A Pledge to the Dark Side – Part 1

I’m excited to welcome Brian back (you may remember him from his Prince’s Perspective on Princess Weekend) to share all the detail of Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend – The Dark Side!  He’s a HUGE Star Wars fan and you can tell he had a blast pledging his allegiance to the Dark Side!

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A Pledge to the Dark Side

To quote Lord Vader, “Give yourself to the Dark Side”, that is exactly what this avid Star Wars fanboy did at the Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon. My excitement had been growing exponentially since the race was announced last summer, and leading up to the race my mind was about to explode with pure joy and nerd excitement.

Thursday Morning we woke up extra early, so we would be able to get to the expo before the average nerf herder showed up, we took an uber from Disney’s Art of Animation Resort to the ESPN Wide World of Sports (WWoS). It was a total charge of $4.90 to get over there early, we officially arrived at 8:10am, while Disney Expo Buses didn’t start to leave the resorts till 9:30.  Getting to the expo this early was key since we have seen the most of the really cool merchandise get swallowed up by ebay’ers.

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Walking up to the central courtyard of WWoS you could hear the clash of the light saber, the occasional Darth Vader breathing sound, so cool.  We knew this race was going to be fun right from the get go. Walking over to the Jostens Center (where the runDisney merchandise was located) we hit a rather usual line, usually we would be around 50 or so to get in, we weren’t even close to that number this time.

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Disney did something we had not seen yet at any of the many expos we attended, they unofficially opened the doors at 9:00am. This seemed to really help the flow of people coming and going vs the epic disaster which happened at the Princess expo this year with crowd control. The line moved along without a hitch getting into the Jostens Center, no line break downs at all, everyone seemed to be in a great mood as John Williams score greeted us as we marched forward. Right as we were turning into the building, two First Order Storm Troopers were exiting the Jostens, officially on patrol.

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Unlike the Princess expo about a month and some days prior, there was no running or pushing to get to the merchandise area. Once in the official merchandise staging area it was a completely different story, just as crazy as the princess.

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People grabbing, pulling, and would you believe even ripping down fixtures to get the specific items they were on a mission to get. Counted at least 18 people with arm baskets filled breaming with merchandise to go up on eBay later that morning. Lady carrying two baskets filled with all Tervis, probably 30 in each. Two guys grabbed half the rack of pins and started to trade for other things they needed, and were very rude about it. Honestly it’s PINS guys!

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My wife was smart to sit this one out, as much as its fun to be apart of it, its just unnecessary to have to deal with the chaos that ensued. There should be a limit to the number of single items purchased by an individual, this isn’t hard, they’ve done it previously for Star Wars Weekends. Most of the madness was going after the Dark Side jackets and anything Kessel Run Challenge.

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Once people grabbed various sizes to the items they were hunting, they headed to in front of the cash registers where they would try on and trade with other runners. On my way to the registers, I saw three individuals sitting down going through 9 arm baskets filled with shirts, making sure they had the various sizes they needed for their store. I am a big advocate against eBay people at the expo for one reason only, GREED.

Leaving the Jostens Center, we headed over to the HP Center, where you pick up your bibs for the various races you participate in that weekend. I really wish I had a picture for you, but the process was so stream line and proficient that it took my wife and I maybe all of 10 mins to get all our bibs. Before we knew it we were heading out.

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Leaving HP Center, we were treated to some really cool Star Wars silhouettes.

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Returning to the central expo courtyard, there was no madness or no crazy lines heading in 6 different directions like at the Princess expo. At this point it was only 9:45am and the resort buses hadn’t really arrived in full force yet.

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Having heard the announcement at Jostens we knew BB-8 was available for pictures once you had your bib. We headed that way, you had to show one race bib to gain access inside the tent featuring BB-8.

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Once inside the tent, Disney had two big televisions playing various clips of Star Wars moments featuring the darker points of the 7 films. What amazed many of us they actually played a scene from Force Awakens (Spoiler) that Kylo Ren kills Han Solo. With all the little ones, it was a little violent and unnecessary. The line took longer then usual, maybe 20 mins, but it was better than waiting in the upcoming days at the races.

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Leaving BB-8’s tent we were headed back to the Jostens to pick up Jenny’s race shirts, mine (Dark Side Challenge and 5k) were handed out at HP. The line moved quickly into the expo.

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Some of Dark Side/Light Side fares available at the expo. Yummy.

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Jenny got her race shirts (10k) at the Jostens and we were met with a huge line to get into the official merchandise staging area. Wow, we were just there maybe 40 mins earlier. What a difference.

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We enjoyed the rest of the expo while most stood in line at the runDisney merchandise area. Fit2Run and RawThreads always have great and consistent displays and we always enjoy spending some time looking at the latest and greatest stuff.

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For the first time, we actually got to attend one of Jeff Galloway’s running seminars. He is one of the best people you can meet and his method really works.

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Got a chance to spend sometime with a runDisney celeb: Mr. John Pelkey @jspelk. Great guy, great jokes, and fellow sweaty guy lol (the A/C wasn’t working too good in Jostens)

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The expo itself had a very familiar setup to all the other runDisney expos but felt a little water downed compared to January (Marathon Weekend) and February (Princess). Loved the little Star Wars references that were used throughout the complex, it truly felt like an Star Wars event.  One thing we didn’t notice till we were leaving was a small lightsaber setup towards the the exit stairs, so poorly placed, it should of been turned around so people could have seen it. Live and learn right 🙂

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Loved hearing Darth Sidious taking out a few Jedi Masters on our way out, really set the mood for the “Dark Side”

Expo Done.

Star Wars 5k (Dark Side)

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Friday Morning hit hard, we arrived at the bus stop at Art of Animation around 4:30am for the buses over to Epcot. Quite a few people were already in line, but it moved fast and efficient.

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Once we were dropped off at the race staging area, going through security was a breeze. We basically got to the general area as they announced everyone start heading to corrals. My wife Jenny is such a trooper, not the biggest SW fan, but she was so supportive and even dressed up in both races – GO Jenny.

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Corral A was quickly moved into position and with great fashion the runDisney announcers John, Carissa, and fan favorite Rudy lead the processions in Dark Side fashion.

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Some First Order troopers came up on stage to let us know, we (the runners) were apart of phase one trials, Captain Phasma was evaluating our skills and may be asked to continue into phase two the next day if we deemed worthy of the Storm Trooper ranks. (Nice touch). They did announce that all the Dark Side characters were going to be available at the end of the race.

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The race started in true runDisney fashion with Rudy’s “Runners,,,,,,,SET,,,,,,,,GOOOOO!”

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One of the many characters or stages along the course. Some reviews do such a great job logging specific locations on different mile markers,,,,, Once my corral goes off, I go into competition mode, and don’t really stop that much.

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Heading into Epcot (Didn’t take a picture of it, but to my dismay, the World Showcase was lit up in pink, the same color as the Princess weekend. No offense, but that is not a Dark Side color. The course felt exactly the same as the Princess, with a few different characters, one being Chewbacca. (I personally wasn’t going to wait inline 25+ mins for a character that you can get anytime at the Studios). I pressed onward towards the finish.

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The weather during the race was exceptionally warm with brutal humidity, talked with a few ironman runners in line for Captain Phasma, and they confirmed it was pretty bad out there that morning.

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Captain Phasma approved me for the second part of this trooper test. What a great character!

Stay tuned for Part 2 tomorrow where I take on the Dark Side Challenge!

To be continued….



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