I had a great fun and family filled weekend at Walt Disney World for the inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon where I completed the Dark Side Challenge- a 10k on Saturday, followed by a Half on Sunday.
Disneyland has had a Star Wars themed race for a couple years now, so I knew if/when WDW got one, I would have to sign up. I’m so happy I did, but I will not be doing it again…
We got to the expo on Friday around 2:30. Packet pickup was a breeze! The Health & Fitness expo on the other hand was very crowded. I grabbed the couple items I needed (strawberry Honey Stinger waffles and a red Sparkle Athletic skirt) and left to go check in to our hotel and relax.
For dinner we opted to walk around Disney Springs and grab whatever jumped out at us first. The new Hangar Bar won out. The drinks were very good, but the menu (food-wise) was just small plates/appetizers. They were okay, but not great. The place itself is really cool! I could see us going back just for a drink on the way to one of the other surrounding restaurants.
And then it was time to head back to the hotel to get ready for race day #1. Uncle Barry and Kristy flew in for the weekend to do the Half; I was the only one signed up for the Challenge.
My alarm went off at 3:00 (yuck!). After getting ready, the Boy and I met up with my parents and grandma (who also flew in for the weekend’s festivities) in the hotel lobby at 4:00. The 10k started at 5:30. There was no traffic getting to Epcot. We got to hang out and take in all the sights and awesome costumes. Soon enough we parted ways and I made the ~15 minute walk to the starting corrals.
About 45 minutes after the first corrals were cut loose, I crossed the start line (right on time with my calculations). The 10k course went through Epcot and Hollywood Studios before ending at ESPN Wide World of Sports.
The course was very very very crowded and kept bottlenecking to where all of the foot traffic was pretty much at a standstill just trying to get through.
When it comes to registering for races, I tend to lowball my estimated finish time. I think I just get it into my mind, what if I’m having a bad day/race, I don’t want to get in people’s way. Well! I have officially learned my lesson. By lowballing myself I was placed in the last starting corral. And… I’m going to try and say this without trying to sound like a complete race snob, but…it was a lot of walkers (nothing wrong with that), a lot of run/walkers (how I train, so definitely nothing wrong with it), and a whole heck of a lot of people that don’t understand proper race etiquette. I have learned my lesson though. I have been working and training very hard, so my start corrals will now reflect to the best of my ability my appropriate finish time.
I became very pissed off, very early on, and while I felt great, I just wanted the race to be over. Nobody should go out for a Disney race hoping to PR, but the bottlenecking and poor course layout made for a really unfavorable experience.
I finished two minutes over the Disney-adjusted estimated finish time I was expecting, and with all the “distractions” (I use the word loosely when referring to this race weekend to embody all the things that “slowed” me down) I was okay with it.
I found the post-race runner area to be a bit of a maze. After getting my medal, and grabbing water, it took me a minute to find the snack boxes, and even longer figuring out how to exit the runner area to locate my family.
At that point we had to hop on a shuttle back to Epcot. Oh, and the line for the shuttle was a good 45 minutes. See, the start of the race was at Epcot, and the finish was at ESPN, but the ESPN parking lot was closed for the race, so spectators were shuttled from Epcot to ESPN, and then EVERYONE had to be shuttled back. Oh, and did I mention the spectators weren’t even able to watch the start?!
The good thing about having such an early race start time meant that we still had the entire day to do whatever we wanted. To the outlet mall we went!
After shopping and a carb-filled dinner, we made our way back to the hotel to pack up and get ready for race day #2. Unlike the night before, I was going to make sure I got a decent night’s sleep.
My alarm went off at 3:00. I woke up at 3:52. We were supposed to leave the hotel at 4:00. Whoops! We ended up leaving about 15 minutes after. There was a bit of traffic getting to Epcot and I feel it took us about 30 minutes to get there from the hotel.
Uncle Barry decided to fall back from his spot in Corral A (yeah, he’s a speedy one) and Kristy fell back from Corral G to join me in Corral Leisure 😉 (yeah, I wasn’t paying attention and assumed since I was in the last corral for the 10k that I was in the last corral for the half- I was actually supposed to be in K).
It was nice having them there to help pass the time!
About an hour after the first corrals crossed were let loose, we crossed the start (once again, right in line with my calculations).
I knew with my experience yesterday that I needed to try and get in front of as many as I could right out of the gate while the road was still open, so I wasn’t following my run/walk.
The first few miles were the most congested. I eventually turned off my run/walk alert because I was walking when I had no choice (congestion).
I’m just gonna say that the frustration from the course congestion fueled my adrenaline because I did not run/walk this half marathon. I walked the bouts of congestion when I had no choice and through most of the water stops. I feel I averaged a minute walking each mile to mile and a half.
Obviously this is not how I have been training, so I am feeling a bit sore tonight (and likely will for the next day or two).
The Half course went through Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, and ended at ESPN.
I finished four minutes over my Disney-adjusted estimated finish time. After getting my medal, I made my way over to the Challenge medal tent. The process was very seamless and hardly took any time at all.
I grabbed some water, found the snack boxes, and made my way over to where my family was.
Once again we had to shuttle back to Epcot, but luckily the line seemed to move faster today. I feel like we waited around 25 minutes for the shuttle (as opposed to 45 yesterday).
And just like that, race weekend was over.
I’ve definitely been training hard and feel really good about my performance. My official finish times were:
- 10k: 1:17:47
- Half: 2:44:52
And lastly my takeaways from the Star Wars Half Marathon – The Dark Side Race Recap:
- Not a spectator-friendly course. The only highlighted spectator points were the start and finish, and yet the start proved not to be spectator-accessible.
- Poor course layout.
- Logistical nightmare (for parking)
- Great for first-timers (not looking to PR).
- FUN! Lots of fun!
To check out more pics from race weekend, go here.
And, a big shoutout to my family for continuing to support me in all my running adventures!