Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon Recap
Oh Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon...where do I begin? Let's start with the positive. I really liked my costume for this race. In keeping with the old school theme of the weekend (see my retro Minnie Mouse 10K costume) I decided to keep it simple with a Mouseketeer costume from the 1950s Micky Mouse Club era.
White tech shirt with my name, blue running skirt and a Mouseketeer ear hat. Done.
The course would start just like the Star Wars 10K the day before. Begin at Epcot and try really hard to run on narrow sidewalks until we reached Disney's Hollywood Studios.
Apparently runDisney had stationed characters near the stage in the pre-corral area beginning very early in the morning for both the 10K and the half. I had no idea about this since I had spent the day before having too much fun to be on social media. Later in the day I overheard other runners discussing having to get on a bus between 2:00 and 3:00 AM in order to stand in line for character photos. I'm sorry, but if my race starts at 5:00 AM I am not taking any bus earlier than the 4:00 AM bus. I want to take photos with characters on the course, not in a staging area 3 hours before the race starts.
So I boarded the 4:00 AM bus and made it to my corral with plenty of time to visit with my friend and stretch before the race.
I was in corral G for this race, which I really wasn't excited about. I wanted to get this race over with quickly - before the sun came up and before the humidity killed me. Thankfully the corrals started fairly close to each other in terms of time and I was at least on the road before 6:00 AM.
We began in Epcot and weaved our way through the Boardwalk and over to Hollywood. Once again I only saw two characters - Chewie and R2. The same two from the day before. The sidewalks between Epcot and Hollywood were so crowded that I quit running after mile 2. It just made absolutely no sense to waste energy jogging in place while barely moving forward. I was already bored out my mind and really disappointed as I had hoped to finish as quickly as possible since I wasn't stopping for photos. I was disenchanted with the course already, which isn't a good thing when you haven't even reached the 5K mark.
Finally, we made our wade our way into Disney's Hollywood Studios (still no characters or cosplayers) where there were plenty of PhotoPass photographers ready to snap pics.
As I stood in line for a photo with Kylo Ren and Storm Troopers, I ran into this gal with a cool Han Solo in carbonite costume.
A few minutes later I was making fun of Ben.
On our way out of the park I saw cosplayers again. That made me happy because these folks are so cool and so much fun to talk to. They kept calling me by my name and I couldn't figure out how they knew who I was...until finally the Storm Trooper pointed at my shirt. Classic.
Next stop: the throne. This was out the day before as well, but I just ran by. I figured I might as well stop and and enjoy it since I wasn't really concerned about my time at this point. There was also a Star Wars Rebels character stop in the area, but I just ran by.
Miles 5 - 8.x were spent on the highway and in a parking lot with no entertainment at all except for a DJ asking us to throw our hands up in the air. I spent the majority of those 3+ miles checking in on my family and friends back home. I think I even paid a credit card bill online.
I found it odd that my friends kept telling me, "This is the Wine & Dine course, backwards". So that course sucked this bad too? Nope, apparently that course had characters staged throughout this parking lot loop. Ah, but that was a night race and this race isn't. In fact, moving forward Wine & Dine won't be a night race either. So yeah.
After circling the parking lot we finally made it into Animal Kingdom. I LOVE Animal Kingdom and I was excited to run through the park! I was really surprised to see that the awesome cosplayers were stationed in a couple of spots in the park.
A PhotoPass photographer was stationed here for photos with Expedition Everest as the back drop.
The highlight of the race was meeting a great Wookiee warrior! Captain Tarfful was a sweet surprise!
The fun at Animal Kingdom ended far too quickly and soon we were back to the parking lot challenge and highway of boredom. I think this is when I started balancing my checkbook.
Somewhere after mile 10 I ran into my beautiful friend Amanda (who I haven't seen in a while) and she introduced me to her friend Ashley. We walked the last few miles of the race together while chatting and catching up. That was fun! What do I always say...it's all about the friends I've made along the way!
I was happy when it was over.
Even happier when I received my medals!
The finishers area was cluttered with runners who didn't know which way to go for photos, medals, medical, etc. It was a bit too much for me so I didn't bother to partake in anything other than grabbing my snack box and getting out as fast as I could. In fact, I almost forgot my Kessel Run Challenge Medal! I jumped on my bus back to All-Star Movies, ate breakfast, showered, packed and made my way to Disney's Hollywood Studios to have my photo taken with both inaugural Star Wars sets of medals. Honestly, I wanted picture with Chewie, but Kylo Ren was the one on deck. This was going to have to do as I had to rush off to the airport.
Bottom line: Did I love this race? No. Would I recommend it? No.
runDisney race support was fabulous, volunteers were fabulous, the medals and shirts we received were fabulous and, as a Disney fan, running the parks is always a magical experience for me. However, this race paled in comparison to the Disneyland Star Wars Half Marathon. There was no castle to run through (or near or by or across or behind) and ZERO entertainment on the course once we left Hollywood Studios. No music, no characters, not even a guy on stilts. Sure at Disneyland you may have less miles inside the parks, but you have bands, cheerleaders, 10 times as many cosplayers and a lot of locals, family and friends along the course to cheer you on. $200 is too much to pay for a half marathon which is primarily a crowded sidewalk, giant parking lot and boring highway run. I am grateful to have been able to run this race once, but once is enough for me. My race budget has to be practical and the courses I run have to provide enough space to run. I will stick to my Disneyland Star Wars Weekend of races for as long as my old body and these beat up knees will allow. I highly recommend those!
Again, the shirts and medals were fabulous!
There is a lot of unnecessary social media created debate and drama surrounding runDisney, but to me it's simple: if you like this - keep doing it. Chances are you're loaded (or the person paying for all your races is) so the registration price and cost of travel is not important to you.
My goal is to always provide a fair and honest review of every race I run. Someone reading my recap may be considering a race that could potentially cost them a lot of time and money. For that reason I say thumbs down to this race. If you're a repeat runDisney runner, save your dollars for a new local race experience or one in a new state on a new course. If you're a new runDisney runner, look to the Disneyland races for better options.