Star Wars Dark Side Challenge: 19.3 Miles of Awesome

This weekend snuck up on me. That sounds weird because I’ve had seven months to prepare for it, but honestly I forgot it was this month with everything else that’s been going on. Suddenly it was Challenge weekend and I was wondering how it got here so fast. Just as fast, it’s over and I’m left with three medals, pictures and race memories that will last a lifetime.

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a huge nerd- I love anything Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, etc. When runDisney announced that they were having the inaugural Star Wars Dark Side weekend, I knew immediately I had to sign up. Saturday I completed the 10k and then Sunday came and it was time to wake up for the half marathon. My wake up call was at 3 am; I left the house by 3:30, thinking it wouldn’t take me long to get there, based on the travel times for both Princess half and the 10k the day before. However, when I got off the interstate I was stuck in traffic for about 45 minutes. That set me back considerably, as I then had only a half hour to walk over to the corrals, find Jolene, go to the bathroom and get in the corrals. We ended up being the last people in our specific corral and ran into Vivian and Jason from MudRunFun who were in the front of the corral behind us. Soon we were off!

Originally I had planned to run intervals, but for the first several miles I was feeling good so I ran the entire thing. Jolene ended up being a good pacer for me; we varied between 10:30-11:00 the whole time which felt comfortable. The first mile or so was a little challenging with all the walkers and trying to weave as the course narrowed but we were able to maintain our pacing with little issue. The first two characters were the same as the 10k the day before (R2D2 and Chewie) so we skipped them since we already had pictures with them. Once we got into Hollywood Studios around mile 3 we started looking for more characters and were rewarded with a bunch around a turn but were unable to figure out where the lines started so we kept running, hoping the same characters would be available later in the race. Around mile 4 we stopped for a bathroom break and I took a picture with one of the photographers.

Exiting the park, miles 5-8 were mostly boring stretches of highway on our way over to Animal Kingdom. The only entertainment were a few groups of spectators cheering, some jumbotron screens playing clips from the movies and a small gator we saw in a lake along the turn to AK. They had lots of water and PowerAde stops and we took advantage of those because we wanted to stay hydrated. runDisney usually does a great job with course aid stations. Around mile 7 I stopped at the medical tent to grab some bio-freeze for my IT band which was acting up a bit. I guess the running from the previous day and today was catching up to me. Our pacing was still pretty good but we were hoping to run into some characters at some point. I really wanted a picture with Darth Vader.

It was exciting to run through Animal Kingdom as I had yet to run a course through that are of the parks. The gel stop was right before mile 8 and right before we entered the park, so we stopped to take some gels and water and then resumed our running until we saw some Storm Troopers. Their line wasn’t that long so we both stopped for a photo op.

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Right after that I was rewarded for my patience with a double photo op with Darth Vader and Darth Maul! Upon getting to the front of the line, I ran up to them and said, “I’m on your side! Darth Vader for President!” pulling out the shirt I had made. Darth Vader approved.

"It is a good thing you haven't associated with the Rebel Scum."
“It is a good thing you haven’t associated with the Rebel Scum.”
After those photos and finishing our time in AK we went back to the highway to get back to ESPN Wide World of Sports. My IT band was really starting to bother me again around mile 10; it was getting harder to maintain the pace. I really wanted to keep running, as other than the IT band issues, I felt great. Mile 11 was on an incline, so we walked up the uphill portion to take a small break. Finally we made the same turn we had made for the 10k onto the dirt road and we were at mile 12. From there it was only one more mile until my first challenge was complete! I knew I had to keep pushing. A friend from Fit2Run, John, caught up to me and ran with us for the last mile. I was glad he caught me because he helped me keep pace until mile 13. We stopped to take a picture by the sign of course!
John and I at the 13 mile sign!
John and I at the 13 mile sign!
Jolene and I- we did it!
Jolene and I- we did it!

Finally we were coming up on the finish. They announced me by name and I screamed “MudRunFun!” as I was crossing the finish. After finishing we stopped by the medical tent again to get more bio-freeze and some ice. Then we collected our medals from the challenge tent and went to take our official finisher pics! They weren’t very clear about where we could take the ones with our cell phones so we just walked until we found a good backdrop and took some there.

With all my challenge medals! Best feeling ever!
With all my challenge medals! Best feeling ever!

Final Thoughts:

The Course: Disney courses are usually fun because they run through the theme parks which gives you entertainment. Plus the characters are there as well. I enjoyed this course for the majority of it because we went through three of the parks which is more than we did in Princess Half. I also thought they had a lot of character photo opportunities, more so than previous races I’ve done there. I did wish they had more entertainment in the “hard” portions of the course: when we were running on the long, boring stretches of highway with nothing to entertain us for several miles. I really enjoyed the time in Animal Kingdom and the Hollywood Studios miles. I haven’t spent much time in either of those parks so that was cool.

The Weather: Could not have been better for an April half in Florida! Based on last year’s Iron Girl half I was expecting sunny and hot, but we got breezy and cool. It was very nice and I’ll take anything under 75 at this point!

The Challenge: I’m glad I picked this as my first challenge. The Dark Side theme was perfect for me and I really enjoyed the whole atmosphere of the weekend. Disney may be expensive, but I don’t think it can be beat in terms of runner experience. I definitely want to do another challenge- not sure which one yet, but I’m thinking Princess weekend because when I was there this past year I wish I had signed up for the challenge. The only thing I’ll do different next time is to make sure I train better- I wasn’t well trained for this and I’m definitely feeling it today.

The Medals: Definitely my favorites so far! They are just plain cool! Especially the half one- it has Darth Sidious on one side and Darth Vader on the other.

IMG_4306Have you ever done a runDisney race or challenge? What did you think?

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9 thoughts on “Star Wars Dark Side Challenge: 19.3 Miles of Awesome”

  1. Sounds like so much fun! I’m a huge nerd too and I think I’m going to add this one to the list for next year. I’m glad you got your Darth Vader photo πŸ™‚
    Chaitali recently posted…Weekly ReviewMy Profile

    1. That’s so true! I wanted to give up in the last miles of the half because it was starting to hurt but I pushed through to the finish.

  2. So glad that you stopped on by for a picture! Lord Vader and Darth Maul were pleased with you allegiance to the Dark Side of the Force. Hope to see you around and glad we could be there to add something special to your run.
    – Lance “IrishFett”
    Executive Officer of the 501st Legion – Florida Garrison (the yellow shirt who took the pics for the Vader/Maul photo opt)

    1. Awesome! Thank you so much for the pics! That was the one I was most looking forward to πŸ™‚

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