The quest for medal three of the four medals in five weeks took us to Disney World and the inaugural RunDisney Star Wars Darkside race weekend. I had briefly considered the idea of running my first 10k for the Princess weekend, but it was not meant to be, which worked out very well for this Star Wars fan and her Srar Wars loving family. Our first stop of our whirlwind weekend was the race expo for bib pickup, shopping and a photo opportunity with BB-8. I had been following the tales of expo shopping with this race and past races, so I knew there was a good chance of crazy crowds and sold out merchandise arriving on day two. When we pulled into Wide World of Sports, we were parked in an orderly fashion and then the plan was bib pickup, meet BB-8 and shop. Of course got distracted by the race banners at the entrance and took pictures.
Upon walking into the bib pick up area, I was pleasantly surprised to find zero wait for my 10k bib or my daughter’s kids race, so that was easy peasy. More photo distractions were on the way out and we were able to find my husband who found the first official merchandise area and despite the talk of sold out items, everyone in my family walked out with at least one item (mine was the Leia “aren’t you a little slow for a storm trooper?” shirt) and that is impressive since the hubby isn’t a runner! We then headed over for the quoted 45 minutes to 1 hour wait for BB-8 that was in an air conditioned tent complete with clips of the Star Wars movies playing. We walked in for my least favorite moment in The Force Awakens and my kid wanted to cover my eyes. We sat and watched while the hubby held line space and soon it was time to meet BB-8 officially making the entire weekend amazing.
Next up was expo shopping (after picking up my 10k shirt) and meeting up with my BFF and her hubby who were roaming the expo floor. After figuring out morning plans, we split up to start shopping. No more luck with RunDisney merch at the bigger location, so it was time to walk the rows of vendors checking out my planned vendors and some new vendors. Sweaty Bands was the winner of most money spent as my daughter begged me for her own sparkly band and I had a few on my wish list, plus a few cool finds, namely the blue band with orange Florida shapes on it. I discovered a new vendor, Raw Threads, who have some fun designs and their clothing has bamboo in it, which means it’s very soft. I ended up with a Speed Matters Not tank top, which is appropriate for this slow girl. My hubby and kid were getting tired of shopping, so I sent them onto the resort saying I’d take a bus over. Advantage Disney resort! I continued on checking out vendors I’ve purchased from before (ArmPocket, One More Mile, Sparkle Athletic (sad their I Find Your Lack of Sparkle Disturbing was sold out in my size) and Champion, where I got an awesome Run Your Ears Off shirt. Then I was officially tired and ready to head out to find the bus to the Art of Animation resort and relax for an early bedtime for race day. Apparently, expo transportation was as far away as you could get which was practice for what I would deal with the next day. The kiddo was pleased with the Ariel room at the Art of Animation and we spent some time at the pool before I went off in search of the pasta line. The day wiped us out as no one complained about the 8pm bedtime.
My alarm was set for 3:15, but I was up before 3am, so I threw on my running clothes and quietly slipped out. Before you wonder if it will be quiet on a race morning at a Disney resort, wonder no more, as I saw many runners making their way to the buses and I was lucky enough to be on the first bus out. We got dropped off at EPCOT with a long walk to the the runner waiting area before corral walkout. I was able to meet up with my BFF, hit the porta potty a few times and have some good stretch time before we started another long walk where jokes about being sheep and cows were made. My goal was to help the BFF stay ahead of the balloon ladies (unofficial 16 minute mile pacers who carry balloons) for her first 10k. I moved back from the D corral to F to accomplish this and in the words of my BFF, corral placement is the key to RunDisney happiness. We enjoyed watching the firework displays each corral got and finally after a 5:30 start, it was our turn at close to 6:10. The BFF and I started off really well with her able to run intervals, but as we made the turn into EPCOT, a marching band (which was cool) cut the running lanes down and the crowd came to a dead stop. Now I’ll be the first to admit I’m not a fast runner, but flat out stopping due to traffic jams on the course is just plain ugly. Experienced RunDisney runners said there just wasn’t enough time to spread out on the open road before the narrow area.
During our slowdown we passed R2D2 whose line was already closed off and there were already rumblings the balloon ladies were near. We hit Mile 1 around 17:21 thanks to the slowdown and I feared the balloon ladies were closer than anticipated. We continued into EPCOT going under Test Track, entering World Showcae by Mexico and continuing counter clockwise with Spaceship Earth in the background and passing through Canada and Great Britain before heading to the exit and the Boardwalk resort area. It was at this point, I looked back and actually saw the balloon ladies. How had they caught up to us before mile two? My BFF then insisted I go on without her, so I did reluctantly. For all the worries the Boardwak to be crowded, I was able to navigate those crowds easily, but the path to Hollywood Studios was a lot different as I was running on the grass, which then required a few walk breaks as I train on pavement, not as a cross country runner. I stopped to take a few photos in Holywood Studios and the long pre-race wait caught up to my bladder, so I stopped for a quick potty break. Little did I know this would cause drama. I came out ready to tackle the back half of the race and powered up the hills around the Tower of Terror and hit another backup. I was going to suck it up until I saw that the balloon ladies had gotten back ahead of me. I became the crazy “excuse me” lady for a bit, contemplating skipping the water stop in the madness, but the humidity was setting in and I needed water. I got over, sucked down water and was back to saying excuse me like a mad woman. I really hope I didn’t upset anyone, but I also did not want to get swept when I can maintain pace. Upon getting out on Buena Vista Drive, I started running on the grass getting some space between me and a possible sweep. I did more cross country running down World Drive, but was most proud of passing quite a few people on the overpass to Osceola Parkway.
I make the turn and find more water (humidity was killing me at almost 70 degrees) and then my hubby called to say they were running late for the finish line. At this point, I had turned into the dirt path into Wide World of Sports and had just over a mile to go, so I told him not to worry about it, but I had also gotten stuck in another pack of walkers. At this point, I think it was just exhausting to be starting and stopping so much, but I was looking for mile five on the path and I knew I was almost there. I was able to get back to more running and making the final hard turn to the finish line and seeing rows of characters kept me going. Although one volunteer saying the finish line was right there when to me it wasn’t was frustrating. And then I finally made it, completing my first 10k. I got my water, snacks and my medal picture taken before hiking back to the buses so I could get a shower before heading to Hollywood Studios for the day.
Well for part of the day as my daughter’s kids mile race was at 1pm. I managed to meet my family before 10am so we had time to grab photos with Chewbacca (I got a wookie hug!) and Kylo Ren before a lunch that included a peanut butter chocolate Darth Vader cupcake. There is a reason I’m a fat girl running as I run a 10k and eat like I ran a marathon. We got back to the parking lot where my hubby had parked as far away from the tram drop off as possible that was a longer walk than the drive to Wide World of Sports. Day two at Wide World of Sports was more easy parking and after a quick change into running clothes for us, we had a few minutes of down time before the mile run started. At this point, the overcast day became full sun, the race started and my kid took off super fast, so I had to tell her slow down and pace herself because I couldn’t keep up. I almost had more fun during the mile as we weren’t crowded and the kids had a good mix of running and walking. We ran around a few fields and ended at the track at Wide World of Sports which was fun. 6.2+1 was complete.
The kiddo and I headed back to Hollywood Studios closing the park (hubby napped for a few hours, he was not up at 3am, smh) and meeting seven more characters between us. Jake , the pirate was most impressed by my medal, but Sorcerer Mickey was close, but his sihouette on my magic band won out as more impressive than the medal. Somehow I made it through and was ready to do it all again at Magic Kingdom on Sunday. Sore feet meant I was happy getting to some of the princess lines early and sitting. Between us, the character count was 17, including 10 princesses! Pooh was most impressed by the medal while Snow White and Aladdin were impressed by my shirt.
While I was initially frustrated by the crowds in the 10k, I’d probably try another Disney race knowing its best to start in your own corral. I don’t have a problem with walkers or anyone using the run-walk method, since I love seeing everyone active, especially since I walk sometimes, too. I just hope for a better course layout so there is room to pass. Walkers across the width of the course makes that hard. It would be nice for those starting out to get a higher minimum pace, but I understand road closures and the like make it harder to have a race last longer. Doing the parks post race with my medal was super fun and sharing that time with my family was so special. Even if the hubby got blisters (he didn’t run, smh) and bailed on us early while we came an hour from opening and closing the Magic Kingdom. Just don’t ask how much my feet hurt after the weekend.