May the Course Be With You!
Event: 2015 (Inaugural) runDisney Star Wars Half Marathon
Event Date: January 18, 2015
Event Location: Disneyland Resort, Anaheim, California
Jennifer’s very busy month of racing kicked off with the runDisney Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, where she and her husband ran the 5k and half marathon events. They then set sailed on a cruise aboard the Disney Dream to complete the Parks to Paradise Challenge on Castaway Cay in the Bahamas. As if that were not enough, they made the jump to light speed, and flew to Disneyland, in a galaxy far far away, for the Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon. You can check out more photos from this event in Jennifer’s album on our Facebook page.
Why I decided to run this race
Ummm… It’s Star Wars? The first runDisney Star Wars race? At Disneyland? Why would anyone NOT want to run this race? (You hear that Mike, Nick, and Steve? You really should have come out with us! Now, to let you know what you guys missed…).
Getting there/the lead-up to the race
This was the race I’d been looking forward to for our whole trip. All the others were kind of warm-ups for this one (Check out Jennifer’s reviews of runDisney’s Walt Disney World 5k and half marathon events, and the inaugural Parks to Paradise Challenge). The only thing I would have done differently would have been to register for the Rebel Challenge (the 10K and the half marathon). However, even if we’d been able to get an earlier flight after the cruise, we still would not have gotten to Disneyland in time to get to the expo the night before the 10K. And we didn’t realize runDisney offers emergency bib pick-up starting at 3:30 AM the morning of a race. If we’d known all that at the time of registration, we would have done the 10K, too.
The race Expo
My husband and I went to the expo a few hours before it closed on Saturday. I’d heard horror stories about how small the Disneyland expos are and how everything would be completely picked-over by the time we got there. However, we were able to get everything we wanted and, the best part, there were no lines! We got our bibs in under 5 minutes and then I picked up a coast-to-coast tech t-shirt and a wookie half marathon pin. Then we headed back out to the park while we waited for the arrival of another friend who would be running with us.
The best part of the expo was all of the small Star Wars touches runDisney incorporated. On the ramps leading in and out of the bib pick-up, they had this…
And they had a red carpet arrival area leading into the expo with banners of the stars…I might have geeked out a little!
As usual, Disney swag is limited. We got the normal Clif bar sample and shirt. For the half marathon, we got long-sleeve tech shirts in a grey and brown color scheme to compliment the wookie theme they had for the half. While I love Chewbacca, I have to admit that I didn’t love the color of the shirt for the half nearly as much as I liked the shirt for the 10K. Unexpected Magic. However, that all changed on my flight home when a little girl (maybe 3 or 4 years old), walked down the aisle of the plane, saw Chewie on my shirt, and proceeded to completely freak out because Chewbacca is HER FAVORITE CHARACTER EVER!!!! MOM, DO YOU SEE CHEWIE???? I LOVE HIM!!!! I WAS HIM FOR HALLOWEEN!!!! I mean, how could I not love the shirt after getting that kind of reaction from a little kid? Also, props to mom and dad for raising that girl right!
No, I was not Slave Leia (though I did see several during the race). My husband and I went with fairly straightforward X-wing Pilot costumes, though after seeing all the other pilots in the race my husband confessed that he wishes we would have done something a little more obscure/original. Honestly, I thought it was kind of fun because it put me in the mood of the race. I mean, it makes sense to see a squadron of pilots running together, right? It’s like we all have to get into our aircraft and get to kicking some Storm Trooper butt.
Again, we went with base pieces that are designed for running and converted them to our purposes. I just couldn’t imagine running fully covered in hair or with props strapped to my body. I have enough to worry about with all my normal running gear and just getting the miles done. I respect those who can go all out in their costumes; I’m just not one of those people. Comfort and ease of use are my priority, which sometimes means my costumes are more subtle in a Disney race.
The costume: orange running capris from some Brazilian company I can’t remember the name of, a long-sleeve lightweight orange Under Armour shirt, a white Bondi Band headband under a white Under Armour running hat with custom graphics (these hats are where my husband really outdid himself; he wore his around the parks before the races and got a ton of compliments and questions where he bought it), and a white Under Armour sports bra with customer graphics that went over the orange shirt.
The rest of the gear: pink Adidas sports bra (yes, I wore two bras for this race; this one was for support under my clothes while the other was for the costume design), Injinji socks, Brooks Adrenaline GTS 14 shoes, Garmin Forerunner 620 and Gymboss interval timer, and two hydration systems as they added to the costume design: a black Camelbak backpack that I used for my fluids and my Amphipod running belt without the bottles where I stored my fuel and iPod.
I woke up the morning of the race feeling sick. Like I’m-coming-down-with-the-flu sick. As it turned out, what I actually had was the beginnings of a sinus infection and (TMI Alert, but hey, it happens!) my period. But all I knew at the time was that my body ached and I couldn’t bring myself to eat much of anything for breakfast. I made a decision, which may not have been the smartest decision, to take some Advil for the aches and run the race anyway. I didn’t want to derail my races goals for the year, I really wanted to get my coast-to-coast medal that day, and I’d been looking forward to this race since it was announced. So I got myself dressed and to my corral.
This was my first Disneyland race, and it’s a nice change to be able to walk directly from the hotel to the corral—no bus to the runners village 2 hours before the race even started. We left the hotel 15 minutes before the first runners took off and were in our corral with time to spare. No security checkpoint, no long lines at the port-a-potties, no standing in the cold for hours worrying about how I would keep my muscles limber for the run…I may have found my perfect race location.
Shortly before the first runners were released, we listened to another good version of the Star Spangled Banner by a guy who got all the words right (see, it’s not that hard to do!), during which they shot off the only fireworks I would see that day. Then they released the first wave of runners with a laser light show and the opening theme to Star Wars. I really liked how the banner over the starting line was a giant TV screen, which they effectively used to add special touches like encouragement to the runners written in an appropriate font over a field of stars. It was these little things that made this my favorite start to a Disney race.
I haven’t run the numbers, but the corrals seemed much larger than at a Disney World race. I think there were 10 minutes between corrals (of which there were 5, compared to Disney World’s 20-ish) and it seemed like it took a good 5-6 minutes for the corrals to completely clear the area as they were released. This did cause my energy level to drop between the corral releases since there was such a long wait, but not having to listen to the same opening 4 million times was kind of refreshing.
Along the course
Feeling ill led me to re-think my race plan (Accept…Adjust…Advance!). I knew the course was going to be flat and fast, and I had planned to run this for time (well, as much as you can run a Disney race for time). But I told my friends that I was going to purposely go much slower and that I might be closer to the 16:00 minute/mile minimum pace requirement. I knew from the course maps at the expo that our first 3-4 miles was in the parks, so I decided that I wouldn’t dart around people during that section. Instead, I would use the opportunity to take as many pictures as I wanted and keep my time slow and effort minimized. If I saved some energy at the beginning of the race while I worked to convince my body that I actually could complete a half marathon when all I really wanted to do was stay in bed, I hoped I’d have enough left in the tank at the end of the race to get across the finish line and get my medal.
Since I don’t know Disneyland and California Adventure as well as I know the Disney World parks, it seemed like every turn led to a new surprise. In the backstage areas, they used fun lighting and sound techniques like projecting the Death Star on the side of a warehouse and piping in Darth Vader’s breathing as we ran through a tunnel. In Disneyland we found that Storm Troopers had conquered the carousel and Darth Vader himself was hanging out near Star Tours (the line for pictures with Darth was as long as any ride line I had ever seen—they even had to mark off the queue with ropes and tape).
I took an obligatory selfie in front of Sleeping Beauty’s castle (it’s so little!) and continued to California Adventure, where we saw more Storm Troopers and Jedi masters and a marque telling us runners to use the force…
Hands down, the best part of the course through the parks was when we took a sharp right turn out of a California Adventure backstage area and found ourselves running toward a beautiful sunrise sky over Route 66 and the Radiator Springs Racers ride in Carsland. I feel a little bad for the faster runners who passed through this area when it was still dark, because the colors in the sky were so vibrant and perfect it almost seemed fake—like the whole scene was a backdrop. I was so awestruck that I completely forgot to take a picture, something I heard from each of my friends when we regrouped after the race. Even now, a week later, this scene is one of the few that really sticks out in my mind when I think about this race.
Once we left the parks and were on the streets, the course really opened up. I was starting to feel better and the wide open roads allowed the crowds to thin, so I took the opportunity to gain back some time. Because of how open the course was, the awesome marching bands and cheerleaders, and the cosplayers and 501st Legion lining the course, I actually liked the course outside of the parks better than the part inside the parks.
The bottom line? I loved this race. When I think of Disney races, this is what I imagine them to be.
Without knowing the backstory, I was actually a little disappointed in the SMO for the half marathon. The 10K had this great hexagonal medal and the Rebel Challenge medal was a spinner. Even the 5K medallion was really colorful and fun. But the half marathon SMO was pretty monochromatic and kind of boring. My husband explained that it’s a replica of the Medals of Bravery that Han Solo and Luke Skywalker received after the Battle of Yavin, which is kind of cool. But it’s still a little plain…
Oh, but I also got my blue coast-to-coast medal! It was mid-January and I already had my coast-to-coast! I’ll also get the pink coast-to-coast for doing Princess and Tink. All the feeling sick and trudging through the race was worth it for this one!
The post-race experience
I finished almost a full hour after my husband (who PR’d for the second time that month), so when I finished the race we were pretty much ready to head back to the hotel to shower and change. My friend showered and headed to church, which gave my husband and I time to take a little nap. Then we all headed to Downtown Disney for lunch (pasta and pizza!) before spending the rest of the day in the parks where we may or may not have enjoyed HUGE Ghirardelli ice cream sundaes.
Once again, my iPod was on shuffle, but it was pretty much just background music. I kept the volume fairly low so I could jam with the bands we passed along the course. I can’t count how many times I heard the Imperial March!
Looking back now
Would I do this again? Ummm…yeah! The only question is whether or not I can convince my husband that we need to go legacy for this one.
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