Star Wars: The Dark Side Half Marathon

So after running the Glass Slipper Challenge at the end of February, my next physical challenge came up on me quick: the Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon. I signed up for this on a whim with my grandma in November 2015 when I was in Florida for the Wine and Dine Half Marathon. (That runner’s high will make you do crazy things, let me tell you.) At that point, we already knew I was going to be in Orlando because I had already gotten my acceptance email, so I figured, if I’m already going to be there, why not join in on some more runDisney fun? Especially when it’s a brand new race AND it’s Star Wars-themed?

The race took place on April 17, the day after Dapper Day, so it was definitely an action-packed weekend. But for someone who had just completed the Glass Slipper Challenge (two races in two days, totaling 19.3 miles), then only 13 miles wouldn’t be that bad, right?

Wrong.

For one, I didn’t prepare for this race. I do this cute thing where I run a half marathon and then don’t run again for another month or two. So if you’re following along, then you’ll notice I fell into my pattern of completing a major race and then I didn’t run again for over a month, which left me two weeks to prepare for a half marathon. So that’s already setting me up to fail. On top of that, I had bronchitis for about two and a half weeks leading up to the half marathon and then during the race itself, so that honestly sucked. Have you ever tried to run with bronchitis? Probably not because I’m assuming you’re not a masochist. But just know that when you run, you need to breathe and when you’re constantly coughing, you’re pretty much not breathing. Once again, you can probably put two and two together and understand that I was just trying to finish this race in an upright position.

All in all, this was obviously not my best time and not my favorite race because I honestly felt so crappy the whole time. BUT there were some great things that came out of this race! I got a picture with Darth Vader (you’re lying if you say you don’t at least respect the guy), I got to run the entire race with my cousin Shelby as opposed to running alone like I normally do, and I proved to myself that I can push myself more than I ever thought because I never stopped to walk during this race, despite my obvious physical limitations, which was incredibly gratifying. Plus, I got a shirt and medal with Darth Vader on it, what more can you ask for?

RACE RECAP

3:00 a.m.: Alarm goes off and we all hate ourselves. (The Force did not awaken.)

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3:30 a.m.: We almost miss the race because our bus driver somehow didn’t have directions to Epcot. He was literally on speaker phone with someone who was trying to give him directions in Spanish (which Shelby and I could hear clearly because we were sitting in the front seat) and literally the entire bus at one point was yelling, “Left, left, LEFT!” and we almost hit a car exiting left toward Epcot. It was a little too much excitement for this early in the morning (or late in the night, whichever you prefer).

4:00 a.m.: Grandma walks into a traffic cone because she was distracted looking at a police dog and literally tears up her entire shin and starts bleeding profusely. We were in shambles. (Don’t worry, we found the medical tent before the race and got her taped up.)

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4:36 a.m.: We split up to go in our different corrals with about 20 minutes left until the start of the race.

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4:43 a.m.: I took some creeper pictures of this girl who was dressed up as Matt the Radar Technician/Kylo Ren from SNL Undercover Boss with Kylo Ren (seriously one of my favorite SNL skits to date—do yourself a favor and go watch it).

5:00 a.m.: OFFICIAL RACE START!

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5:20ish: My corral (E) got on the course.

MILE 1: Technically, I didn’t even make it a full mile before stopping. My original plan was to run as far as I could without going into a spastic coughing fit and I would reward myself with specific character stops: R2-D2 (because I was dressed as everyone’s favorite droid) and Darth Vader (because duh, and also, what’s a Dark Side half marathon without him?). However, R2 was set up right at the beginning of the course, about .8 of a mile into the course, so I had to stop a lot earlier than I planned. I waited in line for a picture with him for about 15 minutes and I coughed the whole time, but I got a great picture, so it was worth it.

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MILE 2: Once I was actually in Epcot, I made another stop: the bathrooms in Germany. Specifically Germany because there was a huge line at all the other countries I passed. Apparently my bladder was not a fan of the constant coughing and running combo. But this actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise because while I was in the short line for this bathroom, I texted Shelby to let her know to not use the porta-potties outside of Epcot but wait until there were real bathrooms she could use once she entered Epcot, to which she responded right away saying she was already in Epcot. My detour for R2 and the restrooms had taken long enough for Shelby’s corral to enter the course and for her to catch up. We figured out she was only two countries behind me, so I stopped off to the side in France on the world showcase and waited until I saw her so we could run the rest of the race together.

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MILE 3: Another exciting and fast mile because you’ve now gone through Epcot and to and through Hollywood Studios. They had Kylo Ren on stage

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and right before you exited the park behind Fantasmic, it looked like Disney invited everyone who had a Star Wars costume to come and take pictures with all the runners.

We took a picture with an unofficial Darth Vader and some of his clone troopers (notice the braid on the clone next to me—very nice. This was right after she had taken off her helmet and got a drink of water, which was our number one hint on how these were just regular cosplayers and not official Disney character performers because HOLY CHARACTER INTERGRITY, BATMAN. But still, it was really awesome to let all Star Wars fans come together in nerdom and exercise).

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MILES 4-7: These straight-up SUCKED. After such an exciting start to the beginning of the race—characters everywhere, running through actual parks—these miles were just on the highway on the way to Animal Kingdom. As everyone knows, Animal Kingdom is basically the stepchild of Disney property kept hidden away at the edge of it, so it takes a few miles to get there and back. Unfortunately, you end up running up and down exit ramps and on boring Florida highway while the sun starts to rise in the April humidity, so I can’t say I particularly enjoyed this part of the course even though they had a large screen set up around mile 6 playing all the fights in Star Wars where the dark side wins. While we were running uphill towards this screen, the fight between Obi-Wan and Anakin in Revenge of the Sith was playing so I got to thoroughly embarrass Shelby while I screamed along to the movie, “YOU WERE MY BROTHER, ANAKIN. YOU WERE THE CHOSEN ONE. I LOVED YOU!” It was lovely.

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MILE 8: Ahhhh, finally Animal Kingdom! Be careful, because this is a tricky part of the course—DAK has completely uneven pavement, so watch your footing while running in this park! You enter behind Everest and then run out the front of the park, so you don’t even spend a full mile in the park before you get right back on the highway and run to the finish line at ESPN.

MILES 9-12: You literally run the same way back, just on the other side of the highway, so once again, this kind of really sucked. There’s just nothing entertaining about the highway, and this time, you’re facing the sun so it got real warm, real fast.

MILE 13: While this is normally the fastest, best mile you’ll run all day, you can’t entirely enjoy it because you’re running through the back of ESPN property, which is a gravel and dirt path. Even though you’re in the trees and it honestly looks like you’re running through the forest of Endor (they have the soundtrack and some pod racers set up the whole mile), this part would have been more enjoyable at the beginning of the race, because you have fresh legs and running on gravel wouldn’t have been as challenging. But at the end, when you’re already dying of bronchitis and the fact that you’ve already put in twelve miles in the last two hours, I can’t say this really thrilled me at the end. Plus, every other runDisney race I’ve participated in has ended at Epcot, where it’s been exciting to see the ball to signal the finish line. This was anti-climactic because you literally just turn the corner and run down a street by some baseball fields and then it’s over. Not quite the grand finale I’m used to from a Disney race.

 

The takeaway from this race is that all the Star Wars merchandise and fans were AWESOME all weekend. Once again—I have a shirt, jacket, and medal with Darth Vader on it (can you tell I’m a fan?), so really no complaints.

But as far as the course itself goes, I can’t say it’s my favorite. I also doubt I will run this race again for a few reasons. I’m loyal to the Princess Half Marathon (and now the Glass Slipper Challenge) which is at the end of February. This race was so close after the other that I didn’t take the time to properly recover and then train for another race—if the bronchitis wasn’t a sign that my body wasn’t ready, then I don’t know what is. I also want to complete a coast-to-coast challenge, which means running a half marathon in Disney World and Disneyland. As is everything with Disney, runDisney is EXPENSIVE and if I want to keep running two races each year, I’m going to want to do races I know I’ll enjoy or try new ones. I’m not saying I’m going to completely rule this race out, but for the time being, it’ll just be a good memory and another medal I’m proud of on my shelf.

Once again, I recommend showing off your bling in the park if you’re able to afterwards. Boss Man and his wife were proud of us (even though our shirts and medals frightened them a little).

And if you’re interested in hearing about Shelby’s experiences with running and Disney, go check her out!

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