knew I was with people of equal speed.

    Now that term honest isn't always there, as I know there have been the chatter on boards about people being dishonest with their qualifying times. Those people have horrible morals and I feel sorry for them. But I agree if there was an actual online submission form with all the details laid out for trackshack, it would provide continuity. I over-provided information about my races, including a link to official results for that race, so I knew there wouldn't be a problem with my placement. And also, the registration changes needed to be in by November 1, 2013....2 months before race day. With registration opening and many cases getting sold out by mid April, this is fair....you have all spring, summer and fall to improve and submit a faster time----which I certainly did.

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    1. Andrea, I agree with you about providing the appropriate race times, because Christine and I also over provide to make sure there is not an issue. However, if they make a mistake by one number, for example punch in your 1:35 half and make it a 2:35 the corral placement would be dramatically changed. In this case, a correction would need to be made.

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    2. Yes. agree if they make an error and you catch it, they should be able to make a change, especially if you (the racer) submitted the appropriate materials ahead of time before deadlines. Yeah....needless to say I would have freaked out if my 1:41 got typed in as a 2:41!!!!!! Glad I don't work at trackshack....!

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  7. I understand that Run Disney does have to have a cut off time for submitting corral times. However, I think each and every corral time that gets submitted should be verified. As you suggested, a link to the submitted race result would be a great idea! I was worried that the GSC folks would all be starting further back ( like some said happened during Marathon weekend with those challengers) but I don't believe this is the case with GSC because my sister and I are both participating in GSC and she is place in corral A. I am a few corrals back ( with my mom) and I am completely happy with it and I "Think" I am appropriately placed. Although I don't know what times others in my corral submitted to get into that corral, so I don't really know but its too late to really worry about it now.
    I know in the end that it really doesn't matter where we are placed in the beginning of the race because it's all about the finish line anyway but for this race it did kind of matter to me a tiny bit. You see, I worked my butt off trying to improve my 10K time all summer. I finally hit my last PR at Wicked this year. I submitted that time to Disney and my corral placement was kind of like my "prize" a validation if you will. I feel like I've earned my place. I know that sounds silly. But it made me happy to see that I was pretty far up in corral placement!

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    1. Meranda, Everyone has a different perspective on the runDisney races. Christine and I had never stopped for character photos during a half marathon until the WDW Marathon weekend this year. We run our races, sometimes as just a training run, but we are not stopping a bunch. This is personal preference and is clearly not what most runners do. However, when you earn a specific corral, I agree completely that it is a prize that you earned from working hard and racing to your goal. Congrats on getting a great placement for Princess. You clearly earned it!

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  8. Last year I was in C and this year in O. I failed to submit a time this year. Entirely my fault and I get that. But, since the registration form asks if you have done a RunDisney event before (and many of us are repeat rD'ers) wouldn't it make sense to have an "account" and that when you sign up for a new event, it could automatically link to your previous results in rD events? I know for my, PHM was not my best time, BUT it would have at least kept me out of O. And, what is the system for placing those of us without times? My estimate was 2:45 (I do, in fact run a 2:40 half). I registered on the very first day. And, yet, I'm in O, while other non-proof runners are a few corrals ahead. Did they do it alphabetically? Random? I'd like to know. I have no concerns about finishing, but its not going to be the race I was training for. After running last year, I agree that something had to be done. But, I think they've swung too far in the opposite direction. It appears that half (guesstimate--I haven't actually done the math) of the runners STILL don't have PoT and are just thrown into corrals all mixed up.

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    1. Kim, It is definitely a mystery how the corrals are chosen. We saw all kinds of crazy placements at the Dopey Challenge and I do think that both the Goofy and Dopey Challenge runners were handicapped with their corral placement this year.

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  9. While the corral system makes sense in many large races, in Disney races, I find it useless. It really only works for the faster runners in A who are going for a PR and not stopping anyplace. If you're a mid-packer, once you stop for a photo, you end up behind slower runners - or even walkers - and you can't get any momentum going again. I tend to have to weave around groups of people, slow down, speed up. It gets difficult. For Disneyland last year, I did the race with friends who were doing their first half marathon and I started with them in the last corral. They did not know how to report a time, so they were put in a slower corral than they really needed. It was one of my worst race experiences ever. There were so many walkers in front of us that it was hard to get around them. The final corral meant that our time was limited in the parks so we weren't able to get many photos. We had to power through and they didn't get the fun experience I promised them. It showed me that where you start can have a huge impact on your experience as a whole. If people are reporting false times for a faster corral, I totally get it. It makes sense that if you start ahead of where you should be, you'll end up with your group somewhere mid-park because of the photo stops. It's just one of several aggravations that are causing me to step away from Disney races. I wish I knew a way to fix it, but short of increasing the allowable pace, which would probably bring even MORE corrals, I don't have any ideas.

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    1. Jennifer, I certainly understand your frustration. With the high cost of the runDisney races, the experience is important and a less than stellar one is disappointing. Proof of time should be the only criteria for corrals and no expected finish times should be used in deciding which corrals to place the runners in. My two cents!

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  10. I think adding like 3 or 4 miles without entertainment at the beginning would allow runners to sort out more appropriately. It would allow the faster runners to get ahead of the slower runners/walkers even if they cheat corrals.. and have course monitors calling out people walking in the middle or in large groups. I get that the parks need to open on time, but at the Tink Half this year, there were tons of photo ops the first 5 miles and then nothing the rest of the race. The course almost just needed to be reversed.
    For shorter races, they should almost do a couple waves that are "express". The characters are out, but no photo stops allowed? Kinda ruins the magic, but I know plenty of people who don't want to stop for photos.

    Part of the reason I love triathlons so much is that they have rules in place that make it better overall. No littering, no passing on the right, etc and then time penalties are issued if you don't follow the rules... granted at Disney usually the people who are the problem are the ones who don't care about their time in the first place.

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    1. Courtney, I don't think the option of running several miles without entertainment would work at the Disney races. However, I certainly understand where you are coming from. The corrals have become a big problem for many runners and some are stepping away to try other races.

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  11. I've never had an issue with my corral placement. I am not a really fast runner and tend to stay middle of the pack. I also never stop for character pictures because the lines are insane. I think that's part of the problem. If you have proof of time and are placed in corral B for example, if you stop at all the characters and all you lose time and are maybe with corral C people. That keeps filtering back and the end gets even more crowded than it starts out. A few years ago I read a PHM race recap where they started in Corral B. When they hit the MK it was still dark out. I was in the 2nd to last corral, when I hit the MK the sun was up and I finished before them. Why? They stopped for every character and I didn't. That's part of the draw for a runDisney race though so you can't avoid that. I also don't think they can increase time between each corral start anymore than they have.
    I do think they should have some sort of corral change allowed though. Aren't most race results posted online? I know it would take time at the expo but can't someone go online and verify it while you are standing there? It is sad when people feel the need to lie about how fast they are. I am not fast and there is no shame in my game.

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    1. Brandy, Hopefully at this test period, runDisney will have a solution to corral placement and changes at the expo. Until then, I will cross my fingers and toes that when I am registered for one of their races, they input my race results correctly!

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  12. It's such a tough problem and one that's unique to Disney races because of how people run them--some race, some don't, some stop for photos with characters, some don't, challengers are mixed in with non-challengers, etc. At most races people are running and that's it--no photo stops, no challenges, none of the things that make Disney races so unique and popular...but also make corralling tough. What's the answer? I have no idea. Depending on the race, I've started in A-E and never had a problem until the WDW 10K. I was trying to race. Most of the Dopey Challengers around me weren't. It made for a tough slog. But at the end of the day I still enjoyed the experience and that's what matters most to me. I think part of the problem is people fixating on what corral they're in and trying to game the system to be better positioned for character photos. If Disney/Track Shack could figure out how to space out the middle of the pack more, it might help, since that seems to be where most of the issues are.

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    1. Karla, It is indeed a huge dilemma now that runDisney races are so popular and filled to maximum capacity. When the races were smaller, there were not the course crowding issues that are now encountered by most runners.

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  13. it's def a problem. I PR'ed the full last year during goofy, so saying we can't run our best in a challenge is unfair for sure. I am thankfully in the correct place for glass slipper, but Dopey was a nightmare for the half. I really hope they do something to help people, I can't imagine trying to go for a PR and being stuck in the wrong corral with no way to change my place!

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    1. Heather, with the expense of the races, it should be a given that you are in the correct corral for the race. Only proof of time should be used. I have done several non Disney half marathons and somehow, the runners at those races line up in the appropriate place and there are no issues. Perhaps more character opportunities at the conclusion of the runDisney races would make the on course experience better.

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  14. I do not like the new system. I've had to change my corral at the expo before -- b/c they accidentally placed me in the wrong corral -- and it was never an issue for me. I cannot believe people lie about their times though! Who on earth is that helping? I've also moved back into a slower corral before in an effort to be honest about my pace -- I was placed in A for Wine and Dine, but at 17 weeks pregnant, I definitely belonged in C.

    I'm especially nervous for Dopey next year because I'm a much faster half marathoner than full marathoner, so it will be interesting to say the least.

    On a related note, it really bothers my husband that runDisney doesn't allow splits from triathlons for proof-of-time. He's done/ is doing a couple of half Ironmans and would be fine using his half marathon split for his proof of time. But now he has to run a half marathon this spring just so he can use it as his Dopey proof of time and not be placed in the last corral.

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    1. Jen, Make sure to submit your best half time as your proof for registration. They definitely handicapped the Dopey runners and that was a minor problem for us during the first 5 miles of the full marathon. When my running coach saw my split, she assumed I was not having a good day. (We could not run planned pace due to course crowding). As the race went along, we got up to our normal speed as the course thinned out. During the last 3-5 miles we passed a ton of runners. We did end up with a great time, but I wonder what would have happened if we had been able to follow our race plan.
      That is unfortunate that your husband is forced to run a half for proof. A half Ironman should be accepted and I really don't understand why it isn't.

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  15. Oh corrals, where do I begin? :) I think there are a few main issues - the honesty of people submitting their times and the fact that runDisney doesn't verify the times. I truly believe that if those two were adhered to, most of the problems would go away. I also think that runDisney should allow corral changes at the Expo for situations where runDisney/Track Shack made an error, or if there was a large discrepancy with what corral you should be in. I'm sure it's harder with the smaller corrals - which is where this decision came from.

    That being said, like many people have addressed - Disney races are very unique with the character stops. That definitely makes the flow of the race and crowding become a problem. How do you fix this? I really don't know. However, I do think that if you are starting in a corral with those of a similar pace to yours, then you will either a) run your normal race (with little to no character stops) or b) run a "fun" race (with character stops) but experience crowding. (As for crowding, I'll leave that alone for now!) I've done both - which have their pros and cons. In my opinion, I think the number of runners for the race needs to reduce.

    I'm very interested to see how runDisney addresses this in the future. It's clearly becoming more of an issue! I think the one thing we all need to remember is that a corral letter doesn't necessarily define us as a runner, but we DO need to be honest as well - both when it comes to our proof of time, as well as our placement when it is given.

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    1. Many great points Megan. A corral letter defining us as a runner is crazy. However, if you work really hard to get a great proof of time and it is negated due to human error or a challenge handicap, it can be demoralizing. As for the number of runners at the races, it seems overcrowded. I feel that the $$ signs are what is driving the runDisney people at the moment, and not the race experience for the runners. The character stops are fantastic, and if they had many more, perhaps that could ease the crowds along the course. I'm all over the place here, but somehow, I hope these issues get corrected to bring back the race experiences we had several years ago when there were far fewer runners.

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  16. I think it is important to find a solution that allows runners to update their time. If you place a faster runner in a slower corral you are essentially setting them up for possible injury.... Let's face it, sometimes there is congestion at the start of a race. I am confident RunDisney can institute a method of submitting honest proof time.

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    1. I hope so Jennifer. We would love to see the corral issue addressed and fixed for future races.

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  17. I've had great experiences with all of my run Disney races so far. I'm not a fast runner, but I'm a sub 2 1/2 marathoner and I've started in A, B, C( to run with friends) and recently with the new system F for the full marathon this year. I think doubling the corrals and technically "reducing the field" was really helpful especially in the beginning of the course where it can get crowded. Since Disney races are such a different animal with the character stops, etc...it's really hard to come up with good suggestions outside of reducing the field, lowering the sweep time, or designating a race for "walkers only" for people who are not really racing, but merely walking the course. There are obvious pros and cons to that...for serious runners, there are always races like Boston and NYC that have pretty tight qualifying times and those people who race are there to RUN. You have to have a Disney mindset that while the course is flat and fast, the dynamics of the course are pretty unpredictable and while it's possible to get a good time, it's not a guarantee. With the new system, you can still submit a new time all the way up to 3 months before the race. If you are following a good training program, you can expect to make some progress in your time that might equate to a whole corrall jump. SInce the Disney races are tending to sell out in hours or days now, if you register in April for a race in January and you have to submit proof of time by NOvember, that still gives you 7 months to find a race to submit a qualifying time...that's a lot of time! I do think there should be exceptions for human mistakes that should be able to be fixed either online or at the expo, and it sounds like something needs to be done for the charity groups so that they are able to submit a time for the runners who register through them so they don't get stuck in the last corral! I kind of personally like the idea of lowering the minimum pace to 14 minutes and having a "walkers only" event... Lisa :)

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    1. Lisa, You make some great points. Having the ability to submit faster times until 3 months prior to the race is helpful, but only if Track Shack (or whoever manages the race bibs and corrals) records them correctly. The charity runners definitely need to be able to submit a time. Most of these corrections are for the safety of all runners/walkers on the course. A walkers only event is a great idea, but many people would still sign up for the running races....not sure how you manage that one either!

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  18. Loved the smaller corrals at W&D, hated the way challenge participants got screwed (pardon my language) marathon weekend.

    I'll leave it at that.

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  19. I feel so happy with my placement. I earned my placement! I started running again this last summer with training for a 4 miler, completed that, then did my 10k in Oct. Trained super hard and got a great time for me, considering I was 10 weeks pregnant at the time, and was able to submit a time so that I wouldn't be in the LAST corral. Which I am not! I have continued to train hard keeping a consistent min/mile pace while pregnant and know that I will finish in the correct time, as long as there are not huge bottlenecks that slow me down! But I feel like I hit the jackpot in my placement. I am so excited to run this weekend and so proud to have made it with all the hard work I have done. 13.1 miles and 29 weeks pregnant. Beating the odds!

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