The Casual Runner

runDisney Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon – Jennifer’s Take

Event: 2016 runDisney Star Wars Half Marathon & Dark Side Challenge
Event Date: April 17, 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
IMG_20160417_075712045 Why I decided to run this race.

I had been waiting on the announcement for a Star Wars race to be announced at Disney World for quite some time.  So when Disney finally revealed the plan AND said that runners doing both the Disneyland and Disney World Star Wars half marathons races would get a special medal (Kessel Run!), there was no question that my husband and I would be running it.

Getting there/the lead-up to the race

The day before I walked the Star Wars 10k, so there was no reason for my legs not to be fresh.  I was a bit worried that wearing dressier shoes to Magic Kingdom for Dapper Day after the Star Wars 10k would be a problem for my feet, but I found a pair that didn’t hurt me to walk around in for several hours.  Plus, we modified our park plan so that we only went on a few rides and weren’t hiking back and forth through the parks like we normally would….or like Candace and Mike try to get us to do.

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The race Expo and Swag review

See my review of the 2016 the Star Wars 10k for my thoughts on the expo and swag, you can also check our Star Wars Dark Side Challenge Weekend Recap & Overview for even more information, insights, and fun stories.

The gear

I had a hard time deciding on a costume for this race: Having lived in Florida for a number of years I knew that April could be very hot and humid, and I needed to prepare for that.  I also didn’t want to be one of the more common characters.  I ultimately decided on being an Imperial Guard and chose costume items that I could remove and ditch if I became too hot.

The costume: red tennis dress from midwestsports.com, sparkly red capris from dancewearsolutions.com, sparkly arm sleeves from Sparkle Athletic, a cheap red cape that I cut shorter to meet the new costume rules and pinned to my hydration vest, red Headsweats visor, and a red chiffon scarf from amazon.com looped around the visor.

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The rest of the gear: red 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

The pre-race

The Dark Side half marathon started 30 minutes earlier than other Disney World races so that meant an even earlier wake-up time.  We got on one of the first busses and had no trouble getting to the EPCOT parking lot where the starting line was.  I wanted to get a couple more pictures with characters before the race, but even though we got there pretty early the lines were already quite long.  We got into the Darth Vader line and they warned us that the character would be leaving in about 25 minutes and they expected the wait from where we were to be longer than that.  But since we had nothing better to do we stuck around and eventually they decided to keep the character out longer, though they did cut off the line shortly behind us.

One note about the whole character photo experience: I appreciate that those costumes are hot—even in the pre-dawn hours.  And it’s probably not comfortable to be in one for hours.  And Disney needs to move the characters and the backdrops from the starting line to the finish line without disrupting the runners.  But there is NO REASON to announce that you’re sending the characters away 30 minutes before the corrals are even opened to the runners.  That’s just ridiculous.  In the end, the characters (at least Darth Vader) stayed out until approximately the time that the corrals were opened, which I think was the right decision and I hope it wasn’t a one-time thing.

Once they opened up the corrals, our group started moving in that direction.  As usual, it was a loooooong walk to the corrals.  When we reached the fork where they separate the earlier corrals from the later ones, we said our goodbyes and headed off into our correct directions.  Those of us at the back corrals had at least another quarter- or half-mile walk to get to ours, but since we had plenty of time it wasn’t a problem.  I passed a lot of port-a-potties along the path to the corrals, and I saw really long lines at the first bank of them.  But I correctly assumed that there would be short or no line at ones further down.  By the time I reached the port-a-potties near my corral, I walked right into one without any line.

My race plan for this half marathon was to run it for time, sticking to my intervals and gradually increasing my running as the race progressed.  So I maneuvered to the front of my corral and waited for everything to start.

Along the course

The first half of the half marathon course was very similar to the 10K course we’d run the day before.  Although we went the other way around the World Showcase Lagoon in EPCOT and did an extra loop in Hollywood Studios, it was pretty much the same.  I’d taken pictures of most of these areas the day before, so I didn’t need to stop for as many pictures in the half.

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While I had an aggressive (for me) race plan for this race, I realized very quickly my race plan wasn’t going to happen.  My normal first mile warm-up didn’t go as planned and things continued downhill from there: my shin splints acted up, my foot pain that normally strikes at mile 5-7 struck at mile 3 and hung around longer than usual, my fueling was off, and my head wasn’t in it.  By mile 5 (and maybe even sooner) I stopped my running intervals completely and was walking…a slower-than-normal walk because of the shin splints.  And that’s when I had the time to notice that after Hollywood Studios, there’s was really nothing as far as on-course entertainment.  If I wasn’t already bored with the race, the lack of entertainment would’ve done it.

Since the Dark Side Half Marathon was more-or-less a reverse of the normal Wine and Dine Half Marathon course, I knew there would be several miles of long, boring road and parking lot before heading in to Animal Kingdom.  Along this stretch I passed some of my friends going in the opposite direction toward Wide World of Sports, though I didn’t realize it until I met up with them at the end and they told me that they were the ones screaming my name from the other side of the road.

I, along with many of my fellow runners, decided to take advantage of the real bathrooms in Animal Kingdom.  I noticed the same thing that Candace did in that the first two sets of bathrooms we passed had really long lines.  However, unlike Candace, I ventured around the line of people waiting for photos with Storm Troopers in front of the Nemo bathrooms and used those.  It was awesome…I was literally the only person in that bathroom!

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After walking slowly for several miles, my shin splits were under control and no longer paining me.  So as I left Animal Kingdom I tried getting back into some short running intervals.  Unfortunately, it was at this point that I realized my weak ankle (the one I badly sprained in late 2014) had locked up.  And after two or three wobbles as I stepped down on it I decided not to risk it giving out completely.  Honestly, at this point of the race the ONLY thing keeping me moving forward was the idea of the AWESOME Kessel Run medal, and there was no way I was going to risk not getting it.  All of my decisions from this point on were solely to protect my ability to get that medal.

For more stories and details from this event, check out Candace’s Race Recap!

The SMOpinion

I picked up three medals at the conclusion of this race: the half marathon medal, a blue Coast to Coast (which, honestly, I hadn’t been expecting since I thought the Kessel Run would take the place of it), and the inaugural Kessel Run medal for completing the Light Side and Dark Side half marathons.  I love the Kessel Run medal and it might be my favorite SMO ever.

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The post-race experience

I was the last of my group to finish, but both my friend and my husband waited for me in the post-race celebration village.  They let me know that they were in line for pictures with Boba Fett, so I made my way over to them.  We took some quick pictures before making our way over to the busses.  Somehow the walk to the bus seemed much longer than the day before and the line was way longer, but there were constant busses loading and we made it onto the bus in less time than the day before.

Playlist Peak

While my heart just wasn’t in this race, Katy Perry and All-American Rejects did everything they could to keep me going.  A great mix of “Roar”, “Firework”, “Move Along”, and “It Ends Tonight” got me through some mental blocks.

Though when Fun tried to tell me that “It Gets Better”, I have to say that they were quite wrong.  The race just never really got better for me.  Oh well, it’s still a great song.

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Looking back now

I’m glad I hadn’t planned on “going perfect” for this race, because it was honestly my least favorite of any Disney race I’ve done.  Maybe it was because it was the last race and I was just ready for a break from runDisney or perhaps it was just my mental funk that day.  But if I never run this particular course again I won’t be heartbroken.  Yes, I love the theme and the opportunities for costumes and the Kessel Run medal.  But the course itself was long and hot and boring and I had to get up even earlier than usual to run it.  I just don’t need to do it again.

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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