When I ran the Star Wars Rebel Challenge in Disneyland in January, I knew I would have to run the Dark Side when it was announced as well. Not only was my love of Star Wars and running being combined a second time by runDisney, but now I would be doing the Kessel Run by completing both and receive a medal to commemorate it.
The first part of the Dark Side Challenge was the 10k. At 5:30am, we lined up at the starting line outside EPCOT and waited for the fireworks to send us off. I was lucky enough to be in the first corral for this race, but this made me try and keep up with runners who were faster than I was. I slowed down at the same time as my friend Lauren and we ran together for the first mile as we ran the roads of Walt Disney World and curved towards EPCOT. When she saw R2-D2 was available for a photo op, she ran to wait on line to get a picture with the famous droid, and I kept running towards the park. For a half mile, we headed past the attractions and around the lake in the middle of EPCOT, taking in the sights as we passed them by, until we were back out and heading towards the next leg of the race. Another stretch before we reached Hollywood Studios, where we viewed such attractions as the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror as we reached the 5k point. Only halfway done, we continued on and out of the park towards our goal. With a two mile stretch or road and a dirt path that led into ESPN Wide World of Sports, we moved through the final mile in WWOS to finish before the crowds cheering us on.
With one victory down, there was one more to go the next day. I was able to finish the 10k with a respectable 58:06. A time I was happy with knowing I had a half marathon looming before me. Unfortunately, I didn’t prepare properly for the Florida heat – and got sunburned on an overcast day the day before the half marathon – and my half marathon suffered for it.
We started at the same spot as the previous day, but this time I was back to corral B for this race. With the fireworks, we were off and started the same way. The first mile led us up to EPCOT, but this time we took a more circuitous route through the park itself for a full mile of our race. A long route took us for more milage, giving us our first 5k outside of the Hollywood Studios park. Another mile through the park itself before heading towards Animal Kingdom, where we reached the 10k point on Osceola Parkway. Once we got to Animal Kingdom, we were able to spend three miles with the bestial residents before heading back the way we came. Two more miles on Osceola Parkway before turning south and heading towards the ESPN Wide World of Sports for the final mile and the completion of the Dark Side.
The Dark Side half marathon was a rough race for me. The heat got to me, and I’m sure being sunburned was a big part of it. In a way, I did PR at the race, but in the opposite direction. The 2:37:06 was my longest half marathon to date (and hopefully the longest I ever take to run a half marathon).
I really enjoyed running the Dark Side Challenge. From all the great costumes to seeing the 501st Legion on the course, it was all an exhilarating run, and one I hope to do again in the future – preferably having a better race time than I did this year.