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!
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?
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!
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.
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?
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.