Heather is back with another character filled race recap! She’s taking us soaring through the galaxy at the Inaugural Star Wars 5K – The Dark Side. Let’s check out all the highs (and lows) from the race!
The Star Wars Dark Side was my 13th runDisney race weekend, and unfortunately, my least favorite. There were so many issues that, even as a huge Star Wars fan, I’m not planning to repeat it next year. Thankfully, I’m here to talk about the 5k, which was the best race of the three!
The race started at 6am, with the first bus leaving at 4am. The start and finish area was in the Epcot parking lot, like most of the WDW runDisney 5Ks. As usual, there was a DJ to pump everyone up for the race, even though it was so early in the morning. With it being a Star Wars themed race, they showed clips from the movies, and also played Star Wars trivia with the crowd. The stage also was well themed for the Star Wars Dark Side, with huge banners of Captain Phasma and Kylo Ren.
Most WDW races have 2 areas where you can meet characters before (and after) the race, but this race had 6! Captain Phasma, BB8, Boba Fett (with Han Solo in carbonite), Darth Vader, Darth Maul, and First Order Stormtroopers. There were also 2 other photo spots, one with a life sized Jabba the Hutt, and one with a Rathtar. All the character spots had great backdrops, and each had a character attendant and a Photopass photographer (Photopass at the races was new this weekend, I’ll get back to that later in the recap.)
I thought it was really cool that they had SO many characters out, and some pretty rare ones. This weekend was the first time ever that Captain Phasma and BB8 were meeting at WDW (BB8 met at the expo, too.) I had 2 issues with it, though. They had these same 6 (or 8, depending on how you look at it) characters out before and after EVERY race this weekend. So there was nothing new for one race once you had done the others. Here I am with BB8 before the half.
The bigger issue was that they closed most of these characters lines REALLY fast. I’m a character person, so one reason I take the first bus to a race, and don’t mind the even earlier wakeup call for it, is that I know I’ll pass the time by waiting & meeting characters. I’ve never seen anything like how the character situation was handled before & after the race. Usually the characters will stay until at least when they tell you to leave for the corral. Maybe they’ll leave a few minutes before this, because they have to get to the starting line. But I got to the starting area less than 30 minutes after the first bus picks you up (I was on the second bus), and the line for Captain Phasma was already closed. I ended up getting pictures with Jabba the Hutt and the Rathtar, since those lines never closed, since they couldn’t leave, lol. But even right after getting a pic with the Rathtar, the character attendant and PhotoPass left, and said you were on your own if you wanted to take a picture. And it was only around 5am.
I know this post is about the 5K, but the 10K was even worse. I was on the first bus, and EVERY character line was closed. It was ridiculous. I was able to meet several after the 10K, but if you weren’t in an early corral, a lot of the lines were closed quickly after the race too. This wasn’t the character attendants fault, but I saw plenty of runners taking it out on them. 🙁 By the half, they didn’t end up closing the lines before the race, and would say when the character had to leave, but at least they gave you the chance to wait. The whole situation is something they really need to figure out for next time.
After getting what pictures we could get, I headed over to the corrals. I was in corral A, which obviously is great! They moved us a little after 5:30, which felt really early to me. I had on a throwaway sweatshirt, like I usually do in the corrals, but it was pretty hot & humid, so I didn’t really need it. Around 10 minutes before the race, it was already 68 with over 90% humidity. I really don’t do well running in the heat and humidity, so I was glad it was just a 5K, and hoping it would cool down over the next 2 days! The best part about waiting for our corral to go off was that they played the original trailer for the original Star Wars movie!
And just like that, we were off! Like usual, they shoot off fireworks for every corral, which is one of my favorite things about a WDW race! I’ve just about given up getting a good picture of this, lol, so I usually just take a picture of the starting line, and enjoy the fireworks. 🙂
The course was almost the same as the typical WDW 5Ks through Epcot, just slightly different. Instead of going around by Imagination, we just kept running straight towards Spaceship Earth after the World Showcase, running under Spaceship Earth before leaving Epcot. I always love running around the World Showcase, so I really liked the course.
The first mile and a half or so was outside the park. Usually there’s a character spot before the first mile on this part of the course, but instead, they only had a backdrop with an AT-AT leg, which was disappointing. I didn’t stop, and only saw two people there when I passed by to take a picture. Just after entering the Epcot backstage area, R2D2 was meeting. It was a strange area to have such a large line, they even had a cast member yelling who was meeting as you ran by, since it was hard to see. Even being in corral A, and not stopping for anything, the line looked pretty long. And not knowing who else would be out, I skipped him. I later regretted this, since the characters over the 3 races were not good (the 10k only had TWO, both of whom were on the 5k), and his line grew even worse over the next 2 races, so I didn’t stop then either.
Once we entered the World Showcase, Star Wars music played! If you can’t get hyped up to run while listening to Star Wars music, I don’t know why you are doing a Star Wars race! They had all the pavilions lit up pink, which was odd, though! They did this for the princess races, and the pink made sense then, but not here.
This race weekend was the first time PhotoPass was used for the race weekend instead of MarathonFoto. I was really excited for this since, as an annual passholder, PhotoPass pictures are included. And I’m such a picture person, I almost always would buy the MarathonFoto pictures for each race, so this will certainly save me money! In the official guide and on the back of your bib, you are given a code and then you add your bib number to the end, and you enter this into the My Disney Experience App, or the PhotoPass site. I didn’t have any issues with it during the 5k, and my pictures started showing up in the app around 1:30 pm! Most of the running pictures looked much better than the MarathonFoto pictures, so I was happy with that too.
You couldn’t miss the PhotoPass photographers, they were in, or right outside, a green tent which also had a green balloon. There was also tape on the ground, and when you saw that, you knew you were in their sightline. You can see the tape here (since I didn’t take any pics of the tents, sorry!)
The second character spot was in America, where Ezra and Sabine from Star Wars Rebels met in front of a cool backdrop. I’ve met them before, but decided to stop. I didn’t wait too long, but I took this picture of Spaceship Earth lit up while waiting. The Illuminations torches were all on, too, always a highlight of the races that go through Epcot.
While the running PhotoPass pictures came out well, the nighttime posed PhotoPass pictures didn’t seem lit enough. My picture with Ezra and Sabine was really dark. This picture was from my camera.
We continued running around the World Showcase. Here I am running by the lit up Japan pavilion. I normally only carry water for a half, but it was SO hot and humid, I decided to carry water for the 5K, and I’m really glad I did.
Chewbacca was meeting on the International Gateway after exiting Epcot for a bit. His line looked longer than Ezra & Sabine’s, but it moved quicker than their line. He was really excited to meet me, since I was dressed as Chewbacca. 😉
Chewie was the last real character spot during the 5k, so there were only 3 spots, which was disappointing. Usually a race that goes around the World Showcase has several character stops in the World Showcase alone.
We then ran back into Epcot, entering by the UK, around the World Showcase towards the entrance from Future World. On the stage in front of Spaceship Earth, they had Stormtroopers. There was a line, but they were on a stage, so I don’t really count them as a character stop. Even so, that’s only 4 character spots for the race. They also had PhotoPass around here, to take a picture with Spaceship Earth behind you. I decided to stop, but when it was my time to get the picture, the head PhotoPass photographer told the two photographers to switch their settings to daytime settings. I immediately knew the picture wasn’t going to come out since it was still very dark out. What bad timing 🙁 You can hardly see anything behind me.
We continued down to Spaceship Earth. They had several Photopass in a row set up after Spaceship Earth, for while you ran under the ball, which was cool.
After leaving Epcot, they had a screen showing clips from the movie
They seemed to have a lot of PhotoPass in the parks and near the finish for all 3 races, but not much elsewhere. I love this one with Spaceship Earth in the background
The mile markers during the race weren’t that exciting
I love this pic of my mom running near the finish line. Especially since I don’t look happy in any of my pictures around the finish, haha.
And the finish line is near!
The 5k medal is really cool, I love it!
After the race, the medal picture setup seems different than with MarathonFoto. It felt like there were a lot more photo lines than in the past, so the lines weren’t that long. However, the backdrops were all runDisney generic. Since they were just as generic at the Tinker Bell races, I figure that will remain the case for all races now. They do add a border for that race, but then your bib is covered and it’s harder to edit the picture (which I need to do because the color is off.) Also, they originally had the 10k border on my picture, and I had to contact them to fix it. I’d rather have the themed backgrounds.
Also, I usually ask the person behind me to take the medal picture on my camera. For the 5k, the PhotoPass photographer said he could take it. I thought, great, I’ll never have to ask someone behind me to take the picture for me again! So after the 10k I didn’t, and the PhotoPass said she couldn’t take it, so I quickly asked the person behind me, and I know they weren’t prepared, so that picture is a blurred mess. And of course, PhotoPass lost my 10k medal picture. So, for the first time ever, I don’t have any kind of official medal picture for a race. 🙁 The Photo pass photographer after the half was really rude to me. I had fallen early during the half & was in a lot of pain, and I just wanted a picture, and she was so nasty, that the person behind me refused to take the picture on my camera. Plus, for the half, I didn’t have ANY running pictures show up. There were lots of issues with PhotoPass because of the race weekend (it kind of crashed the whole system), and I finally got some pictures weeks later, but I know there should be more. At least with MarathonFoto, you could search unidentified pictures to find more of you during the race. I know these weren’t all issues during the 5k, but since PhotoPass will be doing races from now on, I thought it would be important to note the kind of issues I had with it during the race weekend. Hopefully these issues will be fixed over time, but I wish they had rolled it out slowly, testing it during one race instead of a full weekend.
After the race, I went to get in line for Captain Phasma, since her line was closed before the race. I ended up waiting over 40 minutes, almost as long as the 5k, haha, but it was worth it! She’s so cool!
Here’s the other characters that were out, from when I met them after the 10k.
And Boba Fett
The bus line after the race is usually right in the finish area, but this time, it was a long way away. I wish I had checked my FitBit to see exactly how long, haha! It didn’t help that we didn’t know exactly where we were going, so it felt longer.
Another fun runDisney 5k in the books!
Heather is an annual passholder that loves coming up with excuses to take a trip to the World. She started doing runDisney races for the characters, but then found out she actually loved running. Visit her website, I Love Characters, to see pictures of the over 240 characters she’s met at Disney World and Disneyland. Follow her adventures at Disney on twitter, instagram and facebook.