Derek Tingle - Walt Disney World Star Wars Half Marathon "The Dark Side" Weekend Race Report

While not a "race" in the sense that I would be running for time or results, there was a starting line and a finish line and medal at the end so it counts for a report right?  Well, of course it does!  The Disney Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend consists of 3 races, a 5k, 10k and half marathon.  As per the usual, for each event you completed there was a nice shiny commemorative medal at the end... HOWEVER nothing is that simple with Disney.  For their multi-race weekends they almost always do a separate "Challenge" medal for those whose better judgement is slighted by the prospect of an extra piece of shiny around their neck at the end of it all.  This weekend was no exception, and I'm one of those people.  So, to that end this will be a tale of two races: the 10k and the half, also known as... The Dark Side Challenge!

We'll start with the 10k.  Actually, technically, we'll start before the 10k as there are some pertinent details that must be purveyed for the whole story to come together.  Right, everyone still with me, good. We arrived at Disney Friday afternoon and went straight to expo.  We picked up our bags and wandered around the expo for a few hours before heading to the resort to hang out until dinner.  Dinner is where I made quite a bad a decision.  It was a delicious decision at the time but I would pay for that indulgence.  We had dinner reservations at one of the resort restaurants.  Seeing as our vacation includes meals, we could order whatever we wanted.  I wanted the Wagyu Strip Loin served over fried potatoes with broccolini and roasted parsnips.  If that sounds amazing, well, it was.  It wasn't an extremely huge serving and I didn't eat all of it but the problem came about due to lack of digestion time.  If you've never done a Disney race before, they start early... really early.... 5:30am early.  That means waking up before 3am to get ready and be on the bus to the start by 3am.  When my alarm woke me up I immediately knew the day was not going to go well.  I had what felt like a 10lb brick in my gut.  I got dressed, ate a Pop Tart and we were on the bus.  I still felt like garbage.  After an eternity of standing around and sitting around and contemplating going back home to sleep off my dinner, the race was under way.  My plan was to run around a 9-10 min pace until I caught up to the wife who started in an earlier corral.  The plan worked.  I suffered through 4.5 miles of that until I found her.  She was doing run/walk intervals at a slower pace and that was FINE by me.  We ran the rest of the race together.  We stopped for pics with characters and hammed it up for the on-course photographers.  It was quite enjoyable and almost made me forget how terrible I felt.  After the race, we hung around until some other friends of ours finished before heading back to the resort.  All in all, it ended up being a good time and I learned a valuable lesson on pre race nutrition.

After the 10k was done, we headed back to the resort to decompress for a bit and have some breakfast before heading to Epcot to ride rides and do park stuff.  We had dinner reservations at the Itialian Pavilion (early this time, thank goodness).  It was a good day but the whole time we were wandering around the park I was wondering how much I was going to be hating life at the end of the half the next day.

2:15am came VERY early.  Happily I awoke without the large meat brick laying in my stomach that I had the previous morning.  My early pasta dinner did the trick.  I felt surprisingly good for being up so early.  I was groggy and tired but no GI issues.  I opted for 2 Pop Tarts and stuffed come Clif Blocks in my pocket to have before the race.  I had two Clif Shots on my belt as a just-in-case, though, normally I do not need such things for a half.  For the race I was in the very last corral again and, since this race was even larger than the 10k, there were 19 starting waves.  I went off in Wave 19... nearly an hour after the first runners left.  The race plan here was the same as the race plan for the 10k.  Run a comfortable 9-10 min pace until I caught the wife and finish the race with her.  Because I started so far back, there was A LOT runners to weave through so holding pace was difficult.  I ended up running on the side of the road in the dirt/grass quite a bit.  The aid stations were a huge bottleneck as well with the whole course slowing to a walk and no running lanes fot those of us not stopping.  I still kept a pace in the mid to high 9's until we got into Animal Kingdom.  The race course actually took us through 3 parks (4 if you count Magic Kindom where the race started).  When we got into Animal Kingdom, EVERYONE slowed to a walk it seemed.  It was quite frustrating.  Soon enough, though, we were out of the park and back on the roads where it spread out again.  I settled back into my pace, still dodging and weaving through slower runners as I could without being a complete jerk.  I met a nice couple from Louisiana when I struck up conversation to pass the time while we were stuck behind a group of walkers.  When it opened up again, the three of us ran together for a while before getting split up.  Eventually I caught up to the wife.  I'm kind of surprised I found her in the sea of humanity but, sure enough, I found her just before we entered into Hollywood Studios.  She wasn't having the best day.  The fatigue from the previous days race and treking around Epcot had taken their toll and her legs were a bit grumpy.  Truth be told, mine were too and again I'm glad I found her when I did.  I could have kept my pace going through the end but I would have been quite sore I tihnk.  It was nice to enjoy the rest of the race with Wife, however.  Again, we hammed it up for the cameras and just enjoyed as much as we could running together.  At the end of it all, we crossed the line.  I took a medal from the volunteers and hung it around her neck before grabbing my own.  We did not wait around too long this time as we were both ready to come back to the resort for a shower and food.  The Disney race experience is quite good.  Like most things Disney does, it was run like a well oiled machine.  Everything was in it's place.  The volunteer support was fantastic and the course was very well managed.  It's not a place you come to run a PR time.  It's a place you come to enjoy a nice long (humid) run with several thousands of friends.