Posts Tagged by Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

Inaugural Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

The Star Wars Half Marathon – The Dark Side is definitely on my bucket list of runDisney races for the future.  I think even the little one will enjoy dressing up like Darth Vader and running a Kids Race!  This year, I’m happy to welcome Susan here to give us a great recap of the Inaugural Half Marathon….take it away!

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As a huge Sci Fi fan, as well as a veteran Disney runner, I was thrilled when I heard about the Inaugural Star Wars Dark Side Weekend at Walt Disney World.  I couldn’t pass it up once I learned it fell on my birthday weekend. I signed up for the Dark Side Challenge, a 10K on Saturday and Half Marathon on Sunday.  Fortunately I trained through a relatively mild New England winter this year and as the date approached, I began to get more and more excited.

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I flew in to Orlando on Thursday, April 14th in the early afternoon and after quickly checking in to the WDW Dolphin Hotel, I hopped on the shuttle and headed to the Expo at the Wide World of Sports.  Star Wars Dark Side was an inaugural race, one that I hope to run many times in the future, and I knew that the Expo would be crowded with people buying commemorative items and Star Wars merchandise.

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Having run many Disney races in the past, I was familiar with the layout of the Expo.  I headed straight for the HP Field House to pick up my bib.  There was no line, I confirmed my info, they took my picture for the Dark Side Challenge medal and I picked up my race shirts. Next, I made my way to the main Expo hall in the Josten’s Center where the exhibitors set up and the majority of the runDisney merchandise is located. I made a quick pass through the items to see what was available and then grabbed a couple of shirts I couldn’t live without.  I purchased an “I Did It” t-shirt (I have one from every runDisney event), a Dark Side Challenge t-shirt with Darth Vader and a long-sleeved Dark Side running jacket.

Sunday morning would come very quickly.  I ran the 10K on Saturday first.  The 10K is not part of this write up, but the race was a blast and this picture with Chewbacca ended up being one of my favorite race pictures.

Me and Chewie

After the 10K, we took it easy with no park visits so that I could rest my legs.  We had an early dinner of roasted chicken and mashed potatoes and I went to bed to try and get some sleep for the 5:00am race start.  I laid out my clothes so nothing would be forgotten.  I’ve run quite a few half marathons and typically keep my clothing choices to wicking materials and proper runner’s clothes.  For this run, I dressed it up a little with some sparkle; a visor and skirt from Sparkle Athletic, with running shorts from Lululemon and a Darth Vader tank top.  Comfort is key, especially when running 13.1 miles!

Outfit Prep

For anyone that has run Disney races, the early start times are the worst thing about the races and 2:30am is a dreadful time to wake up.  The alarm went off, I showered, dressed and headed out the door by 3:00am, making sure I had all my running supplies; iPhone, headphones, room key, money and breakfast (a bagel with peanut butter and a banana, along with a bottle of water).  The hotel lobby was full of runners all dressed up in Star Wars t-shirts, hats and all out costumes!!   The line for the bus wasn’t too long and within 5 minutes one pulled up to take us to the start in the Epcot parking lot.  The sheer number of people who run these races never ceases to amaze me.  I believe the final number was more than 18,000 runners.

Staging Area

The staging area near the start is always exciting and any sleepiness from the early wake-up fades away with all the liveliness happening.  A DJ and an emcee do their best to pump up the crowd.  They played scenes from the Star Wars movies on the big screen; they had trivia contests with runners in the crowd and kept everyone informed of the time.  4:00am came and everyone began the long walk to the corrals.   Even though it was still pitch black outside, with not even a hint of sunrise yet, people were excited and the energy was palpable.

There were many corrals for the Half, A through L.  I started in corral C, as I had submitted a proof of time from a previous half marathon of 2:01:35.  Most Disney runners aren’t running for speed and I knew this would not be a personal best for me, as the heat and humidity would slow my pace, plus I wanted to stop for photos, since this was an inaugural race.

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The national anthem was sung, the fireworks blasted and the corral A runners were off! Within a few minutes, it was our turn.  I started at a nice easy pace, running with the crowds around me and feeding off the energy.  Shortly before mile 1, we were greeted by the sounds of a fantastic high school marching band playing Star Wars music.  What an amazing group of kids!  R2-D2 was up ahead, but the line was very long, so I kept running.  We then made the turn into Epcot and ran through World Showcase.  All of the countries were lit up and Spaceship Earth glowed across the lake.

Spaceship Earth

We then ran out of the back entrance of Epcot onto the boardwalk past the Yacht and Beach Club Resorts.  Chewbacca was in the same spot as the day before, but I already had a photo.  From there, we ran onto the sidewalk behind the Boardwalk hotel leading us to Hollywood Studios.  The 501st Legion greeted us as we entered HS.  They are truly an amazing group of dedicated, highly accurate, cos-player organization who turned out in droves with Stormtroopers, Sith Lords and many other Star Wars creatures.  They provided many photo opportunities for people who didn’t want to wait in the long Disney character lines.

Darth Vader Throne

The course continued through Hollywood Studios, to a stage where Kylo Ren was standing with Storm troopers and then a phot0 op in front of the Tower of Terror.

Tower of Terror Backdrop

Kylo Ren and Me

We exited HS and headed out for a long stretch of highway before entering Animal Kingdom.  There was plenty of crowd support and a DJ set up in the median, although I cranked up my iPhone music at this point and just ran.

A Wampa cave scene was set up in the AK parking lot, but I had a good running pace going at that point and didn’t stop.  We entered Animal Kingdom, ran past Discovery Island and a photo op in front of Expedition Everest. The sun was rising, so the mountain really stands out in the background.  There were many more of the 501st in AK and I high-fived as many as I could reach as I ran through the park.  And then it was back out to the road again for the long stretch to Wide World of Sports.

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We entered the WWOS complex from the back on a dirt road that leads to the baseball and soccer fields.  I loved the softer stretch of dirt as the pounding on the roads is tough on your legs.  As I reached mile 12, I was feeling tired but overall pretty good.   I came upon Jeff Galloway at this point in the race.  He was run/walking with his wife, Barbara.  I slowed down to say “Hi” and shook his hand.  I thanked him for all the help he has given runners over the years.  He was so gracious and nice, I almost felt bad about speeding up and leaving him behind!  This was definitely a highlight of my race.

The dirt road is only about a half mile and then the course is back onto a sidewalk between the sports complexes.  There were tons of people along the last mile of the race yelling encouragement and holding up signs.  I can’t say enough about spectator support in the final stretches of long races, they really are what gives runners the strength to finish strong!! (RAD Remark: I TOTALLY agree!!)

The end was in sight and I could see the finish line, those medals would soon be mine.  Although I didn’t have much left, I ran through the finisher’s chute and raised my arms in triumph, hot and tired, but thrilled.  Running back to back races at Disney, paired with the early morning wake-up calls, is pretty exhausting, but it’s all about the bling!!  When’s my next race??

Finish Line

Medals!

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Susan is a mother, a pediatric nurse practitioner, a Disney fan and a runner. She loves sharing her passion for running and a healthy lifestyle with others. Her favorite distances are 10Ks and Half Marathons, but this year she is going to tackle the big one!  She’s registered for the Chicago Marathon on October 9th. Let’s wish her luck!!
Follow Susan on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Inaugural Star Wars Dark Side 10K

I’m excited to welcome Krissy to RAD today to give us a recap of the Inaugural Star Wars Dark Side 10K! Krissy and I are kindred spirits…we are both new moms, we are HUGE Disney fans and we both have an obsession with cupcakes.  She’s a runDisney veteran and still loves every magical mile.  Let’s take a trip to the Dark Side with her!

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When runDisney announced a new race weekend to their Walt Disney World line-up, with the Dark Side Half Marathon Weekend, I knew I had to get involved! As a longtime Star Wars fan, runDisney junkie, and Florida resident, it really was a no-brainer…however, there was just one problem – I was six-months pregnant at the time, and was not sure how my post-partum recovery would go.

Still, I knew I wanted to be involved, so I did the sensible thing and registered for the inaugural 10K – a bit more challenging than the 5K, but not as intimidating as a half marathon – and here, seven months later, I am so glad that I took that chance!

For this race weekend, we were guests at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge (DAKL). As a larger race weekend, all Walt Disney World Resort hotels were hosts, and as usual, my experience was smooth and efficient. Although I planned to wake up around 3 AM to catch a 4 AM shuttle, my dear infant daughter had other plans, so I ended up out the door, and on the first bus around 3:15 AM.  Special bonus? I ran into Connie, a friend of mine, and so we sat together on the way over to the race start.

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Like many other WDW races, this starting area was staged in the Epcot parking lot, and once we arrived, we started the walk to the action! There was the standard stage/DJ/music, concession booth, portapotties, and several long lines (would it be Disney without some lines?), which turned out to be character greeting lines of various Star Wars characters, including: a Boba Fett, Jabba the Hutt, Captain Phasma, Darth Vader, and even a backdrop of Han Solo in carbonite.

The weather was pretty much perfect – cool, although a little humid – and, true to the race’s name – still very dark (in fact, the sun didn’t rise until I boarded my bus back to the resort post-race). This darkness made the slow slog of the masses to corrals feel a bit more ominous at 4:45 AM!

For this race, I was seeded in Corral A, and I noticed that the corrals felt a bit more crowded than I had anticipated. Since I had been able to get back to training sooner than I had planned, but was certainly not as speedy as I may have been in the past, I set up camp around 2/3 of the way from the front of the corral, and waited out the start.

Before I knew it (really: I think the Star Wars clips really helped the wait!), the wheelchairs were off, and then, Corral A! We were off for 6.2 miles of intergalactic awesomeness!

10Kcourse

Now, going into this race, I had not yet decided if I was going to straight run, or stop for characters that morning. However, that call was quickly made right before Mile 1 approached, as R2D2 appeared as the first stop of the run, right outside of the cast entrance to Epcot! The line was about 15 runners long, but it moved quickly – probably took 3-4 minutes, tops.

From there, the race moved through the front of Epcot’s World Showcase – through the Mexico gate, past the Showcase Plaza area, Canada, the United Kingdom, then out through the International Gateway, where I definitely had to stop again to meet Chewie!

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The next part of the race took the Boardwalk Path past the resort, then onto the path leading to Hollywood Studios. The path was a bit narrow, and unfortunately, I encountered a few runners who were not heeding to the “no more than two runners abreast” bit of runners etiquette.

Once we reached the gates of Disney’s Hollywood Studios (DHS), I was excited to “run into” Darth Vader! It was somewhat of an unofficial run stop (no Photopass photographer) but it was cool, nevertheless!

Running through DHS was pretty fun! I always enjoy running past iconic landmarks, and truth be told, I had not stepped foot in that park in years, so it was especially cool…there’s just something magical about running through an (almost) empty park! Another favorite moment in DHS? I got to take a “screaming” photo in front of the Hollywood Tower of Terror, right before hitting the 5K mark!

In no time, we were back onto the streets, and we were on our way to the Wide World of Sports. Although this may have typically been a less interesting part of the course, I actually liked the winding uphill overpass, and the straightaway – it kept my mind occupied!

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Turning into the last portion of the “road” portion at Mile 5, there was a big screen that showed forest scenes, a cool transition into the “cross country” portion of the race that I had last run during the late Happy Haunted 5K and Tower of Terror 10-Mile races. The softer terrain was comfy under my feet, and I enjoyed that stretch before making my way into the concrete jungle of ESPN’s Wide World of Sports (ESPN WWoS).

Running past the soccer fields (which were brightly lit – a sight for sore eyes after the previous dark miles!) and I was happy to see my friend Rick. I picked it up a little and caught up with him, which was a great treat after 5+ solo miles!

As we rounded the last turn out toward the parking area, we could see the finish line straight away, and I felt like we were floating! I looked up at the official clock, and was delighted to see we’d be crossing the finish right around 1:20 – not too shabby for character stops, and walking through each water station!

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Making our way through the finisher’s chute, it began to sprinkle – talk about great timing! I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face from the fun race – and I was thoroughly impressed with the finisher’s medal.

After bidding Rick goodbye (and “see you later!” since we were going to meet at the Magic Kingdom later) I was able to board my bus back to my resort without any fuss, and due to the vicinity of ESPN WWoS to DAKL being quite close!

I was very satisfied with my overall race experience with the Inaugural Star Wars Dark Side 10K, and have to say – I was extremely grateful that it was the only race I was registered for that weekend – there is something to be said about taking each race for what its worth and not going overboard with a race challenge once in a while 😉

So, will I be back for another Star Wars race? I have to say – I’ll likely give in to the Dark Side once again – after all – they have bling!

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Krissy is a 14-time marathoner, RRCA-certified Running Coach, Disney Vacation Club Member, and mommy to one sweet girl and two rambunctious pups. She has been participating in runDisney events since 2008.
Visit Krissy at Shiawase Life and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest!

A Look at the Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend – The Dark Side Medals

The highly anticipated Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend – The Dark Side is only a few short weeks away and runDisney has released a look at the amazing medals.  I think these might be the coolest ones yet!

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Let’s look at the detail…

Star Wars Half Marathon – The Dark Side

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Super cool spinner featuring Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine.

Star Wars 10K

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Dark Side Challenge

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Received for completing the 10K & Half Marathon.

Kessel Run Challenge

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Received for those who completed this race and the Star Wars Half Marathon – The Light Side in Disneyland back in January.

Star Wars 5K

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Star Wars Kids Races

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Dare I say that I am siding with The Empire and prefer these medals to the The Light Side Weekend??  And can you believe the GIANT Millennium Falcon you will receive for the Kessel Run Challenge?!  That is definitely a goal of mine for the future…how about you?

Which medals do you prefer, The Dark Side or The Light Side??

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Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend Announced for Walt Disney World!

For those of us on the East Coast, our wishes have been answered!!  Today runDisney has announced that a second Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend will be coming to Walt Disney World on April 14-17, 2016!

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This weekend is called “The Dark Side” and will feature all of the dark forces in the galaxy.  Along with the Half Marathon, there will be a 5K, 10K and Kids Races.  There will also be a challenge called the Dark Side Challenge, the counter to the Rebel Challenge in Disneyland, for those taking on the 10K and Half Marathon.  This will feature a special Death Star medal…say wha?!?!?

Better yet for those taking on the Kessel Run Challenge, running the Star Wars “Coast to Coast” in one year, will receive a Millennium Falcon inspired medal…O.M.G!!!  This is a huge incentive for those already registered for the Star Wars Half in Disneyland to add another race to their schedule.  I simply can’t wait to see these medals!

The race weekend will go on sale September 22nd, with possible DVC and Passholder advanced registration a week or 2 earlier.  Stay tuned for updates.

Here is the official press release:

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL (Aug. 25, 2015) – runDisney is summoning the Force today to announce another Star Wars-inspired intergalactic journey, this time to the dark side.

The “Star Wars Half Marathon – the Dark Side” enters the galaxy April 14-17, 2016, at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida and pays homage to the dark side forces of the Star Wars universe. This new race follows the debut of the popular Star Wars-themed race at Disneyland Resort, which will return in January as the “Star Wars Half Marathon – the Light Side”.

“Ever since we launched the Star Wars race at Disneyland Resort, runners have been clamoring for more, so we’re thrilled to bring the Star Wars franchise together with the runDisney brand to Walt Disney World Resort,’’ said Maribeth Bisienere, senior vice president of Disney Sports Enterprises. “If the inaugural Star Wars race at Disneyland Resort is any indication, this new running adventure to the dark side is sure to be the out-of-this-world experience that runners have come to expect at runDisney events.’’

The new Star Wars race at Walt Disney World Resort will be a journey of personal achievement all its own, involving kids’ races, a 5K and a 10K in addition to the half marathon, plus a variety of Star Wars experiences, medals, events and merchandise inspired by a galaxy far, far away. Among its many features will be a unique 13.1-mile course that propels runners through Epcot, Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios and finishes at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. There will also be a Star Wars Dark Side Challenge — running the 10K and the half marathon on consecutive days – that offers each finisher a Death Star-themed medal.

Jedi and Sith Lords who dare to experience both Star Wars races will have the chance to take on the Kessel Run Challenge — completing the Star Wars half marathon missions on both coasts. Kessel Run Challenge runners can earn a commemorative “Coast to Coast” medal inspired by the Millennium Falcon starship. Race registration opens Sept. 22 at www.runDisney.com.

The addition of this second Star Wars race continues the recent wave of significant growth and popularity of runDisney events domestically and internationally. This is the second new runDisney race announced for 2016, joining the Disneyland Paris Half Marathon Weekend (Sept. 23-25 at Disneyland Paris), and the fourth addition to the runDisney series in the last two years (Star Wars Half Marathon at Disneyland Jan. 2015 and Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon Weekend Nov. 2014).

Each year more than 200,000 runners sign up for runDisney events, which often sell out in record time.

“We are committed to creating extraordinary experiences and events that appeal to runners of all ages and attract even more fans of our various brands and franchises to the sport of running, creating opportunities for them to live a healthier and more active lifestyle,’’ said Bisienere.

Will you be going to the Dark Side next year?  Are you as excited as I am?!

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The Inaugural Star Wars 10K

When Kate first contacted me about covering the Star Wars Half Marathon weekend and told me that she had a cat named after a Star Wars character, I knew she was perfect for the job!  She took on the Inaugural Rebel Challenge and took on half of the challenge with her 10 year old son…how fun!  I love when parents make runDisney events a family affair.  Here is their journey to a galaxy far, far away.

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I’m a Disney race veteran – starting with the Inaugural Tower of Terror 13K, the 2010 WDW Half (Disney’s Marathon on Ice!), and 2012 Princess and Disneyland for my Coast to Coast. My older son, Russell, started running 5Ks with me a few years ago, so he was a bit disappointed with his Disneyland Kids Race. (“Mom. It’s a quarter mile. That’s only one lap around the track!”)

So when the Star Wars race weekend was announced, I gave him the option of the 5K or 10K. Child: “Which one has a real medal?” We signed up for the 10K. All about the bling, at only ten. I’ve created a monster. (Says the mom registered for the Rebel Challenge for the extra bling!)

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The costume decision was pretty easy – I ordered R2D2 and C3PO shirts off Amazon and had Lori (my Disney race companion) grab the mouse ears in WDW – although there were plenty at the Expo. Unfortunately, the Artoo shirt only came in men’s sizes, so it was a bit big on Russell, and mine came with sleeves, which I hate and therefore cut off.

I made the rainbow sparkle skirt (Sparkle Skirt DIY Info) for a previous race, and we couldn’t convince the boy to wear Lori’s blue sparkle skirt. Because he is no fun.

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The boy was a bit grouchy about getting up at 3:30 am, but he gamely made faces at the cameras.

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We watched some of the preshow, did our force push to save the hosts from Darth Vader, and headed to the corrals.

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Star Wars font makes everything seem awesome, even the fact that there’s a million people between you and the start line! We all started in D with Russell, the lowest ‘seed’ of our trio.

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See, a million people. Though they didn’t have the fireworks of a WDW race, the start line was still full of energy and bright lights.

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Russell got a somewhat shocked shout-out from Rudy as we crossed the start line – yay for being one of the youngest runners!

Knowing there was only one corral behind us, we expected a lot of walkers, but we figured we could dodge them and get moving. That never really happened – there was such a mass of people that it was impossible to weave through. But pretty much everyone was dressed as a Star Wars character, so you can’t get mad at a guy on a tauntaun.

The beginning of the race was on roads leading along the edge of the parking lots and parks, but we were back in the parks in under two miles, and either in park or backstage for the rest of the race.

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Seriously. Park your cars elsewhere.

Which is awesome – both for regular runners and young runners. Russell was thrilled by seeing parts of the Matterhorn in refurb and all the other random backstage things. I was in the College Program at WDW, so backstage isn’t really new to me, but it made me smile to see him see these things for the first time.

Disney kept things interesting by having Darth Vader’s voice echoing through the one tunnel (and the one mean little hill out of it!) and various Star Wars stuff projected on the buildings. And of course, Star Wars music everywhere.

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That’s no moon. Wait, one is. But not the other one. Man, it must still be pretty early if we think this is hilarious.

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There were several character stops, but the lines were very long, and we kept saying, “Well, if it’s a good character, we’ll wait. Maybe the next one. Surely Han will be out here. Yoda, maybe? Okay….I don’t even know who those people are!” (Because Lori doesn’t have a ten year old boy and doesn’t watch Star Wars Rebels.)

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Around mile three, we started Lori’s run/walk doohickey on a 3/3 ratio to keep the boy moving forward with minimal whining, most of which was due to the excessive Star Wars quoting. “This Artoo unit has a bad motivator!” “Do or do not, there is no try.” And of course, since Lori was dressed as Chewbacca, “let the Wookie win.” (We didn’t. Sorry, Lori!)

The finish was the same as ’12 Disneyland, around a backstage area and in between Downtown Disney and DL Hotel. Up till now, I had been impressed by the etiquette of the other runners – even though we were packed in tight, there wasn’t a lot of pushing or bumping. Up until a woman stopped a few feet from the finish line to take a picture…RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME. I nearly plowed into her, and ended up almost taking out Lori and Russell as I dodged her. Sigh.

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But we finished with smiles on our faces, collected our “real” medals, food and water, and headed to the Info Tent to pick up the younger child’s Kids Race bib. One down, two to go!

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Kate Starcher is a quilt designer, blogger, Half Fanatic, former Disney cast member, and so much of a Star Wars nerd that she has a cat named Tycho Celchu. See her quilt hidden Mickeys on t-shirt quilts at katiemaequilts.com.

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