Posts Tagged by Disneyland

A Look at the Kessel Run Challenge

When I first heard about the Kessel Run Challenge, I immediately added it to my bucket list of races to complete.  Not only because I love Star Wars, but because the medal is AMAZING!  Zach just completed the Inaugural Kessel Run Challenge and is here to share some of the high and lows of both races.  Let’s go for a run!

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Kessel Run Challenge

Star Wars was my first love.  I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know the movies – I immediately fell for the feel, look and spirit of the films.  They stuck with me through countless novels, comic books, video games, prequel movies, an animated series, and the exciting announcement – in October, 2012 – that Lucasfilm had been acquired by the Walt Disney Company.

That month I was training for my first marathon and first runDisney event: the 20th Anniversary Walt Disney World Marathon.  I daydream when I run, and it was hard not to get lost in a galaxy of imagination: What would the new movies be like?  Was Disney planning an expanded Star Wars presence in the parks?  How would it feel to run a Star Wars themed race?

That last question was answered in just a little over two years!

I completed the first two Star Wars Half-Marathons in Disneyland, but I didn’t plan to participate in the inaugural Star Wars Dark Side races at Walt Disney World – I’ll tell you why before I wrap up.  However, when runDisney unexpectedly reopened registration in mid-February 2016, I couldn’t help but sign up for the Half Marathon and see if I could earn the incredibly cool Kessel Run Challenge medal.

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What runDisney has given us are two fun, wonderfully-themed races on fast courses with great entertainment along the way.  Each has high points and low points, and I thought it would be helpful to discuss those for the uninitiated in three areas: Course, Entertainment, and Medals.

COURSES

I dare anyone to not love the first five miles of the Star Wars Half Marathon in Anaheim.  That portion of the course is almost exclusively through Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure, or through backstage areas.  No one has ever written a review of a west coast runDisney course without using the words “once you leave the parks, however…”  This course is no different.  Around mile 7 it turns through a residential neighborhood as bathrobe’d (NOT Jedi robe’d) residents stumble out to the curb for their morning papers.  From there, it gets weirder.

At one point during the race I noticed a man in a wheelchair struggling to get up a ramp to the door of an adult bookstore.  I instinctively veered onto the sidewalk to help him, but thought again when I realized that – considering I was dressed as Luke Skywalker – it would have been one of the strangest things happening on the planet at that moment.  The entertainment makes up for the oddness of the course, and I’ll get into that in the next section.

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When I signed up for the Dark Side half on the East Coast, the course was not yet public.  A little detective work on the runDisney site revealed a start at Epcot and a finish at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex.  My quick conclusion was that we were getting a reverse Wine & Dine course, and the eventual map release essentially confirmed that, with a few notable exceptions!  Most importantly – and maybe the highlight of the race – is mile 2 through World Showcase in Epcot.  It’s dark.  The torches are lit.  Other than the music and sound effects it is eerily quiet other than the sound of shoes.

After Epcot was the part of the race that had my crowd concern antenna up – the narrow path between the Boardwalk and the ‘Studios.  I had heard this was wingtip to wingtip during the 10K, but I thankfully had no problem keeping my pace up into what’s currently left of Hollywood Studios.  Animal Kingdom is always a joy to run through in the dark, and then the final surprise of the course was a dirt path into ESPN WWOS off Osceola Parkway that I didn’t know existed!

Both courses are flat, fast and offer solid opportunities to run through Disney Parks.  What excites me is that they’ll only get better when runDisney can route us through finished, immersive Star Wars lands at each resort in just a few years!

ENTERTAINMENT

Again, the early portion of the Star Wars Light Side Half Marathon really shines.  Star Wars music comes from everywhere, and characters are projected stories tall on buildings.  The course runs through a tunnel underneath the Disneyland Railroad that has been lit lightsaber red and filled with the ominous sound of Darth Vader’s mechanical breathing.

In California Adventure, World of Color lights up Paradise Pier.  Several character stops mark the way, the most popular of which this past year was easily BB-8 in DCA.  I stopped during the 5K, 10K and the half, and never faced longer then a 5-10 minute wait.

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Other stops include giant set pieces that allow runners to become part of iconic Star Wars scenes, like the Death Start trash compactor in Episode IV and the Wampa’s ice cave in Episode V.

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As I said earlier, the course gets a little weird once it leaves the confines of the parks, but the on-course entertainment keeps the energy going.  Several high school marching bands provide music and enthusiasm along the way, especially if you wave a lightsaber at them – I honestly don’t know where these kids get their energy that early in the morning!  Huge contingents from the 501st Legion, the Rebel Legion, and the Mandalorian Mercs (fan costuming organizations, for those not in-the-know) hold down the course around mile 9, as well as several motorists with vehicles tricked out in a Star Wars theme.  I wish there had been more on-course entertainment thereafter on the trip back to the resort, but the promise of a celebratory drink at Trader Sam’s is really all the motivation I need to reach the finish line.

I experienced my favorite mile ever in a runDisney event during the Star Wars Dark Side Half, and it was mile two through World Showcase at Epcot.  There were no character stops, but Disney used light, music and sound to create an unforgettably atmospheric environment.  By the time I reached the China pavilion, I had turned off the music playing through my phone, and was scrambling to make a recording of the ambiance so I’d remember what it felt like: perfect (click here for the recording).

Thereafter, I was really surprised by the low number of character stations.  I may not be counting accurately, but I remember Chewbacca outside the International Gate at Epcot, Ezra and Sabine from “Rebels” on the way into Animal Kingdom, a second Wookie on the way out of Animal Kingdom, and a few stormtroopers sprinkled around.  Instead, many of the most sought-after photo ops were at the start or finish line, including Darth Vader, Captain Phasma and Jabba.  That’s very cool for spectators and runners who like to soak up the post-race finish line atmosphere, but there were certainly a few places along the course where a photo op could have broken up a long stretch without a distraction – I’m looking at you, Mile 8 Through The Animal Kingdom Parking Lot.  On the less Dark Side, I loved the big screens along Osceola showing various lightsaber duels from the films – very cool!

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MEDALS

The west coast finisher’s medal is based on the Rebel Alliance’s Medal of Bravery, which is awarded the Luke Skywalker and Han Solo at the end of the original Star Wars movie – that earns it a ton of fan credibility.  The east coast finisher’s medal features a very cool spinner with Darth Vader on one side and the Emperor (with a semi-hidden Star Destroyer) on the other.  Extra points for making the spindle the blade of Vader’s red lightsaber!

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The Millennium Falcon-shaped Kessel Run medal is unbelievable.  It is as big as my hand, but thin enough that it isn’t too heavy.  In a close race with the 20th Anniversary Walt Disney World Marathon medal, it may be the favorite in my runDisney collection!

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BOTTOM LINE

You can’t go wrong running either of these races, and you certainly can’t go wrong running both of them!  If you’re at all into Star Wars (and who isn’t these days?) there’s a lot of see and get excited about, and as runDisney races they maximize time in the parks and send you back to the showers with a lot of wonderful memories.

And I mentioned earlier that I didn’t originally plan to run the Dark Side Half.  That’s because my wife and I expected a new baby daughter to arrive exactly a month before the day of the race.  I didn’t think I’d be up for too many Father-of-the-Year awards if I skipped the state that soon, but my wife was enthusiastically supportive, and I managed the whole trip from Philadelphia to Orlando and back in just about 38 hours.  I want to give an embarrassingly public thanks to Leslie (and Charlie and very new Hadley) for her constant support of my crazy running nonsense!

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Congrats Zach & Leslie!!

Preview of the 2016 Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend Merchandise

It’s hard to believe that Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend starts TODAY after all of the craziness surrounding Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend only a few days ago.  But it is here and runDisney has released a preview of some of the gear you will find at the Expo to prove it!  Right off the bat, I’m in love with the retro design on everything…super cool!  Let’s take a look:

Star Wars Half Marathon Gear

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Star Wars 5K, 10K & Rebel Challenge Gear

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Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend Gear

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I would like ALL of the drinkware please.  They really did a knock out job with these designs!

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon Dooney & Bourke Bags

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I have to say I’m not in love with the white background for these bags.  I’m still kicking myself that I didn’t get one of the 2015 bags, but you live and learn.  My only hope is that they will come out with a darker design for the Dark Side Weekend in May.  Fingers crossed.

Remember, if you are headed to the Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend Health & Fitness Expo, make sure to arrive early if you have your heart set on a particular item.  Interested in snagging a pair of the new 2016 New Balance runDisney shoes, including the Ariel Vazee Pace?  Don’t forget to sign up for the Virtual Queue in order to get your pair.

Well I’m certainly jealous of everyone running this weekend and getting this gear!  The Expo opens today at the Disneyland Hotel at 10:00 am PST and will be open through Saturday to pick up this merch, visit with numerous other vendors and hear the great runDisney Speaker Series.

What are you looking forward to getting?

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Oh Boy! New Balance Releases runDisney Donald Duck Shoe Design

Following the release of the Tinker Bell Boracay over Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend this May, New Balance has revealed a new design for the guys that will be available at Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend beginning on September 3rd.  This new design features the one and only Donald Duck in a bright blue and orange design.

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This new design features the neutral cushioning of the New Balance Fresh Foam Boracays to add some extra cushioning while logging your miles. Elements of Donald are hidden throughout the shoe, including a black tab on the heel that mimics the signature ribbon on Donald’s hat…LOVE that!  Check out some more of the fun details.

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These shoes will be available beginning on Thursday, September 3rd at the Disneyland Half Marathon Expo at the Disneyland Hotel.  To minimize waiting in line for shoes, sign up for the virtual queue at NBvirtualqueue.com using your bib number starting Thursday, September 3rd, at 6:00 am PST.  Once you sign up, you will be sent a time via text/email to arrive at the Expo to get your shoes.  They same process will take place Friday and Saturday mornings, September 4th & 5th at 6:00 am PST for all non-runners.  Set your alarms!!  

These shoes and the Tinker Bell Bouracay will also be available in kids sizes, along with some of the other designs in the runDisney New Balance collection.  There’s something for everyone!

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What do you think of this new Donald Duck design?  Will you be picking up a pair next week?

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2015 Disneyland Half Marathon Medals Revealed!

Today runDisney revealed the all new medal designs for this year’s Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend! With this being both the 10th anniversary of the race weekend and the 60th anniversary of the Disneyland Resort, it’s not surprising that all of the medals have seen a revamp.

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Let’s take a closer look at all of the new medals!

Disneyland 5K Medal

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Disneyland 10K Medal

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Disneyland Half Marathon Medal

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Dumbo Double Dare Medal

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The Kids Medal looks like it features a fun vignette from Sleeping Beauty, which might give a hint to the theme of the races.  Overall, I’m happy when I see new medal designs and that runDisney is keeping things fresh, however these are not my favorites of all the race weekends.  The 10K and Half Marathon look small in these photos and frankly underwhelming.  I am a BIG fan of the medal design from the past few years and I just feel like this doesn’t live up to that.  You know…this one…

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What do you think of the new Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend Medals?  Which one are you most excited about receiving?

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2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend Info

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Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend in Disneyland takes flight tomorrow!  This women-centered race weekend is taking place over Mother’s Day Weekend this year and is going to be full of fairy mischief and fun.

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This race weekend is jam packed with events, so let’s get to the details!  (I apologize in advance for a few of the images and diagrams from runDisney that are not very clear.)

Health & Fitness Expo

Your weekend will begin with a trip to the Health & Fitness Expo at the Disneyland Hotel and the hours are as follows:

  • Thursday, May 7th: 10:00 am – 8:00 pm
  • Friday, May 8th: 10:00 am – 8:00 pm
  • Saturday, May 9th: 9:00 am – 4:00 pm

All race participants MUST attend the expo to turn in signed waivers (click here to print your waiver) and pick up race packets, which include your race bib with B-Tag timing devices, race shirt(s), and gEAR bag. The gEAR bag also doubles as the bag to use for bag check during the race.  This is also where you will receive any commemorative items you may have purchased during registration, like Dooney & Bourke bags.  Have you seen the new Tink designs for 2015??

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When you arrive at the expo, your first stop will be the Lower Exhibit Hall for Packet Pick Up.  Remember that you can no longer have someone pick up your packet for you.  Everyone MUST turn in a waiver, show ID and pick up their own packet.

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You will then proceed to the Upper Exhibit Hall to pick up your race shirt(s) and gEAR bag, visit with vendors, listen to the speaker series, and spend all your money on runDisney merchandise.  If you haven’t heard, Margaret Kelly, the woman behind the pixie dust of Tinker Bell, will be presenting during the speaker series.  That is not to be missed!

 

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If you are hoping to get a pair of the exclusive shoes from the New Balance runDisney collection, including the new Tinker Bell Fresh Foam Boracay, make sure to sign up the morning of the Expo at NBvirtualqueue.com.

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Resort Transportation

If you are staying at one of the Disneyland Resorts, you will simply be able to walk to the both the Expo and the Starting Line for each race.

If you are staying at a Good Neighbor hotel, there will be complimentary Anaheim Transportation Network (ART) shuttles for the entire weekend for runners and spectators.  This doesn’t just include during race time…it is COMPLIMENTARY ALL WEEKEND, May 7-10.  Make sure to get a pass from one of the drivers…this is a BIG bonus and will save you a lot of time and money!  The shuttles make stops around every 20 minutes, so plan your trip accordingly.  The schedule will be extended to the following times:

  • Thursday, May 7th: 8:20 am – 9:30 pm 
  • Friday, May 8th: 3:00 am – 12:30 am
  • Saturday, May 9th: 3:30 am – 12:30 am
  • Sunday, May 10th: 3:30 am – 12:30 am

Here is a map of the Good Neighbor Hotel locations:

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Driving Directions

Parking will be available in the Mickey & Friends Parking Structure located on Disneyland Drive and Ball Road for all weekend events.  Standard parking rates will apply and there are no discounts for runners. Roads will be closing beginning at 5:00 am on race days and there will be numerous detours that will be set up.  Make sure to leave enough time for traffic delays!

Costumes

Wings, wings and more wings!  Get ready for the fairies to descend upon Disneyland.  I love to see all the fun costumes so make sure to share yours.  Please note that runners are NOT allowed to wear a face mask of any kind and will be removed from the course if this is violated.  So who are you dressing up as??

Bag Check

Participants must use the clear bag provided at the expo to check any belongings during the race and affix the label with their bib number on the outside.  The bag check tents are located in the Family Reunion Area in the Simba parking lot.  All bags must be checked by 5:15 am prior to the 10K and half marathon before heading to your corrals.  Bags can be picked up at the same location following the race.  Your bib number is your “claim ticket.”

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For the 5K, bag check will be in the picnic area outside of the entrance to Disneyland Park.  All bags must be checked by 4:45 am prior to the race.

Start Corrals

The start corrals for the 10K and half marathon are located on Disneyland Drive adjacent to the Simba lot and near Paradise Pier Hotel.  For each race, your corral will be listed on your race bib and you will only be granted access to that corral or the one behind you.  You can find your corral placement by printing you waiver and finding the corresponding corral for your bib number.  Corral placement for the 5K & 10K will be available at packet pick-up.

Tinker Bell 10K

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Tinker Bell Half Marathon & Pixie Dust Challenge

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Starting Times

The Never Land 5K will begin at 5:00 and the Tinker Bell 10K and Half Marathon will begin at 5:30 am.  The wheelchair start for the half marathon will be at 5:29 am on Sunday, May 10th.  Runners are encouraged to arrive to the staging area no later than one hour prior to the race start time and be in your assigned corrals no later than 30 minutes prior.

Race Bibs

Bibs must be centered on the front of your shirt.  Safety pins will be provided in your race packet at the expo.  Do not bend or fold your bib as the Chrono Track B-tag will be affixed to the back of the bib which will be used to track your time.  If your bib is not properly centered, damaged or covered, your time may not be recorded properly, or more importantly you won’t get any photos!

If you are competing in the Pixie Dust Challenge, you will have one race bib for both the 10K and the Half Marathon, so make sure to take good care of it!

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Pacing Requirements

Remember that you must keep a minimum pace of 16-minutes per mile throughout the race or you will run the risk of being picked up and brought to the finish line. Pace cyclists and the dreaded balloon ladies will be on the course to let you know if you have fallen behind.  Keep this in mind if you are planning to stop for character photos.  Those lines can get long and it’s easy to lose track of time.

Pixie Dust Challenge Participants

If you are participating in this challenge, you will receive a wristband after finishing the Tinker Bell 10K on Saturday at the Pixie Dust Challenge tent.  This must be worn while running the Tinker Bell Half Marathon.  After completing the Tinker Bell Half Marathon on Sunday, you will need to present this wristband at the same tent to receive your medal.

Coast to Coast Challenge Participants

If you are participating in this challenge, you will receive a wristband when you pick up your bib at the Health & Fitness Expo.  A runDisney official will put this on for you and it can not be taken off until you complete the Tinker Bell Half Marathon.  After completing the race, you will need to present this wristband at the Coast to Coast tent to receive your medal.

If you ran the Princess Half Marathon in February at Walt Disney World, you will receive the special PINK Coast to Coast medal!

Coast to Coast Medals

Course Maps

From what I hear since I’ve never participated in this race weekend, these are the best courses of all the races held in Disneyland.  What do you think?

Never Land 5K

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Tinker Bell 10K

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Tinker Bell Half Marathon

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More information on other events like the Kids Races and the Pasta in the Park Party is available on the runDisney website and in the Official Event Guide for the weekend.  Also, check out some of my packing tips as you get ready to travel.

Finally, if you will be out in Disneyland, I am still looking for some contributors to cover the events of the weekend.  Race recaps, spectator stories, Expo coverage, other weekend events, you name it…I want to hear about it!  Email me at sarah@runningatdisney.com if you are interested.  Also, please tag me in your photos from the weekend on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram…I will share them all weekend.

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