The Casual Runner

runDisney Star Wars Dark Side 10k – Jennifer’s Take

Event: 2016 runDisney Star Wars 10k & Dark Side Challenge
Event Date: April 16, 2016
Event Location: Walt Disney World resort , Florida

The Dark Side Challenge is a 2-race challenge – The Star Wars 10k and the Star Wars Half Marathon – that takes place at runDisney’s Star Wars (Dark Side) Weekend at Walt Disney WorldSince this is an inaugural event with huge appeal in running, Disney, and pop culture – communities, we are bringing you extensive bi-coastal coverage:
Star Wars Dark Side Challenge Weekend Recap & Overview
Star Wars Dark Side 10k: Candace’s Race Recap, Jennifer’s Race Recap, All Along the Course Video, & Event/Course Preview
Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon: Candace’s Race Recap, Jennifer’s Race Recap, All Along the Course Video, & Event/Course Preview
Star Wars Dark Side 5k: Event/Course Preview
– Star Wars CosRunning Concepts: Tangled Up, Beauty & The Bounty Hunter, Admiral Piett

The first half of the Kessel Run Challenge took place during the Rebel Challenge in Disneyland in California:
Star Wars Light Side 10k: Race Recap & All Along the Course Video
Star Wars Light Side Half Marathon & Rebel Challenge: Race Recap & All Along the Course Video

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Why I decided to run this race.

My husband and I hadn’t intended to run any more Disney races after we completed the 2016 Disneyland Star Wars Rebel Challenge (the Star Wars Light Side 10k & the Star Wars Light Side Half Marathon), but when they finally announced a Dark Side races at Disney World to complement the Light Side race at Disneyland we had no choice but to sign up.  I mean, literally, no choice.  This was the race weekend we’d been hoping for and there was no way we’d miss it.

Getting there/the lead-up to the race

My training in the weeks leading up to the race wasn’t exactly the greatest.  Sure, I’d done the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler in the beginning of April, but I’d done almost no other training runs since then.  Even so, I wasn’t worried about completing the mileage for the 10K since our race plan was for my husband and I to walk it together (his costume was a little too elaborate for him to run in comfortably).

The race Expo

We called an Uber to pick us up from the hotel to take us to Wide World of Sports for the expo early on the first day.  We expected that between the actual runners and the non-running Star Wars fans the expo would be a madhouse.  Although we got in line about 4 hours after the very first person did (apparently they got there at 4 AM!), we were still in the first wave of people to enter the official merchandise section.

As expected, the official merchandise was a bit of a zoo, but the staff was pretty quick about bringing out more items as they were sold out.  While it was no surprise that the jackets and logo shirts were popular, I was not expecting the mob scene at the pins.  I know they’ve been selling out much more quickly at the last few races, but usually we can get to the pin rack without having to wade through a 10-person deep crowd.

After making our purchases we ventured out into the main expo floor, which was pretty much the same as usual—same layout, same vendors.  There was no line to speak to Jeff Galloway (which is pretty unusual), so we stopped to say hi on the way out.

Because the official merchandise section had opened early, when we walked over to the other building to pick up our bibs it was just barely 10 AM (the time the expo was officially supposed to open).  They changed the layout a bit: there were still individual booths were you got in line according to your race and your bib number, but instead of going to a completely different room to take your picture for your challenge bib, this time you just stepped to the side of the booth and took the picture right there.  Along one side of the hall they had the shirts for the challenge and the 5K (the 10K and half were still in the other building like before).  Unfortunately, my husband and I weren’t expecting this change and managed to leave this part of the expo without our shirts and had to come back later.  They also moved an official merchandise section upstairs along with the pre-order items and the purses.

The final fun part of the expo was they had a photo op with BB-8.  In order to get in line for photos you had to have a bib—meaning that in order to participate you had to either be a runner or with a runner.  I appreciated that they did this perk for the runners even though I didn’t take advantage of it.

One significant problem with the expo was the parking.  Since the finish lines for the 10K and half ended in the parking lot of Wide World of Sports, cars attempting to get to the expo had to park on the grass across the street.  But people weren’t allowed to cross the street; they had to be bussed over.  In theory this shouldn’t have been a problem.  But even though people on the first bus were told to go back to the place they were dropped off when they wanted to return to their cars, at some point they changed the pick-up point without updating any signage.  So when my husband and I tried to get to our friend’s car (she joined us at the expo a few hours after we arrived), not only did the bus driver pass us by twice when we were at the original pick-up location, he refused to open the door and tried to drive away as we were running to catch him at the new pick-up location.  It was an altogether terrible experience for a drive to the parking lot that would have taken us all of 10 minutes to walk to.

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Swag review

Challenge runners got the usual three shirts—one for the 10K, one for the half, and one for the challenge.  When I saw the photos a few days prior to the expo, I once again preferred the one for the 10K (as usual).  But, surprisingly, when I saw them in person I actually liked the one for the half the most.  But for the price, three shirts really isn’t sufficient swag.  They are good designs and wearable, but it’s just not enough.

The gear

My husband and I had decided to do a couple of Disney princess/Star Wars mash-ups for this race, and I picked one I was really excited about: Merida plus Rey to become MerReyda!

The costume: gold Sparkle Athletic arm sleeves with strips of fabric wrapped around them, teal asymmetric shirt by Made By Johnny (a cheap find on Amazon) embellished with a custom-designed gold border, gold SparkeLight Sparkle Skirt, teal leggings, a long strip of plaid fabric for Rey’s scarf wrap, a gold “leather” belt cover for my running belt, and a light saber.

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The rest of the gear: black Fabletic sports bra, Hippie Runner headband, Injinji socks, Saucony Guide 9 shoes, Amphipod running belt, and Garmin Forerunner 620.

The pre-race

During our bus ride across the expo parking lot we saw the backdrops that would be out for pictures at the pre-race, and we knew we wanted pictures in our costumes.  So we got on one of the first busses on the morning of the 10K.  None of us had bags with us, and we breezed through security.  We jumped into the Jabba the Hut line and then took pictures at the Han-in-carbonite backdrop even though Boba Fett had already departed.

Once we finished with pictures we started the trek to the corrals, with a stop at the port-a-potties along the way.  Of course, this being a Disney race, we had to walk like half a mile just to get to the corrals but we had plenty of time and maneuvered our way to the front of the corral.

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Along the course

The 10K course was essentially the reverse course of the shortened half marathon we ran at Wine and Dine 2015.  We started at EPCOT, followed the Boardwalk to Hollywood Studios, and then finished by running the road to Wide World of Sports.  As expected, the path between EPCOT and Hollywood Studios was extremely tight and by the time our corral was released there was almost no room to run even if we’d wanted to.  Actually, the whole course was pretty tightly packed the entire way; it never really opened up for us even when we were on the open road.  But worse than the tight conditions was the dirt trail heading in to Wide World of Sports.  I knew it was coming and I still wasn’t pleased when I finally hit it.  Come on, Disney, there are paved roads going into that complex…just keep us on those.

While there were photo opportunities on the 10K course, there didn’t seem to be very many.  We also seemed to have a hard time finding the PhotoPass people, which was disappointing since my husband had gone all-out on his costume.

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I also noticed a lot more rude behavior during this race than ever before.  I know people have long complained about rude behavior at Disney races, and even though I tend to be toward the back of the pack I haven’t really noticed it before.  But due to the fact that the first several miles of this course were tight and didn’t give the runners any time to naturally spread out, folks who started in the wrong corral (i.e. they should have been in an earlier corral but started in the last one for whatever reason) apparently felt they had no choice but to shove (yes, physically put hands on) slower runners out of the way and make derogatory comments about walkers.  Honestly, it was pretty unmagical.

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While I can understand their frustration about having to go around slower people, I can attest that all of us wanted to go at a different pace than we were being forced into.  And just because a runner can go at a 7-minute pace, they don’t have more right to the road than a runner at a 14-minute pace…especially when we’re all being forced into something closer to a 16-minute pace simply due to the severe congestion.  And it wasn’t made any better when the course volunteers were encouraging walkers to move to the sides so faster people could go down the middle, while the runners were actually on both sides trying to pass on the grass or curbs, and still others were following etiquette stating that the slowest people should be to the far right side.  It resulted in a lot of people trying to do what they thought was the right thing, but everyone just ultimately getting in everyone else’s way.

If I sound somewhat disappointed about the course, that’s because I was.  While I always love running through EPCOT when the sky is dark, and the Boardwalk can be fun, all of the entertainment was at the beginning of the race and there was pretty much nothing worth mentioning once we left Hollywood Studios.  That made for a boring course in my opinion.

The SMOpinion

Of course, Disney doesn’t disappoint on their SMOs (see the picture above), and this one was no different.  It was a TIE Fighter and the colors worked well with the Dapper Day outfit I would be wearing later that day.

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The post-race experience

My husband and I blew through the post-race village as fast as we could since we had breakfast plans that we needed to get to.  All of our friends had already left so they could shower and get dressed before we got to the hotel, so we could start getting ready as soon as we arrived.

Unfortunately, transportation was a disaster because Disney hadn’t really planned for how the busses and cars would get in and out of Wide World of Sports.  Our friend was on one of the first busses out, and witnessed how the road was too narrow for two busses to pass at the same time, which resulted in one getting stuck in the mud on the side of the road.  By the time we tried to board a bus an hour later, the situation wasn’t much better.  Although one bus to our hotel was loading when we got into line, we waited another 20 minutes before we saw the next bus to our hotel.  And the transportation for the people who parked at EPCOT that morning was even worse—I heard rumors of 90-minute lines for those busses.

But eventually we got back to our hotel and showered and changed into our Dapper attire.  We were an hour late for breakfast, but that just made the Mickey waffles taste even better since we were starving.

Playlist Peak

No music for this race since I was running with my husband.

Looking back now

I’d had high hopes for this course and I was generally disappointed.  On one hand, I understand that this was the first time Disney ran this course, so a certain amount of problems can be expected.  And some problems, like the transportation issue, Disney quickly learned from and fixed by the next day.  But the fundamental things I don’t like about this race will be difficult for Disney to fix unless they completely re-route the entire thing.  So maybe I’d consider running it in the future if they use a different course, but until I see evidence of that I likely won’t run this again.
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The Dark Side Challenge is a 2-race challenge – The Star Wars 10k and the Star Wars Half Marathon – that takes place at runDisney’s Star Wars (Dark Side) Weekend at Walt Disney WorldSince this is an inaugural event with huge appeal in running, Disney, and pop culture – communities, we are bringing you extensive bi-coastal coverage:
Star Wars Dark Side Challenge Weekend Recap & Overview
Star Wars Dark Side 10k: Candace’s Race Recap, Jennifer’s Race Recap, All Along the Course Video, & Event/Course Preview
Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon: Candace’s Race Recap, Jennifer’s Race Recap, All Along the Course Video, & Event/Course Preview
Star Wars Dark Side 5k: Event/Course Preview
– Star Wars CosRunning Concepts: Tangled Up, Beauty & The Bounty Hunter, Admiral Piett

The first half of the Kessel Run Challenge took place during the Rebel Challenge in Disneyland in California:
Star Wars Light Side 10k: Race Recap & All Along the Course Video
Star Wars Light Side Half Marathon & Rebel Challenge: Race Recap & All Along the Course Video

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