Best. Half. Ever! The Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon wasn’t a half marathon for time or personal bests but it was a chill 13.1 mile run at Disney World where you could take in some Star Wars fun while you were at it. It was also the most fun I’ve had in a race in a long, long while.
As I mentioned in my pre-race post, we started this half at almost the last corral since my race partner (aka husband) hadn’t run a recent half in order to have proof of time. The whole plan was to run an easy race and not care about time. RunDisney events don’t tend to be people’s PR races. It’s more of a fun, stop-and-take-pictures kind of race. Also, my race partner had an injury that we weren’t sure about so we went into the race very conservatively…. or I did because I didn’t want him to get further injured and not finish. He, on the other hand, was in full-on race mode when the fireworks and start gun went off and I had to keep telling him to slow down and that we could just negative split the shit out of the second half if we are up for it. I totally sympathized because I like racing and I like passing people and, since there were so many walkers in the last corrals, there were a LOT of people to pass. But yeah, take off like a bat out of hell was not in my race plan so I had to keep telling him to slow it down. I was the only one with the Garmin though too.
Watching him run his first Disney race had me flashing back to my first Disney race with the Wine and Dine, 4 or 5 years ago. I also started in the last corral and was so annoyed at all the walkers I had to pass. The walkers in the back don’t stay on one side or the other. Often times they are spread out 5 abreast across the course. It’s infuriating to some runners. I was pretty annoyed back then but that’s because I wasn’t in the right “RunDisney” mindset – that it’s a completely NOT serious type of race. I was coming off races like the Army 10 Miler in DC where everyone is super serious and nobody walked unless their leg was on the verge of falling off. Anyway, so he spent a good deal of time working through that realization whereas I was just chill and taking it all in. Sorry honey, just telling it like it is. 😉
The problem with having to pass a bunch of walkers is that you are constantly speeding up and settling into pace and speeding up and settling into pace. It takes its toll. It turned out fine in the end though. But we did stop a lot for various things. A certain rookie racer who shall not be named had us stopping no less than 3 times to experience the best restrooms that Disney has to offer. In this runner’s defense, the RunDisney people kept telling everyone to “HYDRATE!! HYDRATE LIKE YOUR LIFE DEPENDS ON IT!!! HOT WEATHER AHEAD!!!! HYDRAAAAATE!!!!!!” Um, it was barely hot. It was 70-75 degrees tops but, ok, high humidity. If you’re from south Florida in particular, it barely felt warm at all. I didn’t hydrate any more than normal. But other impressionable first-timers did, therefore I had a wonderful 20 minutes of breaks outside of restrooms watching the race go by. It’s fine. Now I can say I had my first experience texting friends and family during a race… lots of time to kill.
There were characters to take pictures with en route as well. We stopped to get photos with a couple of them, like storm troopers and Chewbacca and Leia. We mainly waited to take pictures towards the end of the race. There were also big screens along the course playing various clips from the Star Wars movies, centering on “Dark Side” scenes. It was actually pretty nice. I found myself watching the movie while I ran and it makes you forget you’re even running.
Oh and get this… I saw someone cut the course. A very obese male runner crossed the divide at one point on the course where the runners from each side sort of went past each other. He kind of laughed and did a “shhhhh!!” motion to us runners, like it was funny to him, and, well, I must have had a “wtffff???” look on my face because his face fell and he put his head down and wiped the smile off his face pretty quickly. I still don’t get it. He wasn’t even cutting much of the course. Why do it? Maybe he cut a lot here and there all the way up and in the end cheated on some serious mileage? I have no idea. But if you can’t run the course, don’t run the course. Who cheats on races?? I’ll never understand it.
At around the 8 or 9 mile mark, we figured that we could finish the race without his injury being a factor and then we cranked it out! I still kind of held us back a bit though because we weren’t going to PR anyway what with all the previous stops. Why sprint it out if you aren’t going to PR? But my better half could have finished a lot faster than I made him go. We definitely negative split the race big time. A lot of it was because of how crowded the first half was. As for holding us back at the end a bit… I’d be lying if I wasn’t considering my upcoming training for Chicago Marathon and that I didn’t want to tweak anything by sprinting the last 10k of this race. I don’t even know what time we finished in because I forgot to stop my watch until after I was drinking a “Run The Galaxy Ale” at the finish line! My mom, a runner, texted me at the end of the race and asked what my finish time was. I was like, “uhhhh, don’t know, drinking now and just stopped watch.”
It was such a relaxing race, which I know is a weird descriptor. It all just felt very chill. The finish line was efficient as ever. RunDisney had a bunch of random stuff in the finish line goodie bag like chips and cheese dip and Oreos and dried fruit. I didn’t eat any of it but had the banana the offered at another table. I’m not a big post-race eater. And during the course I only had one GU at around the 7 mile mark. They did offer Powerade and “GU” type stuff on-course too, I think it was Cliffshot or something like that.
Afterwards we went and got some more race photos with the characters we missed. The line took a while so we took turns walking and moving our legs and line holding. Then we got on the buses back to the resorts which were right there at the finish line. Like I said, Disney makes it super easy to do these races when you stay on Disney property. It’s so worth it. Trust me. You can find a hotel for whatever price point you need if you do the research and sometimes just plain get lucky. I’ve stayed at several Disney properties pre-race now and they are all blazingly efficient for pre and post race transport.
Another interesting last tidbit is that they rerouted the course to make it flatter. At first it seemed, on paper, to not spend much time in the parks. However, on the ground, it felt like you definitely experienced the 3 parks it went through. Everyone I know who has run Disney World races talks about the “hills” on the overpasses and various other points. I’m not sure why they officially rerouted but it was a very pleasant surprise. I didn’t feel sore after the race at all and I did ZERO hill training in preparation. Finally, a flat course! It didn’t go unnoticed, Disney!!
The Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon was a great race! We’re definitely signing up for the next one and every one we can manage to get to. It’s a perfect time of year down here to race and it was such a fun weekend to hit the parks as well. And everyone I’ve run into down here in soflo who has run the Star Wars Half has been on this extended (slightly manic) runner’s high even a week after the event, so it’s not just me who thought it was a great race. Even the Florida “I’m so over Disney” residents were loving this race. Definitely try it out! It’s worth getting yourself to Orlando for!
Did you run the Star Wars Dark Side Half or Challenge? What did you think about the race? Was this race better or worse than other Disney races?