For some reason, I was wide awake at 2:45 am on Sunday, April 23rd. Granted I had set my alarm clock for 3:00am, the time many people wake up for runDisney races, but my body had other ideas and had me up and about fifteen minutes early. After attempting to get five more minutes of sleep (unsuccessfully I might add), I gave up and began getting ready. I always laid out my clothes the night before, but I still managed to wake up one of the people I was staying with and felt bad about it. After getting my outfit on and making some coffee, I was out the door and driving to Epcot. Despite the numerous times I’ve driven to Disney in the middle of the night for race weekend, I still managed to get turned around and ended up having to go back one exit on the interstate to get there. Parking didn’t take long though, and I was off through the Epcot parking lot, making sure to take a picture of my parking area so I wouldn’t forget where I parked.
As we walked up to the staging area for the buses, there were stages and photo ops set up but they were eerily quiet. I didn’t remember being bused anywhere last year for the race, so this was new to me. I got on the bus and we took the short ride from Epcot to Magic Kingdom, where the race started. Here it was significantly more lively. I managed to meet up with a couple of friends pre-race, but missed a lot of people. If you’ve ever been to a Disney race you know its practically impossible to find people unless you pre-plan a meeting spot.
Corral walk out went smoothly, and by 4:45 am we were all in our respective corrals. Something new they are apparently doing this year is, rather than having 19-20 different corrals, they are having corrals with division B1 and B2, C1 and C2, etc.I was in D1, so technically I was the 6th wave to go, but it still felt like it was much faster than had I been in corral F like last year. After the announcements and fireworks, we were off and running! I changed my intervals that morning as it was so hot outside at the start (already 72!) so I went with 60/30 instead of my normal 90/30.
The first few miles went by rather smoothly. I was keeping up with my target pace of 2:30 pacers, although I knew as soon as I stopped for a character stop I’d be behind them. Around mile 4 we stopped for the storm troopers- there was a rooster close by (this was in Animal Kingdom) and he was crowing in the dawn. One of the runners yelled out, “you’re a little late buddy we’ve all been up for hours already!” which drew some laughs from the runners around us.
After the storm troopers, we continued through Animal Kingdom for the rest of mile 4 and part of mile 5. Right outside AK we ran into some cosplay people from the 501st Legion- apparently this group is a hardcore Star Wars cosplay group that requires an application to join. They were posing for pictures and their costumes looked almost more real than the ones on the official Disney characters! There were signs alerting us that these weren’t officially sanctioned Disney characters, but I stopped to take a picture with the Emperor and his Imperial Guards. I had never seen him out on course, but they had awesome costumes!
We continued on through the streets outside Disney for miles 6-9, which are what I consider to be the “boring miles.” There isn’t much entertainment in these parts, aside from the DJ’s and bands that come out to play music for the runners. Although they did have some cool dub step remixes featuring Darth Vader’s Imperial March and other cool Star Wars theme songs. However, at this point it was getting hot and humid and I was getting tired of running. Around mile 8 I stopped at the medical tent to grab some bio freeze and put it on my legs because they were getting achy. Finally approaching mile 9 we were headed into Hollywood Studios and saw Darth Maul outside the back entrance of the park for a picture.
At this point I had dropped back closer to the 2:45 pacer and knew this wasn’t going to be my best half. Granted I was stopping for multiple shots with characters, but typically I can still run a 2:45 half with character stops and I was pretty sure that wasn’t happening at this point. I quickly posed with some more 501st Stormtroopers in Hollywood Studios before we hit the boardwalk. I didn’t really pay attention much to the scenery at this point- I was simply wondering how much longer until I was done. My watch beeped to signal that I had hit the 10 mile mark and I was relieved to find that I had only a 5k left in this race.
Between Hollywood Studios and Epcot it got boring again. More DJ’s and bands, but I was literally playing mind games with myself to trick myself into running. The standard “you can do anything for a minute!” came into play multiple times. Finally around mile 11.5 we hit the back entrance to Epcot. This is the part I typically enjoy the most because I know I’m getting close to being done! We passed by a side area in Epcot by the Flower festival and I saw Chewie standing with a rather short line so I quickly hopped in to grab my traditional Wookiee hug. It’s really not a Star Wars race without a hug from Chewie. This Chewie, however, wasn’t as talkative as the West Coast one I met a few months earlier. I think I prefer the more talkative, friendly Chewie to be quite honest.
After Chewie, it was almost to mile 13, so I kept up with my intervals, telling myself I was almost done. So many times in this race I wanted to quit running- this was the first race in a long time I can remember ‘not feeling it’ the majority of the race. But I kept plugging along until I hit the finish line, where I lept for joy at being done running! The humidity did me in entirely. It was a crazy hot half.
After finishing, I grabbed my famous runDisney snack box (they had the cheese in this one! Maybe they just don’t serve it on the West Coast?) and went to sit down and stretch. I stayed there for a few minutes, filming SnapChat videos to send to my friends, proud of having finished the Coast 2 Coast challenge and the Kessel Run Challenge. Originally I thought you had to choose between the two, and had that been the case, I was going to get my Kessel medal because that’s the one I really wanted. But I learned at the expo that you qualify for both, and I’m happy that I was able to get both medals. This was the 10th anniversary for the Coast 2 Coast challenge so it was a pretty cool medal!
Finally I got up and went to the parking lot of Epcot where they had multiple opportunities to get pictures with characters who weren’t on course. They had Kylo Ren (super excited to get a shot with him because I missed him last year at Dark Side!) and BB8, my little buddy! He even gave me a goodbye (beep beep whoom). I love the ‘live action’ bots. I so wish I could afford a real one for my house haha.
Darth Vader was also there but his line was a wait time of an additional 45 minutes and by that time I was ready to get out of the sun and make my way back home so I could get in a nap. After leaving the parks I went back to my friend’s house and showered and changed. Honestly, running Star Wars this time around felt a bit lackluster. I’m not sure if I was just not as impressed because at this point I’d done three Star Wars events or if I was just tired of racing and packing races into my schedule; so far this year I’ve done 11 races between January-April…that’s almost as many as I did the entire year last year! Granted a few of these were part of multi-race challenge weekends, but hey, each race counts if I get timed for it, so I counted these! Anyway, now that racing season for spring is over for me, I guess my focus gets to be on marathon training. Hopefully all the summer training I’m going to do keeps me in good shape for fall race season.
Have you ever felt jaded by a race you once loved? What do you think the reason was?