Apr 22, 2016

Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side Recap

Now, I'm not a HUGE Star Wars super-fan, but when runDisney opened up the Star Wars Half Marathon, Kris and I signed up to be able to get our coast to coast medal when we were out in Disneyland for the Tinkerbell Half Marathon. And then I saw the new movie, and I gotta say I'm kinda digging Star Wars. I mean, who wouldn't want to root for Rey?

Soon enough it was time to go to the Dark Side though, and embrace all the bad guy-ness with it. I took a couple of days off, so I could make it into a nice weekend and off to Orlando I went. I also took the bus this time, so I didn't have to spend my weekend driving either!

I got up on Friday and we headed to the expo. Kris had go the day before to grab her bib and fix an issue with it, so we just picked up mine, and then wandered around looking at all of the cool stuff. Veronica came with us and was able to score tons of snacks, and a big bag to keep all of her goodies in too, so she was a happy kid. And we got to see the storm troopers guarding things too.

After the expo, we headed to Hollywood Studios. We figured some pics with Kylo Ren and Chewbacca were in order for the weekend.

Saturday we went for a walk to the store, and then I did a friend's  daughter's hair for prom. Kris's dad was nice enough to take the kids for the night, and after dinner at Sweet Tomatoes, we came back home set up our stuff, watched Outlander (cause we had to!), and called it a night. We had a 2:30am wake up call that came much too soon.

We got dressed and headed to Epcot for the race start. It was a tad bit chilly, which was nice, since in the weeks leading up to the race I had feared the heat and humidity. But it was a nice around 60ish at the start.

We realized we missed the pre-race pic with some of our online groups, but then we headed towards the start. Just like at the Princess Half, the corrals were about a 5k from the staging area, so we started the hike back there. Luckily, we were able to catch the national anthem as we were almost to our corral. and were in there before the first corral was let out. I feel like we moved up in corrals a bit, since we were in corral H.

At about 5:30am, corral H was off. And I knew we'd be in for a very packed course. The course for The Dark Side was a reverse of the Wine & Dine course, which I know pretty well.

We started out on the road, and before we knew it we were entering the back of Epcot and about to go into the World Showcase. Gotta say, I love running through the World Showcase. It was still dark when we got there, so it was all lit up. It looked so pretty. But, almost immediately was the first water stop, and it had gotten so narrow so fast that the water stop was totally in the wrong place. It slowed up a congested area even more.

We left Epcot and headed towards the Boardwalk. I knew as soon as they said this would be early in the race, that I might be walking for a lot of this part. We did walk some, but luckily the course was on a slightly wider part of the road (not the super narrow sidewalk, like in Wine & Dine.), so it wasn't outright horrible.

Soon we rounded the corner and saw Hollywood Studios in front of us. It was a pretty quick turn through the park, since it is under constructions on the back lot, but it was so fun. The symbol of the Empire was projected onto the Chinese theater, and Kylo Ren and some Storm Troopers were on the stage.

We started heading down Sunset Boulevard and took a pic in front of the Tower of Terror.

Then I heard someone say, "photos on the right." I thought it would just be a photographer, but nope, it was tons of characters! People from the 501st (an awesome group of Star Wars cosplayers) were dressed up and waiting to take pics. There were tons of storm troopers, Vader, sand people.... if there was a weird character, they were there. Since they weren't official Disney characters, there weren't official photographers there, but you could get a pic with your phone. We were able to get this pic with a sand person?

Another highlight was the water stop at mile 3.8. I was able to see my friend Emily that was volunteering! I got my water and a cheer from her, which was so cool.

Next was the long trek to Animal Kingdom. This park is a little farther out, so there were a few miles before we got there. There was a huge screen showing Star Wars scenes, and also a DJ. On the miles out there we also saw lots of the earlier corrals on their way out of Animal Kingdom. Even saw some people I recognized from online.... yes, I'm that nerd.

The Animal Kingdom parking lot was uneventful. Usually for the Wine & Dine, they had characters and big marionettes here. But they only had one scene where you could take pics on the way in. We came in through Dinoland, passed by Everest, and got some shots of the Tree of Life. Then right before we left the park we saw 2 storm troopers. They looked like they were Disney ones, since they had a photopass person with them.

And right before heading out of the park, were another bunch of members of the 501st all decked out. The placement for these was bad though, since it was right before the exit to the park, it got super congested in that area with people taking pics, and others trying to get out of the exit gates. Look for better placement next year runDisney!

Then was another long stretch of road to get to the Wide World of Sports. This part was really character free, and trust me, for miles 9-12 characters would help keep your momentum going and your spirits up.

I was feeling great until after mile 10, when my IT band pain started to flare up. It had been perfectly fine, but since the course was pretty congested all the way through, and I had to do so much weaving around people to get running or walking I think it just got aggravated by that.

Soon we turned into the back of Wide World of Sports through the trails. I was not looking forward to this at all. My first runDisney race (the Happy Haunted 5k) was on these trails, and that's where I first messed up my IT band. I was as cautious as I could be on the trails and finally made it through to sidewalk! As soon as I hit that sidewalk, my leg felt TONS better. we pretty much had about a mile left.

There were tons of people cheering everyone on once we got to the sidewalk, which was awesome. Then a bit more gravel, before we got to the parking lot and the home stretch before the finish line. And Kris and I finished it out, with a runDisney half marathon PR of 3:08:41 (14:36 better than our last best runDisney race), which included 3 picture stops.

After the race, we got our medals, which were amazing, food and sat for a bit. And you know they say that the Dark Side had cookies, well they do!

Then we got in the never-ending line for the bus back to Epcot. Another fail of this race is that it wasn't an out and back. It was point to point, you start in one place and finish in another. Now for something like the Wine & Dine, where you have an after party right after the race, this makes sense. But here it was just another 5k to walk to get back to go home. After being in the line for the buses for about 30 minutes, we decided to cancel the brunch we had planned. That extra walking and waiting just zapped our energy.

We finally got on the bus and then had to walk to the other side of the Epcot lot to get to the car. Once we got home, Ed had picked up breakfast for us, so we ate, and then napped. The nap was just what we needed. Later that night, we hit up Epcot and checked out the flowers and the concert by Blood, Sweat, & Tears.

Gotta say, that even though the course was crowded and the getting back to the car was a mission, that this is one of my favorite runDisney races. Everyone was in Star Wars costumes or Star Wars/Disney mashups. The energy of everyone was just great and the people were all amazing. I'd love to go to the Dark Side again, especially now that I have so much Star Wars clothes to go with it.

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