Star Wars Dark Side Weekend: Half Marathon Recap

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What a weekend! A word of warning that this may end up getting long depending on how many side rants I end up on as I wrap up today’s race as well as the weekend.

You’ve been warned.

I went into this morning knowing that a PR (personal record) was not going to be in the cards. If you’d like to know the exact moment I knew this, it was when I stepped outside.

Florida, get it together.

Just kidding, it’s Florida. Was anyone really surprised that it was hot out? Seriously.

True to tradition, I didn’t sleep well prior to my alarm going off. I think I got too complacent with getting great sleep prior to the 5k and 10k and my body was like “hey, stop that. You should wake up every hour.”

One of these days I may just try staying on property, if anything to be able to write about that experience but also for the selfish reason of being able to sleep in a little longer.

Moving on.

I headed out around 3:30 for the quick-ish drive to Epcot for parking. Despite the ease of yesterday morning, I went out knowing that traffic would be a little heavier than the day before and I was right. Getting into Epcot was a little more hectic but nothing unexpected.

The line for the bus was just as long as the morning of the 10k and moved a tad slower but still was consistent enough to not cause a lot of stress.

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Hello line of people!

It was, however, at this point that I found myself getting rather annoyed with my fellow runners. A woman behind me in the bus line was angry at the fact that bag check wasn’t available at the Epcot parking lot and we had to wait until we arrived at TTC (Ticketing and Transportation Center aka Magic Kingdom Parking).

I honestly had that same thought the morning of the 10k but I also quickly realized that if I had anything I needed prior to the race, abandoning it so early on wouldn’t make any sense. Checking a bag at the race start just makes sense. Granted I can see wanted to ditch a bag if you’re just checking a change of clothes or  shoes but the amount of rage in this woman’s heart wasn’t warrented.

If anything, I was a tad perturbed that there wasn’t a bag check upon entering the race area in Epcot. It would have meant two bag checks for runners but better safe than sorry? Maybe arranging buses arrive in a secure area to avoid that?

I don’t know, I was just really bugged by that.

Anyway, angry lady continued her little rant on life as we waited. The next step was complaining about not receiving a bag check sticker with her bib.

Now, this may not be common knowledge yet so I only allowed myself to be mildly annoyed. RunDisney very recently removed these from play which was a move that makes sense to me. When you check a bag, your number is written on by a volunteer. This move is both cost-saving and eco-friendly if you think about it. I never check a bag and so this sticker is wasted on me.

Also, think about challenge runners. The gear check bags are not the most sturdy and are prone to ripping. If you have your sticker on a bag that breaks and have another race that weekend (or multiple races, Dopey) then you are a bit out of luck with gear check.

So let that be known fellow runners, no more stickers for gear check.

ONWARD

Next came some complaining about the event guide not being printed. This I was surprised to hear because that happened a while ago. I can’t remember the last time we had a printed event guide… maybe Dark Side last year was the last one? Otherwise they have moved to digital format. Again, cost-saving and eco-friendly.

The bus ride to Magic Kingdom took a while longer with all the traffic. All said and done, it was about twenty minutes from my car to Magic Kingdom unlike the ten minutes the morning of the 10k.

Planning ahead is key folks!

Carmela, Andy and Becky had already made their way into their corral before I made it to Magic Kingdom so I wasn’t able to see them before we started. I opted to go ahead to my designated corral as I wanted to have as much time running possible before the sun came up.

As we were corralled up, one of my fellow runners decided that was the time to complain about the TTC start. Carissa (race announcer) had made a comment about it and this guy was not happy.

Granted, I am not a fan of point to point races but I also really enjoyed that things were different for this race. I enjoyed the course for the 10k so I was looking forward to this course. Also I enjoyed that this year I was finishing where I parked rather than having to deal with a bus to my car after running.

I can only imagine that this change in venue offered an ease of traffic onto property for runners, cast members and regular guests. Looking at it, it also takes up less space in the parking lots. Yes, Epcot is home to one of the largest parking lots in the world but look at how the start works- the corrals cause a major roadway to shut down.

Also that roadway is under a lot of construction right now.

I’m just saying.

Let’s calm down.

Off we went for the race, heading out of TTC. Rather than running through the toll plaza we took a turn just before and ended up doubling back towards the start. This was cool because we were able to see the fireworks going off for the other corrals behind us.

Now I have no intention of going mile by mile for this race but I have to mention Bear Island Road because what I found there was nothing short of EPIC!

Bear Island Road at any other time is really nothing special, it’s a side road that no one notices. As you moved down it, it becomes access only so guests don’t get down there much.

So as we head down the road, there was a photo stop with the speeder bikes from Return of the Jedi. This was to set the scene for what was to come.

I’m going to try really hard to paint the picture of what came next but I feel like you really had to be there.

As I ran forward, I saw darkness. I was baffled because that didn’t seem safe. And then the world exploded in lights and sounds. Oh yes, I had just run into the battle of Endor.

THE BATTLE OF FRICKIN ENDOR!

It was amazing.

The lighting and sounds were amazing. I actually moved off to the side of the road and stopped running just to take it all in. Pictures and video do not do this scene justice at all so I’m not going to bother posting what little video I have.

As Return of the Jedi is one of my favorites, my little heart was more than happy with this scene. Race could have ended there and I would have been happy with it.

But on we went… TO MEET SOME EWOKS!

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Elementary school me is very happy right now.

Seriously, so much happy.

Because of the heat, I was already taking it so and I had no problem making some stops for pictures along the way. It helped keep me from going to hard and allowed for little breaks along the way. This came in handy a bit down the line.

I do love a good photo op!

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Another way I control my running is singing along to my iPod. If I can’t sing, I’m going too hard. If I can sing, I’m doing just fine and weirding out my fellow runners. I don’t see the problem, it was like a free Panic at the Disco concert… minus Brendan Urie… or a band.

You’re welcome world.

From the battle of Endor we made way to Animal Kingdom. I will admit that Animal Kingdom isn’t my favorite park to run through. The pathways are tight and the course is very uneven. Either way, running through there when it’s still dark is cool. That park is beautiful at dawn.

Entertainment in the park was limited to a couple of Storm Troopers. It would have been cool to see Ewoks in there given the nature of the park, but I’m not in charge.

Exiting the park is where my race took a nasty turn.

I keep saying I’m going to do a post on runner etiquette and that may be coming sooner rather than later after this incident.

One particular gentleman sure was in a big hurry as we were leaving the park near the main entrance and couldn’t be bothered with his fellow runners. As he was ducking and weaving through people he rammed into me, knocking me off the course.

I’ve decided the part I’m most mad about was that he kept going, couldn’t be bothered.

I will offer a shout out to the very nice volunteer who came over to make sure I was okay. I didn’t catch his name at all but I’m thankful for him. I got up and carried on.

I don’t know who that man was that knocked me down and he was long gone by time I got started again… I hope wherever he is, he steps on a Lego barefoot.

I made my way to the next photo stop which was one of my favorites, Hoth.

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I promised myself I’d be the one to look cool doing this one… I failed…

It was after this that I knew something was wrong with my leg. It hurt, bad.

I muscled on for the remainder of the race but it was a bit of a challenge. I turned to a run-walk method of basically, walk until I felt okay and then run until I didn’t.

I carried on and was excited to see Ezra and Sabine out again. I stopped again for a photo. Erza remembered me from the 10k. I fan-girled for about a mile.

Don’t judge me.

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Soon enough my 13.1 miles came to an end. Even with injury and character stops I still managed to come in at 2:27:32 which I’m really happy about.

Then I got ALL THE MEDALS!

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As I made my way out of the runner only area, I made a quick decision to hit some of the characters they had out in the post race zone. While Kylo and Darth are always around for us, others were not. I paid a visit to Captain Phasma and Jabba the Hutt with the latter having no line at all.

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Then I stopped off at the Rogue One photo op. It was just a backdrop but I thought it was cool. And there was no one in line.

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All said and done, I’m really happy with how this weekend played out. While runDisney still has one race left in their season, this was my last for the run. I’m sad I won’t be there for Tinkerbell alongside Erica but it just isn’t in the cards for me. Contrary to popular belief, I am not made of money.

That said, I will be continuing to write about running and runDisney as so many people have been coming to me with questions. I hope I can do them justice as times goes on.

This is a good time to remind everyone that this isn’t fully a running blog though this week has been eaten up by running posts. This is an everything blog.

Because life doesn’t make sense.

Neither does this blog.

According to the one lady that sent me that email.

So marks the end of my 2016-2017 runDisney season! It has been so wonderful meeting new friends and getting better acquainted with some old ones.

For those wondering, I am currently registered for the following in the coming runDisney season:

Disneyland Double Dare Challenge (California, September 2017)

Disney Two-Course Challenge (Florida, November 2017)

Infinity Gauntlet Challenge (California, November 2017)

Dopey Challenge (Florida, January 2018)

I, for sure, will be running Dark Side again next year since it is my legacy race. Erica wants to run Light Side and I would love to join her but it all depends on money, sadly. Same goes for joining Carmela for Glass Slipper and Pixie Dust. In a perfect world I’d be at every event.

I will say I do need to get Glass Slipper in. I have run the Princess Half before but Glass Slipper is the only domestic runDisney Challenge that I have not completed.

Who knows, maybe this is the year I win the lottery!

Happy running y’all!

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