runDisney Star Wars Half Marathon Recap - Darkside Challenge Part II

Wednesday, April 27, 2016
Nearly two weeks ago, I finished the Inagural Star Wars Darkside Challenge - the Star Wars 10K on Saturday followed by a Half Marathon on Sunday. I have to go into this and state - I am not a Star Wars fan. Prior to this weekend, my knowledge of Star Wars was R2D2, Chewbaca and the gold person (aka C3PO). I've seen some negative reviews of this weekend so my take may be a bit different not being a super fan.
This was an earlier than normal runDisney Half Marathon. The event started at 5:00am (Princess and WDW Half both start at 5:30am). I stayed at Waldorf Bonnet Creek as part of the Marathon Weekends and used their transportation to the start.
Shirt: ASICS Emma Racerback
Shirt Design: R2D2 Distance Designs by Pamela
Skirt: Sparkle Skirts Sparkle Light Basic in Royalty Red
Shoes: ASICS Gel Nimbus 17
Bow: R2D2 by Cara Craft Corner
Headband: Halo Headband

We had to be on the bus by 2:45 and I am not a morning person. At 2:15am, my alarm clock went off which made history of the earliest alarm I've ever woken up to....however, I didn't use the snooze button  once due to fear of not waking back up.
I dragged myself out of bed, walked down stairs and headed over to Hilton Bonnet Creek to take part in the Marathon Weekends festivities. I made myself giggle when rave music and glow sticks appeared and the realization that I've been up at this same time of morning, listening to the same song, with a glow stick in my hand...MUCH different circumstance though! I grabbed a bagel and was happy to find peanut butter and honey. After I chugged two cups of coffee, I was good to go! Aside from loving everything about the Hilton/Waldorf Bonnet Creek property, their Marathon Weekends package is one that every runner would ever want. They've got specials going right now for Wine Dine Half and Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend (Marathon Weekend is as low as $149 a night if you book by 5/31!!!!). Click here to check it out.
Gelcys was also on the bus over to Epcot as well - if I have to be up that early, at least I was in good company :) You can read her recap here. My best memory from the entire weekend was being able to share the experience with her. We are both thankful for everything that ASICS has done for us, but bringing us together as friends is better than any of the perks.
After running the Star Wars 10K on Saturday, I knew R2D2 would be at the back entrance of Epcot, just before we entered the World Showcase. Being there were only two characters I wanted photos with, I made a goal to get a photo with R2D2 and Chewie during the Half Marathon. The line was about 14 minutes long according to the nice guy standing behind me. I do not wear a Garmin to runDisney races or worry about my finishing time. I was very happy to have gotten this photo.
Running through Epcot during the dark is one of the most peaceful, beautiful scenes you will see in Disney World. My photo doesn't do this justice. The entire World Showcase reflects off the lake and is so serene. I actually turn my music off during this part of the run and embrace my surroundings.
Chewbaca was located in the back entrance of Epcot (near Boardwalk) after exiting World showcase, . The line was ridiculous long but I knew I would regret not waiting. The photo above was through Disney's Photopass program, the new photo service offered at runDisney events. I have mixed emotions on this service, more on that at the end. BUT if it were not for the runDisney photopass photographers, my 20+ minute wait for Chewie would've looked like this....
After exiting Sardine Alley, my new terminology for the back sidewalks of Boardwalk, we entered Hollywood Studios. The day before was full of character photo opp's and they weren't there this time. I knew they would be elsewhere so I kept running, stopping for a very sweaty selfie first.
After exiting Hollywood Studios, the characters were in the alleyway after you pass Tower of Terror. Since I still had no idea who anyone was (where's Gelcys when you need her!), and I had gotten the majority of them the day before, I kept on running. I will say, the lines were maybe 3 people deep which is the shortest runDisney lines I have ever seen.
The sun started to rise during the miles between Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. The weather was actually pretty nice - much better than the day before. However, my lack of sleep mixed with lack of training started to really kick in here. I am not accustom to waking up this early two days in a row (nor going to bed early to make up for it). I started thinking back to when I did Dopey in 2013 and wonder how and why I would ever do that to myself. At that point, I changed to 1:1 splits around to save energy.
There were a ton of photopass photographers in this area. They are easily seen from afar - look for the green balloons. Some of my better running photos came from this race. However, quite a few photos, including my "I did it" photo at the end with my two medals was missing. Sad face. I am an Annual Passholder and the gold pass has the photopass option built in. However, if you do not have the luxury of being a passholder (gold or higher), the photo prices are very expensive. I truly believe that any race - not just runDisney - should have photos built into their race registration. We pay so much to get into these races, then to shell out hundreds for a few good photos is an unnecessary expense.
The exit of Animal Kingdom had more photo opp's than I had ever seen at ANY runDisney race. I've seen quite a few people complaining (or "breaking up with runDisney") due to lack of on course entertainment. I have to argue. I've never seen so many opportunities to take photos. I didn't know how my original 20+ minute Chewbaca pic turned out so I waited in a 10 minute line for this one. I later found out - this is NOT Chewie. But still cute, and they made me look skinny so I will take it.
I also took a selfie with unaware Storm Troopers during the wait. It was at this point that I realized I may have a crush on Storm Troopers. I made up my mind that we would be going to Hollywood Studios later that day instead of the scheduled Magic Kingdom.
After exiting Animal Kingdom, I knew regardless if I walked the rest of the way, I would be OK and not be swept. People were still entering the park, many miles behind us. Then I saw the Balloon ladies and the sweepers - I quickly redid my math but knew I was still fine. I was not doing so well at this point and switched to 30:30 splits.
I did not take any other photos - I wasn't thrilled about running through ESPN again but was shocked once inside. The crowd was AMAZING. I know this isn't NYC Marathon but in my mind, I pretended like I was back, running down 1st Ave. They were loud, signs everywhere and that gave me the energy to keep going the last mile of the race.

In hindsight, I am glad I got the photo above as I didn't think my photo of me at the finish would be gone forever. I do plea to runDisney, with this new service, we should have a way to find missing photos like we had when marathonfoto was in charge. The new service is a bit expensive and not getting a finishers photo is a major let down.

Would I do this race again? Probably not.....never say never though. I am not a Star Wars fan and I mentally lost on a lot of the photo stops that had scenes and no characters. But overall, I had a great time. I do hope that next year, they will have a better handle on the transportation back to Epcot.

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