Posts Tagged by star wars half marathon

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!!

Being a Spectator at a runDisney Race – Star Wars Edition

I probably sound like a broken record by now, but I’ll say it again…Spectators are the BEST!!  There have been so many races that I have been feeling pretty low and all it took was for that one spectators to say “Good Job!” to get me back in the game.  Earlier this year, Christina (who you might remember from the Avengers Half Marathon) was a spectator at the Star Wars Half Marathon and captured all the fun on the other side of the ropes.  Loving the signs!

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Being new to the running world, I’ve only been on one side of the course.. The runner side. But what about the thousands of spectators? Obviously some of them are there to cheer for their family, friends, or teammates. Or like our amazing friend Peggy Sue, they are out the cheering for complete strangers and putting smiles on runners faces with their creative signs. So for the inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon I decided to head what is going on on the other side of those racing fences.

I’ve been a part of Team Muscle Makers for a couple races and so I decided I would go and cheer them on.. But where? Should I make signs? Research was necessary.. I went through my pictures because I knew I had taken pictures of signs that had motivated me along the course. I also Googled race signs. Who knew there would be so many results? My favorites, “Smile if you aren’t wearing underwear” and Peggy Sue’s “Complete Stranger, I’m proud of you!”.

I’m a crafter at heart so I had to make my sign noticeable and perfect. I made one really big sign that said “Team Muscle Makers On a Scale of 1 to 10 You’re 13.1” and a smaller sign the had “Mickey Loves Team Muscle Makers” on one side and “#whyirunDisney” on the other. I also made a handful of smaller signs with just marker in case anyone decided to join me at o’dark thirty to cheer on the runners.

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Since I’m a huge Star Wars fan, I had already planned to go to the expo (hello, merchandise!) but I had never really paid attention to the Expo Speaker Series at either of my two previous runDisney races. I had no idea that they actually had a speaker just about race information. Wow, was that helpful! They went over a lot of stuff I knew but they talked about the course in good detail so I had an idea of what direction everyone would be headed and about what time. I was ready!

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I left my house about 3:30 which was much earlier than I needed to realistically but I wanted to get there early and find my spot. I went over to the family reunion area and visited with the runners I knew and helped take our team photo.. Team Muscle Makers had 80 runners in the Half (our largest team ever) and raised close to $80,000!

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At 4:30 when the corrals opened for runners, I started to make my way through Downtown Disney to find myself a spot. My original plan was to find a spot along Harbor Blvd but being that it was Mile 4-6 of the course I didn’t want to be standing out there alone in the early hours. So I headed for the esplanade in between the two parks. Walking I met a couple of other women who were trying to find locations to cheer for their boyfriends, and we settled on a spot right outside the Disneyland main entrance (about mile 1.5).  By this time is was maybe 5am, so we chatted amongst ourselves, with the Disney security guards who were keeping the course clear, and I made sure the settings on my camera were right. The space quickly filled with spectators and Star Wars themed signs.

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Finally, it was race time! Fireworks went off and we patiently (or maybe not so patiently lol) waited for the first runners. I knew it wouldn’t take long for the wheelchairs and the elite runners to get to us and I was ready. Boy are they fast!! The costumes were great and everyone was having a blast but I quickly realized that my signs couldn’t really be seen and it was too crowded through that stretch to get good photos. I quickly moved about 50 feet across the esplanade to where the runners where exiting Disneyland to head to DCA. It was a much better spot and I was able to cheer on my friends from there. The sunrise was amazing!

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Once the balloon ladies passed me I decided it was time for breakfast. I knew I wouldn’t make it to the finish line to see the elite runners cross anyway so I headed to Starbucks. When I was finished there, I headed to my next spot where I planned to watch the rest of the race. I stationed myself about mile 12.9 right after the crossover that way there would be no one blocking me in. I got there just as the sub-2:00 finishers were coming in.

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While I was cheering from that vantage point I got to see some amazing costumes coming through, including some I don’t know how they ran 13.1 miles in! There were several Leia in gold bikinis (mostly guys!), rebel fighters, an AT-AT, and plenty Jedi and Vaders. While I was cheering, I met more and more spectators including a couple of little ones who were there to cheer one their mom. I handed them over some of my extra signs and they were happy to cheer on the runners too! I stayed there until the bikes came in with the last runners, and then packed up and headed for home.

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Being there and cheering everyone on was amazing! And it really reinforced something for me. Runners come in all shapes, sizes, ages, and skill levels.  And no matter where you fall in any of those categories, everyone is encouraging and welcoming. Im proud to be a part of an amazing community and that’s #whyirunDisney.

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Star Wars Rebel Challenge – Running Two Races Back to Back

I don’t know about you, but it has been SO exciting to watch John’s running journey over the past few months as he has become quite the experienced distance runner.  In January, he took on his most difficult challenge yet, the Rebel Challenge!  Let’s just say that it was an accomplishment of galactic proportions! 

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When I first signed up for the Star Wars Rebel Challenge, I wasn’t thinking about the distance, duration, time, or training. I was thinking “lookie, cool medals!”.   The logistics of running a 10k followed by a half marathon hadn’t really entered my mind. After all, I had already run several 10k’s, and had completed my first half marathon (Avengers). And my time was pretty good, coming in at roughly 9:30-9:45 per mile. Needless to say, I was starting to feel a bit smug. In fact, I didn’t even get too serious about training until about 4 weeks prior. After all, I kept telling myself I was in good form from the Avengers Half Marathon. What could possibly go wrong?

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It didn’t help that I was feeling pretty good the day of the Star Wars 10k. The weather was cold and brisk, which I new could help keep my core temperature down. There were also several other Cast Members, family, and close friends running, which made the morning a welcome homecoming.

Before I new it, we were off!   I’ve seen backstage many times, but experiencing it with lights and music cheering runners on was invigorating. Cast donned Mickey Mitts cheering us on, while big screen boards flashed messages of encouragement. Transitioning to onstage areas was even more exciting: passing by the Sleeping Beauty Castle, running down Main Street, through the Esplanade, and Buena Vista Street were all accompanied with a sense of excitement and wonder, with Star Wars characters such as Stormtroopers and Jedi in strategic photo spots.

Before I knew it, I was crossing Disneyland Drive, nearing the finish line, the course lined with cheering Cast and Guests. An announcer called out participant names as they crossed. I picked up my speed, crossed the finish line, and heard the name of … Sean Astin! We ended up finishing the race at the same time. If I was going to be upstaged, it was nice to be upstaged by a Goonie. And my finish time? 54:16, for a pace of 8:44 per mile. A new personal record for any event!

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The next day came the Half Marathon. Same start location, same excitement. This time, just after starting, a runner clipped me and I did a graceful tumble into the plants along Disneyland Drive. With just a scraped knee, only my pride was wounded, I instantly jumped up to get back into the race. Even though I had just experienced the backstage and onstage course, it was no less exciting.

This time, after winding through the Parks, the course emptied onto Harbor Blvd, headed due south, took a turn on Garden Grove Blvd, wandered through Old Towne Garden Grove, and then turned back north on Harbor. Just before turning left on Katella (about mile 9), the previous day’s run finally start to take its toll, as aches began to kick in. Although slowed, I wasn’t deterred, as the course continued down Katella and right on Disneyland Drive, finishing in Downtown Disney just past ESPN Zone. I crossed the finish line at 2:07:19 (9:43 per mile). I felt slightly dismayed, since my Avengers Half Marathon time was two seconds faster at 9:41 per mile. But my dismay was short lived when I received the Rebel Challenge medal for a total of 19.3 miles run.

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There were a few lessons I learned:

1 – Rest after the 10k. Don’t go home and do gardening or chores, just because you feel invincible. It’s just the adrenaline talking.

2 – Eat plenty, but eat right. Sure, you just carb loaded, but your body just burned off all those calories. Replenish that stored energy, but also give your body protein.

3 – Rest. Yeah, you just got a spiffy medal, but you’re not done. You’ll still need to rest and decompress. You can’t party quite yet.

4 – Don’t compare. This was a big one for me. Running a half by itself it not the same as running a half after a 10k. You’re not going to perform the same way. Be okay with it.

5 – Enjoy it. Even if you’re like me, and run for time, there’s so much more to a race than getting to the finish line. Enjoy the Characters, the Cast cheering you on, the bands, the police offers, the spectators, and the countless volunteers that you’ll see along the course. They’re there because they’re supporting you. Let them.

Next Year: the runDisney Coast to Coast Challenge. Who among you will be joining me?

RADically Yours,

John

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John grew up in the Orange County area of California, always living in the shadow of the Disneyland Resort.  Known as the consummate storyteller to his friends, he has had an admiration of Disney since childhood, and is most interested in the Company’s history and heritage.  His favorite memory to date is setting foot in Walt’s apartment over the Main Street Firehouse.  John lives by what he calls the three F’s: faith, fun, and fitness.   Being healthy isn’t about adding years to your life; it’s about adding life to your years.  Nothing sums that up more than making Disney races a goal in every fitness plan.

Run Your Buns Off at the Star Wars Half Marathon!

When Kelly first reached out to me about covering the Star Wars Half Marathon, I was so excited to read her experience.  Not only is she a great writer, but she also has a fondness for the word RAD…super cool!  Here’s Kelly’s experience at the Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon last month with some wonderful lessons learned along the way…including the not so fun side of wearing a tutu during a half marathon. 🙂

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What do Mickey Mouse, a Storm Trooper, and missing toenails have in common? They represent my experience at Disney’s Star Wars Half Marathon!

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A little about me: I used to hate running. A recently as two years ago I said, “We are alotted a finite amount of run in our lives and I’m saving up all my run in case I’m ever chased by a dog.” But then my friend, Tracy, bewitched me and convinced me to run a 5K – she even said she’d come down and run it with me. During that first, momentus run, I experienced the thrill of completing something I didn’t think was possible, the strain of muscles that I didn’t even know I had, and the magic that exists at the finish line. I caught the running bug and haven’t looked back.

“The pace is strong with this one.”

The Star Wars Half Marathon would be my third half marathon so I had high hopes for it. I had a time goal, expectations, and I’d trained thoroughly. Also, I was helping my friend, Nathan, running his very first half marathon. Nathan hadn’t trained well and even bought his running gear at the expo where we picked up our packets! The day before the race we discussed our anxieties about the race the next day. We had different expectations, but were both competing against ourselves. I wanted not only to perform well for myself, but also to be a source of encouragment for my friend. I’ve gone from non-runner, to running-mentor in two years which never ceases to amaze me.

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“May the course be with you.”

Starting my day at 4 am in Downtown Disney and winding through both Disneyland and California Adventure was magical. The first four miles of the course were on Disney property, surrounded by characters and carousels. It’s easy to run when you’re distracted by the excitement of the parks. My absolute favorite moment was rounding the corner in Cars Land and seeing the sunrise over the red rocks. I felt like Forrest Gump seeing the desert surnise. The woman running next to me was convinced that it was a painted backdrop and not the sky’s natural beauty. I had to stop and take a picture!

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Keeping pace and excitement became a little more difficult the latter nine miles when we wound through the streets of Anaheim. Even thought it wasn’t as magical as in the parks, we still had plenty of ambiance. We ran past half a dozen local high school bands, all playing the Imperial March for encouragement as well as a plethora of Star Wars fans. There were a dozen Storm Troopers and several Chewbaccas holding signs and cheering us along. I am pretty sure these were just fans to showed up and wanted to be a part of the innagural race. Some gave out refreshments; some held up signs filled with Star Wars puns; all made me smile.

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At mile twelve I knew I had a chance to set a personal record. Even though I was spent, and chilled, I knew I couldn’t forgive myself if I slacked pace now. So I pushed, counting down the minutes and the miles until I saw the magical finish line. I’ve tried to explain the magic of the finish line to non-runners and they just don’t get it. My eyes tear up at every race when I hit that last point one miles. I am amazed at the hours and months (and money!) that went into this moment and I want to savor it. I have never purchased a race photo since I am either crying unbecomingly in them or looking down to stop my watch and see my time. Even though I’ve never gotten flattering photo evidence of my finish, I remember each one and look forward to the next magical finish line that I get to cross.

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13.1 miles. Check!

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That is the short story of my running experience, but I don’t run just for times or medals or dry fit shirts. I run to learn about my limits, my stamina, and myself. Running has been an incredibly powerful object lesson in life. Believing in myself, striving for more, pushing through when times are hard, and running with the encouragment of others — I’ve learned a lot through my running days. Those lessons are the things that make me keep running. So what did this race teach me?

Lessons Learned:

  1. It’s hard to use a porta potty whilst wearing a tutu. (I’ll spare you the details and let your imagination run with this one.)
  2. Something goes wrong in every race. Whether its running out of Gu, or toileting urgency, or untied shoelaces, or poor weather, or dead iPod batteries – I’ve experience (and gotten through) them all. I’ve learned that I’m not as dependant upon outside sources of motivation as I thought. I have to believe in my training and focus on my drive to succeed instead of the imperfection of my surroundings. I can choose to focus on the problems in life or on the progress. I want to be thankful for the mile just completed and look forward to the next one in running and in life.2015-Star-Wars-Half-Marathon-07
  3. Stay the Course! I do math constantly while running. I calculate my pace and time each mile. I trained to run intervals because my knees can’t handle constant running. As I was doing math around the 5K mark, I realized I’d somehow lost 4 minutes and was behind my planned pace. I had moments where I was frustrated with myself and I wanted to push through, skipping my walking interval and just run. But I knew that I hadn’t trained for that. If I tried that plan, I’d run the risk that I’d exhaust myself and end up slower overall. So I kept to my plan and my training and stayed the course to run with endurance the race set out before me. And it worked! I set a personal record on this race! The same is true in life! Sometimes things don’t go according to plan and I lose four minutes in my world. Don’t panic. Recalculate. And stay the course. It will be okay!
  4. It is important to celebrate! The hardest race I ever competed in felt lonely the entire time because I didn’t have the opportunity to celebrate. The Star Wars Half was a completely different experience because it was swaddled in celebrations. Even when I crossed the finish line at this race and fist pumped for my own PR, I knew I wasn’t done. I was going to wait for Nathan and cheer him through the finish line. I tear up every time I watch people cross the finish line. I get especially choked up watching people who, if I just glanced at them, would not think they could complete a half marathon, but they prove me wrong every time – and I love it! I love to high-five and clap for these people who are only competing with themselves and disproving their, “I can’t do it” lies! I saw this same wide-eyed, emotional, “I can’t believe I just did that!” look in Nathan’s eyes. He wasn’t ready. Hadn’t trained much at all. But he kept moving forward for 13.1 miles. He learned first hand the magic that exists at finish lines. He found me, tears in his eyes, and we hugged and hobbled to celebrate our achievements at the Happiest Place on Earth, Disneyland! Celebrating is important in life. I can’t be so focused on the next race or the next achievement that I forget to stop and be thankful for what just happened. I need to celebrate my life and share the joy with others. Running has taught me all these lessons and more and when I glance at my rack of race medals glinting in my room I am reminded of each race, each experience, and each lesson. I am thankful for the ability to run and look forward to more races and more lessons in the coming days.

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A Few Thank Yous

I loved my weekend preparing for, running, and celebrating the Star Wars Half Marathon. But I couldn’t have done this alone! I’d like to thank my friend, Tracy, for making me my celebratory “Princess Kelly” t-shirt and for getting me running in the first place. My family, friends and coworkers for cheering me on from afar and creepily tracking my progress by my bib number. And I’d like to thank the academy. It’s an honor just to be nominated. Stay RAD!

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I’m Kelly and I’m a word addict. My favorite word is twitterpated, followed closely by kerfuffle. I feel healthiest when processing life on paper- it’s how I think best. Here’s some more pertinent facts: I love to MacGyver my way through life and nothing is ever broken that I can’t fix. My friend, Tracy, bewitched me into running by first 5K and I caught the running bug and haven’t been the same since. I’m a Disney enthusiast and can still feel the magic at each park. In my spare time, I work full time as an Occupational Therapist helping children and babies grow, heal, and develop after neurological impairments.  I was once introduced by a friend as, “This is Kelly. She’s way rad!” The person misheard and thought my name was Kelly Wayrad. It’s a sentiment I strive to live up to daily! Thanks for reading my real thoughts on virtual paper at  www.Ithinkonpaper.com
Follow Kelly on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest!

The Inaugural Star Wars Rebel Challenge

Well if I wasn’t jealous about not being at Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend prior to the race, I’m SURELY jealous now.  At first it was due to the killer medals for the races, but after seeing all the characters, costumes and fun…the whole weekend was just too cool!  Kallen ran the Inaugural Rebel Challenge and did it in some amazing costumes.  So come along and be jealous with me of her super rad time!

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I just got back last night from an amazing runDisney event, the Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend.

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After running the Tinker Bell Half Marathon last year, I knew I wanted to do another runDisney race, but it wasn’t until they announced the Star Wars event in late May that my hubby and I knew which one we had to do.

With such a great theme, I took the plunge and registered for my first challenge event.

The Rebel Challenge— never has an event inspired so much foreboding. During many training runs, I thought, “I have a bad feeling about this.”

But fear is the path to the Dark Side. Come race weekend, finishing the challenge was not a matter of trying, but doing. Or do not.

For me, the best way of overcoming pre-race nerves is to watch a runDisney event.

 

— Kallen Dewey Kentner (@KallenKentner) January 16, 2015

My hubby and I enjoyed spectating the 5K, where the short distance means the costumes are outrageously fun. 

We loved seeing the StarSpeeder 3000 from Star Tours during the race and spotted him again after the race in the Family Reunion Area

We loved seeing the StarSpeeder 3000 from Star Tours during the race and spotted him again after the race in the Family Reunion Area

The Expo is another amazing way to get excited. I love listening to the speaker series. I attended the expo two days, Thursday and Saturday. Arriving about noon on Thursday, I found packet pick-up extremely well organized with minimal wait. 

What an epic entrance to packet pick-up!

What an epic entrance to packet pick-up!

For recognition purposes, all Rebel Challenge participants had their photo taken at the expo after picking up their packet. This system replaces the wristbands they’ve used at previous challenge events. Even though I didn’t wait for the mad merchandise rush at opening, the official merchandise line was a short wait and well stocked. I managed to score a really nice Rebel Challenge Jacket, which later sold out. However, even by the last day of the expo I saw plenty of Dooney and Burke purses left, which tells me that runDisney is working hard on their supply-and-demand models.

Pictured are the three race shirts that come with Rebel Challenge registration, the Rebel Challenge jacket, pins, Star Wars Half Marathon shirt, my bib, runDisney Vinylmation and the event guide. Between us, Hubby and I had quite a lot of stuff after leaving the expo.

Pictured are the three race shirts that come with Rebel Challenge registration, the Rebel Challenge jacket, pins, Star Wars Half Marathon shirt, my bib, runDisney Vinylmation and the event guide. Between us, Hubby and I had quite a lot of stuff after leaving the expo.

I was up bright and early Saturday with the alarm going off at 3:30. I donned my Star Tours running costume and headed to the race. Running a runDisney race solo for the first time, I was a bit bored in the corrals, but soon enough they were playing clips from the original Star Wars trilogy. 

There's nothing like AT-ATs at 5 a.m.

There’s nothing like AT-ATs at 5 a.m.

After a Darth Vader cameo, a visit from C-3PO, R2-D2, and an opening crawl, the race started. All of a sudden, it was B Corral’s turn and we were off! I loved the way the course was set up. Because we ran down Disneyland Drive, up Ball Road before turning onto Harbor to head to the parks, runners had a chance to spread out on the wide roads (including the incline on Ball Rd) before turning into the parks. As expected, there were plenty of aid stations along the course. Excitement will do you in every time so I did a really stupid thing for a challenge event. I ran my heart out in the 10K. I just felt so amazing and it was so wonderful being in the parks that I just ran.

Outside the Animation Academy in California Adventure

Outside the Animation Academy in California Adventure

By the time I got to many of the character stops, a long line had formed. I skipped Chewbacca (who had the longest line by far), Darth Vader and some of the Jedi, but I had to stop for a quick photo with Boba Fett. 

I'm suspicious of this bounty hunter.

I’m suspicious of this bounty hunter.

I was surprised that only Star Wars characters were on the course. I would have liked to see a few Disney characters thrown into the mix. 

Every mile marker was different for the 10K, which was really cool.

Every mile marker was different for the 10K, which was really cool.

As we ran past the Disneyland Hotel toward the finish, I could feel an incredible grin on my face in response to the cheering crowd. Stormtroopers watched as runners crossed the finish line. First part of the challenge, done! 

Snapped right after crossing the finish line, you can see the euphoria on my face.

Snapped right after crossing the finish line, you can see the euphoria on my face.

It was over too fast and I had a brief moment of sadness before remembering I was going to do it again the next day! Wait. I was going to run again the next day? Maybe running so fast wasn’t a good idea. After breakfast at La Brea Bakery and a quick clothing change, I went to the Expo for a second time. I mostly came for the speaker series so I didn’t wander around the expo too much. I also made sure to put on my compression socks and take it easy. After all, the half marathon was the next day. Although I went to bed around 7:30 p.m, that 3:30 alarm was still an unwelcome sound… that is, until I remembered that I was going to Disneyland!

I had the privilege of running the half marathon with my mom. We did the run-walk method with about a minute of walking to a minute of running. Because of the crowds, sometimes we missed the bell, but we did our best. 

The required corral selfie.

The required corral selfie.

My hubby also ran the half, but as he was in A Corral, I didn’t see much of him. He also got a better view of the video screen. 

Every race had a slightly different opening crawl but I wasn't close enough to read the one for the half marathon.

Every race had a slightly different opening crawl but I wasn’t close enough to read the one for the half marathon.

In the middle of C corral, we couldn’t see much of the video screen, but the fireworks during the national anthem were fantastic. After a bit of waiting, C Corral was off! For the first 2 miles, I could feel the effect of the 10K, especially on the walking portion where my hip flexors were so tight I couldn’t powerwalk effectively. It was pretty crowded, especially once we entered the backstage areas, so we couldn’t do much running. Going into Disneyland, we had to stop by some Jedi, who asked “What planet are you from?” It was the first of many references to our Pigs in Space costumes. “Koozebane” I cheerily threw out before we kept running. 

Jedi were stationed in numerous places along the course for both the 10K and Half, encouraging the runners.

Jedi were stationed in numerous places along the course for both the 10K and Half, encouraging the runners.

We waited in line for Luke and Leia, who were stationed in front of an illuminated Mark Twain. While in line, I saw a text message from runner tracking: hubby had already passed the 5K point a while ago. Because he is so much faster, Jason was able to fully enjoy the lights of California Adventure. The sun was already coming up by the time we got there. 

Mickey's Fun Wheel dominates the view at Paradise Pier and looked amazing at night.

Mickey’s Fun Wheel dominates the view at Paradise Pier and looked amazing at night.

As in the 10K, running through fantasyland was one of my favorite parts. Some of the rides were going, and the cheerful sounds of the Mad Tea Party kept us going. All too soon, we were leaving Disneyland and heading to California Adventure. I was very excited to spot the very piglike Gammorean Guard on Hollywood Blvd. We had to stop for a photo.

— Kallen Dewey Kentner (@KallenKentner) January 18, 2015

We left Disney property around mile 4. I dreaded the long straightaway, but I shouldn’t have. Fans and spectators were out in force and we were never too far from the next band.

The 501st was a special treat and worth stopping for photos. We stopped for a photo with C-3PO and had a better character interaction than inside the parks.

"Oh my, could this be Pigs in Space?"

“Oh my, could this be Pigs in Space?”

We even crossed Newhope St and plenty of people were stopping for pictures.
I was still feeling good around Mile 10, although feet were a bit sore from two days of running. But after mile 10, there’s only a 5K left, which is a huge boost for me. I know I can do a 5K.

When it was still dark, the lightsabers on these mile markers were lit up.

When it was still dark, the lightsabers on these mile markers were lit up.

A shout out to Mouse Planet and other people who were handing out Redvines to runners. It made me so happy!

Nearing the finish, I caught my first glimpse of Disney characters on the course —Jedi Mickey, Leia Minnie, Darth Goofy, and Chip & Dale Ewoks. I wish I could have stopped for a photo, but right at the finish, I would have caused a pile-up.

After crossing the finish line and receiving the beautiful Star Wars Half medal, there was a short and fast moving line to receive the Rebel Challenge medal. They very quickly looked up my bib number and then gave me my medal.

Photo 16-StarWarsHalf-Kallen

I had completed the Rebel Challenge!

runDisney does a great job organizing such a large event. Add the amazing fans and runners and this is an event I hope I’ll do again.

*****

Kallen is the content and marketing manager for GeekyLibrary and calls herself a half-hearted runner but a full-fledged geek. She blogs about her running at KallenInMotion.wordpress.com. Follow her adventures on Twitter or check out her running boards on Pinterest.

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