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Race Report: Disney Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon 2017

The second annual Star Wars Dark Side race weekend concluded with the half marathon on Sunday. This year I had also run the 10K on Saturday which meant I was in for the Dark Side Challenge and would be getting an additional medal once this race was over.

For this race I kept my kit simple by wearing last year's Dark Side Half Marathon shirt paired with a SparkleSkirt (SolarFlare).

The course for this race was different than last year. As in the 10K, runners would start in the Magic Kingdom parking lot and finish through Epcot.

Goals
Same as yesterday: have a good time, and don't get hurt.

Race Day: April 23, 2017
I left home around 3AM and got the car parked at Epcot. Bus transportation to the starting area went pretty smoothly. For the first time at a runDisney event I used the gEAR bag service, which took a bit longer than I would have liked. After dropping off my bag I had little time to use a portapotty before heading to my corral (D for the half).

It was 72° with 83% humidity when I started running at 5:41AM (5:30AM for the elites). It was overcast and fortunately remained so for the entire morning. Here's a start photo from runDisney:

Mile 1, 2, 3: 11:31, 12:34, 12:43


We left the Magic Kingdom parking lot heading out on Floridian Way. We passed a marching band playing Star Wars music. Marching bands at races are the best. I passed a long line for R2D2 before hitting the Mile 1 marker about halfway down Floridian Way. The next photo op was the pair of Speeder Bikes.

Next we turned onto Bear Island Road, which was very dark. Soon we passed through a very cool display of music, sound effects, and lasers approximating the Battle of Endor. Before we finished Mile 3 there was another (related) photo op: the Ewoks once more. (In Return of the Jedi, Luke & Leia use Speeder Bikes during the Battle of Endor which is the planet of the Ewoks. See what they did there?)

Mile 4, 5, 6: 16:04, 13:02, 18:04

We continued on Bear Island Road, past Disney greenhouses, towards Animal Kingdom. Along the way there was a photo op for which I stopped: the trash compactor from A New Hope. This was a fun stop but I felt really rushed going through. I guess the castmembers and PhotoPass photographers did a good job of moving everyone along because this stop didn't take too long.

We entered Animal Kingdom around Mile 4.5 where we were greeted by some Stormtroopers.

I always like running through Animal Kingdom. Dinoland is a particularly festive part of the park.

We left the park around the marker for Mile 5 where some characters from the 501st were posing for photos. I snapped some pictures on the run but I didn't stop for any here.

In the Animal Kingdom parking lot was the one photo op I'd really regretted not stopping for last year: upside-down on Hoth with a wampa. When I arrived the line wasn't bad at all. I remembered to hold my skirt so it wouldn't fall over (LOL) when I posed for the shot. We finished up Mile 6 in the Animal Kingdom parking lot, where there were some spectators with fun signs.

Mile 7, 8, 9: 18:17, 13:19, 14:03

These were fairly uneventful highway miles taking us along Osceola Parkway onto World Drive. The Emperor's Chair was available for photos again. This time I noticed a poor castmember wiping runner sweat off of the seat between each photo. What a job.

Sabine & Ezra were available for photos once more, this time located somewhere along the course in Mile 9.

Mile 10, 11, 12: 14:14, 18:05, 16:11

Mile 10 took us onto Buena Vista Drive via an overpass.

Darth Maul was stationed just outside our entrance to Hollywood Studios, around the marker for Mile 10. When we got into the park I dashed into a restroom to splash my face with cold water and try to dry off my hair a bit. I'd take the last miles easy so I hopefully wouldn't be too sweaty for the upcoming photo ops. Inside the park more Stormtroopers were on patrol.

Oh, a PhotoPass tent! Better pretend to run!

Next we ran out onto the Boardwalk area on our way to the finish at Epcot. All along boardwalk there were spectators cheering with signs and even some candy treats! I took a Twizzler and it even got caught by the PhotoPass photographer! And I took a selfie. Members of the 501st were also there to cheer us on and give out high fives.

On the way into Epcot Chewbacca was once more set up for photos.

We ran around World Showcase. Most of the lands were abandoned because the park wasn't yet open.

Mile 13+: 17:39, 12:45 Leaving Epcot runners were once again treated by the presence of 501st members. More photos, more high fives, and a sprint to the finish put another half marathon in the books!

After picking up my Half Marathon and Dark Side Challenge medals, I went to bag check to get my gEAR bag with my 5K and 10K medals. Then I waited in line for photos with Captain Phasma and Darth Vader.

Recommendation
It's Disney, and it's Star Wars. You'll probably either love it or hate it. Go with your instincts. I'm a fan of both worlds so I love it. I was pleased with the amount of new stuff on the course this year, not to mention the new course route itself. Good stuff.

Chip time: 3:28:24
Placement details:
689th out of 939 in Age Group; 13215 overall out of 16302 finishers
Race Amenities:
All the runDisney funtimes, nice medals, tech shirts, etc etc
Cost: $341.78 (the cost for the Dark Side Challenge which includes the 10K and the Half Marathon)

Report written May 3, 2017

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