Happy Friday, everyone! Today we had a guest contributor, our friend Sara, who ran the Star Wars™ Half Marathon – The Dark Side in April with her brother. So without further delay, I’m tossing the recap reins to her!
A couple of years ago I asked my brother to run a half marathon with me and his answer was no. Being the awesome little sister that I am I didn’t give up. runDisney had just announced a Star Wars themed race at Disneyland, and I knew that would motivate him.
Again he said no and had many other excuses. I tried to convince him that Disneyland was so much fun but no, not happening. He finally agreed to run a half with me IF they had a Star Wars race at Disney World, (there were rumors of one,) and IF I would watch the movies with him. Somehow I had never seen the movies growing up with a crazy obsessed fan. I had seen Episode I in high school but talked during the entire movie, (sorry I couldn’t help it).
So being the runDisney fan that I am I registered for the Princess Half Marathon Glass Slipper Challenge and Princess 5k since it was finally closer to my birthday (so much fun) and registered for the Tinkerbell Pixie Dust Challenge and Neverland 5k. Shortly after this they announced the Star Wars™ Half Marathon – The Dark Side at Walt Disney World in April which meant three runDisney race weekends pretty close together, but if my brother said he would do it, I would have to go for it while he was willing.
We briefly debated between 2016 and 2017 and ultimately decided on 2016 for the inaugural year. Then we had to decide between the challenge or just the half and decided to go big or go home! We opted out of the 5k and had slight regret about that later. I told him costumes were required and got busy brainstorming ideas for us. We planned a Star Wars movie watching weekend complete with Star Wars themed food and Star Wars clothes for his kids. We successfully watched 5/6 episodes that were out, and I watched Episode III on my own later as well as Episode 7 when it came out on DVD. That was very overwhelming so I tried to go back and watch some again while working on costumes.
The big weekend finally arrived! We had an early afternoon flight on expo day, so we didn’t have time to make it to the expo and our dinner reservations, so we waited to go to the expo Friday afternoon.
We had the opportunity to go to After Hours at Magic Kingdom Thursday night which was so much fun but also a late night we hadn’t planned on. It was totally worth it, and I would do it again given the opportunity.
I also received a high score on Buzz Lightyear and received a Galactic Hero button!
The next morning we made it to Animal Kingdom in time for our fastpass on the safari ride but it was closed for unknown reasons. When we did get to go on it the giraffes were running everywhere! It was really crazy but so awesome to see.
[See Sara’s recap video below for the footage–it’s amazing!]
We did our other fastpasses and ate lunch before going to the expo. It was very nice not having any lines at the expo but a lot of merchandise sold out. I let my brother walk around and explore to get the full expo experience.
We got our bibs and shirts before checking out the booths. They still had tervis water bottles with the Dark Side Half Marathon Weekend logo, so we both got one but didn’t see anything else we just had to have. We stopped to talk to Jeff Galloway on our way out!
Because of lightning, the BB8 meet and greet was closed so we got my brother a beer in a souvenir cup and rested while waiting. We later got in a short line that had formed in anticipation of the weather delay being lifted and had a short wait for BB8! The line was 1-2 hours long the day before, so we were excited to get a picture with BB8 and not have to wait too long!!
On our way out we stopped for more pictures. We had early dinner reservations at ‘Ohana with our cousins who recently moved to Florida, and they took us back to our resort for an early night. We got everything set up and set our alarms for an extra early wake up (these races started earlier than other race weekends).
We were on one of the first buses at 3:30am for the Tie Fighter 10k. Our mission was to get there for character pictures but when we got there the lines were already long. I had read online that some lines were closed before we even got there. It was mostly quiet compared to other weekends. They weren’t really doing much to get everyone pumped up. We got in line for Jaba the Hutt with some of my friends. The line moved quickly but we didn’t have time for anything else.
The characters had already left, leaving backdrops only for pictures. We made our way to our corral and it was full. We formed a line to get in and once the earlier corrals started they moved us up. Some people ignored the line but we all got in so no big deal.
They had really neat special effects on the screen as each corral started. I got a good video during one!
We started at an easy pace. I had been sick the week before and still haven’t gotten back into training since Dopey 2015 with bronchitis (I don’t recommend doing that). My brother had trained but has trouble with his knee. We tried a set run/walk ratio but had trouble with crowds so we ran when we could and walked when crowded.
They had a high school band playing Star Wars music toward the beginning. Behind Epcot was R2D2. We briefly ran through Epcot (Chewie was right outside the back entrance of Epcot) before running on the boardwalk and then walkway to Hollywood studios. This area was crowded but nothing compared to what it would be the next day. Outside Hollywood Studios was The 501st Legion which was cool!
We ran through part of Hollywood Studios before hitting the road to ESPN. I had many flashbacks from my Dopey adventure! We ran on the dirt trail to ESPN which is oddly a favorite part for me when races include it. They had some props in that area. Once we got into ESPN, more of the 501st Legion was there for pictures. I talked my brother into stopping for Darth Vader and Rey. He had not wanted to stop for characters, so I was glad we did.
Since it was his first runDisney race, I did have him stop at every mile marker!! As we crossed the finish line one of the announcers noticed the back of my shirt and got a good laugh!
We got our finish picture and box of food then headed to the bus stop. The character lines were too long again in the family reunion area, so we decided to leave.
We met friends at our resort for breakfast then went to Hollywood Studios for Star Wars pictures and to use our fastpasses. We had an early dinner at Be Our Guest and our cousins joined us again! We got a fourth fastpass for buzz Lightyear, so I could beat him for the second time of the trip!
We left the park to get set up for another early bedtime and early morning. Since the lines were so long for the 10k pre race area, we decided to get on the bus at 3:00 instead of 2:30 (sorry laura!).
Half Marathon morning finally arrived! If Jason was nervous for his first half, he didn’t show it. We got ready and on a bus at 3:00.
My friends were on a bus behind us. One friend didn’t do the 10k and wanted a Jaba the Hutt picture, so we did that again. The lines were even longer this morning. They had photopass photographers there at each backdrop for a limited time. They left before we got up there.
We got our picture and made our way to the corrals. My brother was in corral G but moved to H to be with me. I missed G by one minute. They split corrals from A-G and H-L at one point. We should have gone with A-G because we ended up walking down one road then all the way back up close to the split on the other side. Would have been faster and less walking.
The start of each corral was extra exciting with the Star Wars music! Close to the start of the race was a high school band again. R2D2 was behind Epcot. We ran through Epcot (Chewie was right outside Epcot again), the boardwalk, and walkway to Hollywood Studios. This was a very congested area. We stayed to the right and tried to run when we could but couldn’t always get over so walked most of it.
There were several runners that had either not submitted time or got stuck in a character line that were trying to run through this crowd of people who were just trying to get through this part without injury. This was kind of stressful.
The 501st Legion was inside Hollywood Studios near Fantasmic! and it was really congested there. Many characters in one spot but not really enough room. Next up was boring roads to Animal Kingdom. They had a music spot and some giant screens playing clips from Star Wars movies. We were able to run more with more space. I saw a character spot and encouraged my brother to run ahead for pictures. It ended up being Ezra and Sabine from Star Wars Rebels, so we had to stop for them as my nephew loves that show.
We made our way into the Animal Kingdom parking lot. They had a cool backdrop that we wished we would have stopped for with a scene with the Wampa and light saber.
We made it into Animal Kingdom and saw some Storm Troopers but didn’t stop. Towards the entrance of Animal Kingdom more from the 501st Legion was there for pictures. Again many characters in crowded area. We did stop for Storm Troopers there.
We also stopped for the trash backdrop outside the park before taking on the long boring road to ESPN. Again flashbacks to Dopey 2015! We saw more giant screens with movies, but I don’t think they had anything else until the trail to ESPN. We walked most of the last few miles but tried to run some.
Stopping for mile markers helped pass the time when the race wasn’t as exciting. Many people stopped us for pictures of the backs of our shirts along the race. We tried to show the announcers as we crossed the finish line, so they could see his this time but it didn’t work which was fine because we were so excited to finish!
We got our medals and challenge medals, pictures, and food before walking to our bus. The lines for characters were again too long. Our bus line was also crazy long, and we had to wait for quite some time. We got ready slowly and kind of rested before shopping for the kids at Disney Springs and then some fun at Epcot.
We met friends for a somewhat traditional after race dinner at Ohana and fun at Magic Kingdom. We had so much fun running together and are hoping to do this again and run more next time. We may even let family join us for the 5k or maybe keep it a brother/sister weekend!!