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