The Casual Runner

Rebel Challenge: Star Wars Half Marathon

Event: 2016 runDisney Rebel Challenge & Star Wars Half Marathon
Event Date: January 17, 2016
Event Location: Disneyland Resort, California

The Rebel Challenge is a 2-race challenge that takes place at runDisney’s Star Wars (Light Side) Weekend at the Disneyland Resort. We will have full coverage of both events that make up this Challenge: The Star Wars 10k and the Star Wars Half Marathon.

Check out our Event Highlight Video Now!!!

Why I decided to run this race

In order to earn the coveted Rebel Challenge medal, I HAD to run the half marathon again.  Even though I was sick when I ran it in 2015, the Star Wars half marathon was one of my favorite runDisney courses and I was perfectly happy to run it again in 2016.

Getting there/the lead-up to the race

After running the 10K we took it pretty easy to save our legs for the half marathon.  We did spend a bit of time at the parks, but the lines were so unwieldy that we didn’t stay very long.  We ate an early dinner at one of the restaurants on Garden Walk near Disneyland and were in bed by 9 PM.

The race Expo and Swag review

See my review of the 2016 Star Wars 10K for my thoughts on the expo and swag.

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Twi’lek Jedi.

The gear

Since we had done fairly elaborate costumes for the 10K we didn’t have as much time to do complex costumes for the half marathon.  I ended up going as a Twi’lek Jedi but was not a specific character.  This was convenient since I could use items that I already owned, and when I decided at the last minute that I didn’t want arms on my “robe” I was able to cut them off at the hotel without ruining a specific image that I was trying to portray.

The costume: black mock-turtleneck sleeveless crop top from Dancewear Solutions, cheap taupe open-front cardigan from Amazon with the arms removed, MudPie Sparkle Skirt, black Under Armour capris, custom-made lekku (the tentacle-like headtails) headpiece, homemade light saber prop, and faux leather belt

The rest of the gear: brown Bondi Band headband, black Adidas sports bra, Injinji socks, Asics Gel-Kayano 22 shoes, UltrAspire Astral hydration vest, Garmin Forerunner 620 watch, and Gymboss interval timer.

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The first time that I made it to the colored World of Color fountains when it was still dark enough to see them!!!

The pre-race

Once again we spent a lot of time walking from our hotel all the way past the corrals up to the security checkpoint and then backtracking to get to our corrals.  The big difference was that somehow I’d managed to score a spot in Corral B (probably the only time that will happen) so I not only got to spend the pre-race time with my friend (since we were in the same corral for the first time ever), but I could actually hear the announcers.

We listened to a really nice version of the National Anthem by a female vocalist, the wheelchair athletes were released, a minute or so later Corral A took off, then we were on the move up to the starting line and released!

Along the course

From what I remember of the 2015 Star Wars half marathon course, this year’s course was pretty similar.  I knew I’d missed a prime photo in 2015 when I was so awestruck by the sunrise over the Route 66 backdrop that I forgot to take a picture.  So this year I deliberately took my time through the parks at the beginning of the race to put myself at that spot near sunrise.  Unfortunately, the sky was pretty cloudy and the sunrise was not what I’d hoped.  Curses!  Maybe I’ll have to run it again so I can get the picture I’m looking for… 🙂

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Not quite the sunrise picture I was hoping to get.

Since I took so much time at the beginning of the race I was pretty far behind my desired pace.  Upon exiting the parks I just kind of zoned out and worked on improving my intervals as the miles passed in order to make up some of the time.  I’m normally the girl who thanks all the volunteers and police as she passes and cheers back and forth with the bands and cheerleaders.  But I just really didn’t interact with anyone this time; I was mostly in my head the whole time. There were a few notable exceptions, like when one of the bands created a tunnel for runners to go through and high-five people on both sides…I totally perked up for that.  But mostly it was me and my internal mantras, trying to get through the next mile.

One of my favorite parts of this course is the fact that members of the 501st Legion come out in full costume and line a significant distance after the runners pass the 8 mile mark.  There were several cars painted like aircraft from the Star Wars universe, steampunk versions of classic characters, and tons of Stormtroopers, Jedi, and Mandalorian bounty hunters.

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Cosplayers everywhere!

One of the other things I really like about this course is that we don’t spend time running through a warehouse district or on a dusty trail like we do for other Disneyland races.  Instead, we stay mostly in residential areas and go through the cute downtown area of Garden Grove.  But, truthfully, I was in my own head for so much of this race that I don’t remember much of the scenery other than a few bits and pieces.

The SMOpinion

The half marathon SMO this year was the same as the 2015 SMO.  While I was somewhat skeptical of it last year, I gained a new appreciation for it this year.  I dunno…I guess it grew on me.

Similarly, the Rebel Challenge SMO was almost the same as last year.  The only difference was that last year the spinner in the middle had Yoda on one side and Darth Vader on the other, while the spinner this year had R2D2 on one side and the Rebel insignia on the other.  I was happy to wear this SMO around the parks for dinner that night.

The post-race experience

As usual, I was the last of our group to finish the race.  So I met up with my husband and friend in the family reunion area and I scarfed down my free banana as we shuffled toward the exit.  Due to a change in how the last ½ mile of the course was laid out, there were some difficulties crossing it to get back to our hotel.  Depending on whether pedestrians were going to the hotels on Katella or to the on-property hotels, we were directed to different crossing points.  The crossing point for those of us trying to get to Katella couldn’t handle very many people, so we had to line up and wait our turn.  We waited probably 5-10 minutes to cross, but at least we were lining the course and could cheer for the back-of-the-pack runners as they made the last few turns before the finish line.  Once we finally crossed the course we maneuvered back to Disneyland Drive in time to see the balloon ladies and the bike support escorting in the final runners.  I love cheering in the last runners, so this was a nice surprise since we hadn’t made time to stop and watch them at the finish line.

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What? You mean that you DON’T see something like this every time you go out and run?

According to our tradition, the three of us quickly showered and changed so we could get over to Ruby’s for burgers and double dark chocolate chip milkshakes.  And also per tradition, we saw the runDisney staff finishing up their post-race lunch as we sat down for ours.

Playlist Peak

You would think that since I was in my head for so much of this race that I would have paid attention to what my iPod was playing.  But you’d be wrong.  Although I had music playing this whole time, it barely registered in my brain.  Even so, there were a few key times that music did manage to penetrate my brain fog:

“We Own It” by Wiz Khalifa and 2 Chainz: Around mile 6 I was pretty down on myself because I was far behind my desired pace.  I was just starting to change my mental mantra from “I suck and I might as well give up” to “I will do this; I am doing this” when this song came on.  Frequent readers of my reviews know that this song appears on my playlist quite often and once again it came on at the perfect time.  In fact, I listened to it twice in a row because it was exactly what I needed at that moment.

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Around mile 11-ish, this sign was hysterical

“Star Wars Theme” by John Williams: While I’m sure that many of the bands on the course had some music from Star Wars in their repertoire, none of them were playing it when passed them.  At about mile 8.5 the course does a little loop through the Garden Grove downtown area and around the block before heading into a long stretch where the cosplayers are set up.  On the far side of the loop, two bands are set up for entertainment.  As I rounded the corner from downtown and prepared to pass the bands, one of them started playing the opening notes to the main theme from Star Wars.  It was perfect timing before seeing all the great cosplay costumes and was a boost I needed at that point in the race.

Unexpected Magic. “Paparazzi” by Lady Gaga: Toward the end of the race I was frantically trying to identify a few musical moments so I could write about them here.  When this song popped up in my playlist, I started brainstorming how I could manufacture something about how the spectators were like paparazzi or something.  It was at that moment that two ladies came running up behind me and got my attention to compliment my costume.

They asked if they could take my picture, which I happily agreed to.  I offered to stop and they declined noting that they had gotten a lot of practice taking pictures on the run.  One of the ladies continued the explanation, noting that they had gotten so much practice they felt like they were…wait for it…professional paparazzi!

Looking back now

Even though this was not my best race and I wasn’t really mentally present for much of it, I still love this race weekend.  I love the theme, I love the course, I love the cosplayers, I love how it’s not all about princesses and girly stuff.  I liked the change made to the end of the course because it’s more fun to run down real streets to the finish rather than be routed through a parking lot.  We are currently “perfect” for the half marathon and while I would be happy to continue attending every year, I’m not sure that’s actually in our future.  But even so, I think this is a race it will run again…even if it’s not every year.

We have more coverage – you can check out

Jennifer’s Star Wars 10k Race Review and our Event Highlight Video Now!!!

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