Star Wars Half Marathon Archives

October 18, 2017

RunDisney Cancels All Disneyland Events for 2018


The rumors have been flying around for months but on Wednesday, October 18, runDisney made it official: all runDisney weekends at Disneyland will be on hiatus beginning in 2018. This includes Star Wars: The Light Side, Tinker Bell, Disneyland Half Marathon, and Super Heroes. This year's Super Heroes Half Marathon Weekend will still take place on November 9-12 as scheduled.

Here's the announcement that was posted on the runDisney blog,

We have heard from many of you over the past few months regarding registration for runDisney race weekends at Disneyland Resort. We greatly appreciate your loyalty and dedication to our runDisney race events and want to share the following update with you..
Given the level of construction to support the ongoing Disneyland Resort expansion, we have been working hard to determine how we can continue providing our West Coast participants with the best possible runDisney experience, which is designed around the ability to run throughout our resorts while enjoying entertainment offerings and characters..
After careful consideration and weighing all possibilities, we have made the very difficult decision to place all runDisney race weekends at Disneyland Resort on hiatus beginning in 2018. This includes the associated Coast to Coast Race Challenges..
Anyone who has registered for one of these races will be contacted directly by runDisney today by email and will receive a full refund for registration fees and for any commemorative items they may have purchased..
While news of this hiatus is sad to share, we are so thankful for the magic and memories you have helped create at our race weekends through the years. We look forward to hosting the upcoming Super Heroes Half Marathon Weekend at Disneyland Resort November 9-12, and we hope to see many of you there..
We encourage runners to continue to visit for other race opportunities. A full schedule of races at Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Paris are currently still being offered, in addition to our virtual race series. Guests with questions can contact

We've known something was up for a long time: first runDisney put registration for Stars Wars: The Light Side Half Marathon Weekend on hold back in March, and then a 2018 date for Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend failed to materialize at all. Other dates also came and went - the most recent being submission of Proof of Time for Star Wars was due on October 10. Hard to submit Proof of Time when you can't even register!

So the announcement wasn't a surprise to me at all. Even so, I'm upset and angry, feelings that I know I share with many of you. For me it's largely the timing. It's clear to me that they've known this for a long time, yet they chose to wait until the race date was only three months away to make a definitive announcement.

I've already received an email from runDisney, since Lee and I registered for Star Wars back in January, taking advantage of an early registration opportunity offered to those of us who participated this year. The email contains most of what is quoted above, with this information added:

You will be fully refunded for your registration fees and for any commemorative items you may have purchased with your original form of payment. This will be reflected on your next billing statement. In addition, if you have any questions at all, a Disney Cast Member can assist you at 407-939-iRUN (4786), between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., EDT, seven days a week, or you may email us at

It will be interesting to see if the race weekends do in fact return in the future. While the 5K and 10K races have sold out quickly, the half marathons have not been selling well in the last couple of years. And with the decision this year to replace race volunteers with paid temporary employees, I think the quality has suffered. Lee and I have cut way back on the number of runDisney events we participate in, and I know a lot of the rest of you have as well.

Maybe runDisney has "run its course" in California. I guess time will tell.

What do you think about runDisney's decision?

N.B. On Thursday morning I received an email from informing me that my registration fee, including's $21+ processing fee, has been refunded to my credit card. - Laura

April 30, 2017

2017 Star Wars - The Dark Side Half Marathon Weekend, Part 2: 10K and Half Mararthon

Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side

Kim Scharoff and Tom Troost continue their coverage of the Star Wars - The Dark Side Half Marathon weekend events as they describe their successful completion of the Dark Side Challenge - the 10K and Half Marathon races.

Saturday, April 22 - Dark Side 10K

The 2016 Star Wars Dark Side races at Walt Disney World were inaugural events. As with most first time events, it went okay, but there were things that could have been better. We were excited for the 2017 versions of the next two races because they would both be following a new course.

Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side

The 2017 10K course was a point-to-point race. This meant we were starting in one location in the Magic Kingdom parking lot near the Ticket and Transportation Center, running down closed roads and finishing at the EPCOT parking lot. Due to this fact, we decided to take the race transportation to the start. The 10K race also started earlier at 5:30am (compared to the 5k 6:00am start). We stayed at Animal Kingdom Lodge and had no issues with getting to race start on the Disney buses.

Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side

In the pre-race area at Magic Kingdom everything was well organized. The pre-race character meet and greets were the same characters from Friday and DJ Elliott was spinning tunes to get everyone up and excited to run. The DJ was reminding people to hydrate and that the characters would also be in the finish area. There was plenty of space for folks to hang around before heading to the corrals. We milled about and used the porta potties, which we felt were in ample supply before heading to the corrals. For the 10k, the corrals went from A to F. Each corral was subdivided into two or three waves and were sent off in two minute intervals. Every wave was sent off with fireworks.

For the 10K, we were starting in separate corrals and decided to take different approaches. Tom hung to the back of his corral and Kim went to the front of hers.

Rudy, John and Carissa sent everyone off for the race. We started the race by heading back toward World Drive and got to run through the back side of the toll booths for Magic Kingdom. Within the first half mile, there was a local high school band playing Star Wars music. The kids and their adults were highly enthusiastic, cheering and giving high fives. The first three miles were down World Drive, a divided highway. You needed to stay alert to the side of the road because of construction, but most of it was well lit and well-marked. There were no PhotoPass photographers on the highway portion of the course for action shots, but there were character stops. R2-D2 was in this area of the course. Character photos were also available with Star Wars Rebels, the Emperor's chair and Darth Maul. After running a little more than half way we left World Drive, and snuck in to Hollywood Studios by the back of the Tower of Terror and the Fantasmic show area. At this point, there was an exciting group of cosplayers from the 501st Legion and the Saber Guild.

Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side

As you came out into the Studios, there were some Storm Troopers available to take pictures with.

We made the left onto Hollywood Blvd. to go out the entrance of the Studios. There were lots of Cast Members with light sabers cheering us on at this point and at least 4 to 6 PhotoPass photographers.

Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side

It was now time to go down the path to the Boardwalk and over to EPCOT. This was the only place we felt the course was a bit narrow and bottlenecked a little, although it was not like last year when it came to a complete stop. On the path, they had the Endor speeder bikes out for a photo opportunity. We took the boardwalk past the front of the Yacht and Beach Club. This was nice because there was some shade from the trees and folks out cheering with signs all along the area. We entered EPCOT in World Showcase and Chewbacca was near the backstage entrance by the International Gateway (the same spot as the 5k). We made our way from World Showcase to the front of EPCOT. The Storm Troopers were on the fountain again for photos.

As we headed backstage for the final two tenths of a mile, there were more cosplayers available backstage where the gospel choir is normally during Marathon and Princess weekends. As we approached the finish line, we stopped to talk with race announcers Rudy and John briefly before crossing the finish line with our arms raised in victory.

The finishers area where you get your medals, water and snack boxes was perfect. We stopped to get our photos taken by the PhotoPass photographers.

Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side

As the temperature was getting warm already, we headed to the buses to head back to the resort and had no waits getting right on a bus. One thing that did surprise us was that while there were adequate water stops, there was no Powerade available on the course.

Sunday, April 23 - Dark Side Half Marathon

When we woke up for the half marathon, the temperatures were already in the low 70s. We knew this was going to be a rough one. We got ourselves prepared, made sure we had full water bottles and damp cooling towels and boarded the bus to Magic Kingdom parking lot.

Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side

Like the 10K, we got to the pre-race area with plenty of time to spare, but three days of three a.m. wake up calls were taking their toll. We met up with old friends, made some new friends, used the porta potties and casually made our way to the corrals.

While in the corrals, the race announcers were great at reminding everyone to be careful and safe due to the heat. They even got Jeff Galloway on camera to remind us that it was important to watch your pace and to listen to your body. We took the same approach as yesterday with Tom starting in the back of his corral and Kim starting in the front of her corral hoping to meet up early in the race.

The new half marathon course started the same as the 10K by going towards the toll plaza of the Magic Kingdom. The band was there again, doing a great job of motivating the runners as we went by. Then it was time for a few new twists. The course turned off of the familiar World Drive route and they routed us down Bear Island Road. Those who have run the full Marathon or the 2016 Wine & Dine course will recognize this as the road behind the Speedway, running by the water treatment plant.

Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side

R2-D2 was out again early on. Then we ran back in to the quiet and darkness of the 5:30 a.m. start.

As we ran back onto the dark roadway it seemed a little creepy until suddenly we were in the middle of the battle of Endor. There were laser blasts, sound effects and fire balls to make it feel like you were in the middle of the action. This was a great addition to the race.

Also during this stretch, they had out the speeder bikes and meeting with an Ewok around mile 2.6.

Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side

We entered Animal Kingdom backstage and made our way into the park. We ran a little backstage, saw some of the holding cages, and then popped onstage near Kali River Rapids. All of the water in Kali was a very cooling thought for what was yet to come. We got to pass by the Nemo theatre, where there were Storm Troopers for photos, and exited the park near Chester & Hester's Dinoland attractions.

We went through a backstage area where there were plenty of cosplayers and then out into the near-park side of the Animal Kingdom parking lot. This can be a long stretch but they did a great job of breaking it up with people cheering and a water stop.

There was also another photo opportunity, the ice cave on Hoth where you had to try to reach out and use the force to recover your light saber. We were a little more than halfway there at this point.

Then the hot happened.

We started on another long highway stretch down Osceola staring into the rising sun. First we got to make jokes about the double suns of Tatooine. The heat jokes got old, so we started the chant “I am one with the Force, and the Force is one with me.” Somehow this morphed in to “I am one with tequila and tequila is one with me.” Heat and humidity can do silly things like that.

We had to run up the circle entrance ramps from Osceola to World Drive and again from World Drive to Buena Vista Drive. The incline on the ramps wasn’t bad, but the sloping of the Florida roads around the circle ramps led to more silly comments as we made our way towards Hollywood Studios. The sun was pushing its way up, and the comparison to living on Darth Vader’s volcanic planet of Mustafar was mentioned.

The clouds blocked the heat a little, but with no breeze it got muggy quickly. The path we followed into and through Studios was the same as the 10K. Back through the Fantasmic Theatre (no cosplayers on Sunday), down Hollywood Boulevard and then out to the park entrance. There were plenty of PhotoPass photographers in this stretch and lots of people were hamming it up for the camera.

The course then went back down the path to the Boardwalk resort where we went closer to the shaded BoardWalk side. It was in this area that there the various running teams out supporting, cheering and having snacks available. We also got to see a famous (?) podcaster who is just a little taller than an Ewok and another section of additional cosplayers.

We entered EPCOT and made the right to go the long way around World Showcase. We joked that we could have ridden the Frozen ride because we hit this part at park opening. The lack of an open margarita stand was also pointed out. We continued to make out way to the front of EPCOT. There was a final group of cosplayers in the backstage area again.

After seeing our favorite race announcers near the end we tried to dance our way across the finish line and learned that Kim has much better rhythm than Tom.

Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side

As we made our way through the finish area, we were given our medals and the blessed relief of new cooling towels. The medical volunteers were out in full force encouraging us to hydrate hydrate hydrate.

Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side

We got medals and finish line pictures, and they had beer and food available in the reunion area, as well as merchandise opportunities for people who missed out at the expo, but Tom was too tired. We hopped right on to a bus for a ride back to the hotel.

Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side

While we were smart with hydrating and using cooling towels during the race, this was a tough one. The new courses were a refreshing change from what we are used to running. The minimal crowding on the course made it very enjoyable to run. With lots of time on open roads the crowd was able to thin out and you got an excellent balance of open running time mixed with some time spent in the parks and seeing characters.

We would recommend these races to those who are Star Wars fans. We believe that as Disney does more with the Star Wars franchise we will see more variety of characters on course and ultimately a change in the course when Star Wars Land opens. This weekend certainly wins most improved over the inaugural experience and it will continue to get better with time.

From Laura: I'd like to say a huge thank you to Kim, Tom, and Molly for sharing their experiences at the Dark Side Half Marathon Weekend with us! After reading their blogs I'm seriously considering signing up for the Challenge again next year...

April 29, 2017

2017 Star Wars - The Dark Side Half Marathon Weekend, Part 1: Expo and 5K

Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side

Lee and I did not attend any of the events of this year's Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side weekend, so I prevailed upon friends to blog about the race weekend instead. Kim Scharoff and Molly and Tom Troost collaborated on notes and photos, and Kim wrote Part 1. A big thank you to all of them!

Thursday, April 20 - Expo

Tom, Molly and I are veteran runDisney runners and know that the Expo can be crazy at opening, so we decided to wait until later in the day. We drove over to the Expo around 3:30pm. We had no problem getting parking and walked right in.

The set up was the standard for WDW events - bibs in one building and Expo in another. While all of us printed out waivers prior, we forgot them at home and needed to print them on site. This was extremely easy to do. We were able to quickly get our bibs - all of us for the 5k and Tom and me for the Challenge.

Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side

In the same area where we picked up our bibs, the race shirts were available. The shirts were gray, maroon, and red, with black writing to keep with the Dark Side theme.

(Laura's comment: Of course there was a gray shirt. There's ALWAYS a gray shirt.)

Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side

Upstairs there was a merchandise area. Tom went to pick up some commemorative items that he had pre-ordered while Molly and I went to check out the merchandise.

The merchandise was well stocked. It had race specific items as well as Star Wars generic items. We did not see pins in this area or the "I did it!" shirts.

Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side

We went back outside and across to the main Expo. We first went to the runDisney merchandise area. Again, there appeared to be no shortage of anything. In addition, this area had the pins and shirts. Molly and I both purchased capri sweatpants that were Star Wars themed. Going through checkout was simple as well, requiring a less than 5 minute wait.

Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side

We walked around the remainder of the Expo, checked out some of the exhibitors and picked up a couple of items that we needed. New Balance sneakers were readily available and easy to purchase with no wait. I was able to basically walk right up and speak with Jeff and Barb Galloway and get my usual picture with Jeff.

We were done within 2 hours and headed off for dinner prior to calling it any early night since we knew the morning would be an early one.

Friday, April 21 - Dark Side 5K

Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side

Since the 5k was the usual EPCOT 5k that everyone knows from Marathon and Princess weekend, we drove over early so we could explore the pre-race area, and arrived at 4:00. Going through security to get in was easy. They continued with the bag vs. no bag lines and considered someone with a water belt as no bag.

DJ Elliot was spinning the tunes to get everyone pumped up. There were 7 picture back drops/characters that you could take photos with - Rogue One, Boba Fett with a carbonite Han Solo, Jabba the Hutt, Darth Vader, Kylo Ren, Captain Phasma, and BB-8. We were able to quickly get Darth Vader, Kylo Ren and BB-8, never waiting more than 15 minutes.

Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side Darth Vader

Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side Kylo Ren

Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side BB-8

By that time, the lines had gotten long and for the first time, runDisney had signs with estimated wait times for each character. The ground was also nicely marked for moving the lines.

Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side

We made sure to make our way to the corrals with time to spare before the 6:00 race start. We were starting from corral C so that we could all stay together as we walked this race. There were the usual 5 corrals. Prior to the start we were reminded of proper course etiquette. It was relatively cool for Florida in April - about 61 degrees at the start, but quite humid.

Storm Troopers came out and told us this was Level One of our training. This was the same script that was used last year.

Rather than release an entire corral at once, they subdivided the corrals into 2 or 3 waves and released them at 2 minute intervals. This definitely helped to reduce some of the crowding on course.

Once on course, we felt they had a nice selection of characters. Less than a mile into the race, there were two Ewoks. The line was long when we got there and we decided not to stop, which is something we regretted later. We kept going and right before entering EPCOT near Test Track, the Emperor's Chair was available for runners to sit and take photos.

R2D2 and Star Wars Rebels were available in World Showcase for photos. Chewie was also in his usual spot for the runDisney events on the path near the International Gateway which allows for plenty of space for a long line. As you came near the Fountain in Future Wold, there were Storm Troopers on the ledge to take pictures with but without a PhotoPass photographer which we thought a bit strange.

Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side

We saw lots of cool costumes, especially mash-up type costumes and we even dressed as droids. We got lots of great photos from the PhotoPass Photographers stationed throughout the course.

Of course, right before we crossed the finish line, we had to stop and talk with race announcers Rudy Novotny and John Pelky and take a selfie.

We all enjoyed the 5k race. Molly was now done racing for the weekend but Tom and I had two more races to go....

Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side

January 22, 2017

2017 Disneyland Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend - Part 3, Half Marathon


Sunday - January 15, Star Wars Half Marathon

Star Wars Half Marathon

We'd scheduled a wakeup call for 4:00 - but we never got it. Fortunately Lee is a "belt-and-suspenders" guy and had also set the alarm on his iPhone, so we were still up at 4:00.

Since we knew from the day before that security wasn't going to be an issue we didn't leave the room until 5:00. I was still in my corral my 5:17 - plenty of time. I was in C, Lee was in E, so we again ran separately...I wanted to try to stop for some character photos this time, so wanted to be further forward so the lines maybe wouldn't be quite as long.

Running costumes for us that morning, also - X-wing pilot for Lee, and Rey for me. The arm wraps were quite welcome since it was another cool morning. A little warmer than the day before - 50. I had a mylar sheet to wrap around me while I was waiting, and that was really all I needed. I had gloves, but I never actually put them on - finally just put them in my pocket. Again, it was just about perfect conditions for running a race.

Star Wars Half Marathon
Star Wars Half Marathon

While we were waiting for this race to start we saw scenes from Rogue One - A Star Wars Story. We saw that in December - good movie.

Star Wars Half Marathon

Again, not much of a "show" from the race announcers while we were waiting. But that's ok. The race started right on time. There were 5 minutes between corral releases, so my corral started 10 minutes after the official start.

Star Wars Half Marathon

The first four+ miles of the course were almost identical to the 10K the day before. But that was ok - since I wasn't running for time I was able to observe my surroundings a little more. I liked this sign backstage at DCA. :-)

Star Wars Half Marathon

The line at R2 and Threepio's character stop was long, but there was a short line for the Rebels at Paradise Pier.

Star Wars Half Marathon

One thing that I don't think I've mentioned in my blogs, which I should, is restroom stops in the parks. I always try to have some idea of what the race course is inside the parks so that I know where there restrooms next to the course. I only need to find one, but it's really nice to be able to use a REAL restroom instead of a porta-potty. This time I went to the large one between Ariel's and Grizzly River Run, but I would have had a lot of other options.

There was a set of Jedi performing a light saber training exercise in Hollywood Land.

Star Wars Half Marathon

And the speeder bikes were placed outside the Tower of Terror just before mile 2. Lengthy line for that, too.

Star Wars Half Marathon

When we ran through the tunnel under the bus area I noticed some new special effects - in addition to the Star Wars music that was playing there was the sound of lasers firing, and on the walls were red and green laser trace fire lines. Hard to see in this photo, but I thought it was a really neat effect!

Star Wars Half Marathon

We passed the mile 3 sign backstage at Disneyland, and then entered the park back at Toon Town, then ran by "it's a small world". It's nice that Disney leaves it in holiday mode through this race weekend. It's decorated for Avengers weekend in November and for Star Wars weekend in January.

Star Wars Half Marathon

There was a Storm Troopers character stop along "small world way" before we turned left to go around the Matterhorn.

Star Wars Half Marathon

There were more Storm Troopers on the ramp of the Launch Bay. The BB-8 photo stop was near Star Tours. The line wasn't too long so I stopped.

Star Wars Half Marathon

We again ran back towards Fantasyland. Kylo Ren was engaged in a light saber battle with some Jedi near Pixie Hollow. (Five against one doesn't seem exactly fair, though, does it? There should be at least ten Jedi.)

Star Wars Half Marathon

From Fantasyland we ran through the castle, but instead of taking the loop out through Frontierland and Adventureland like we did for the 10K we went straight down Main Street.

Star Wars Half Marathon

Two of the horses were out and posing for photos. They seemed to like the runners - the one on my left nuzzled me lightly on the shoulder. Such beautiful gentle giants!

Star Wars Half Marathon

The Mile 4 sign was along Main Street, and Chewbacca's photo stop was in the same location as the 10K - next to the Disney Showcase store. Longish line, so I didn't stop. While this was "The Light Side" half marathon, there were a few Dark Siders who showed up to spoil the party. I already mentioned the Storm Troopers and Kylo Ren, but Captain Phasma was also there, on the bridge next to the train station.

Star Wars Half Marathon

After we ran out through Disneyland's main entrance we went through the east tram area and out to Harbor Blvd - the rest of the course was outside the parks. But about 4.5 miles in the parks is a pretty good - better than some of the other race courses.

On the other side of Harbor I could see some of the early runners who were already returning. The winner had already gone by, but I saw some of the higher finishing men as well as the female winner.

Star Wars Half Marathon

By mile six it was starting to get more light out as the sun came out. There were a few clouds with color, but it was a fairly clear morning.

Star Wars Half Marathon

The course took us down Harbor Blvd into the city of Garden Grove, where we turned right on Garden Grove Blvd. There were a number of bands and cheerleaders who had come out to cheer us on. And we even had a feline cheerleader! This cat was not at all bothered about being in a harness and watching all of these crazy runners go by him. I'm guessing he has some Dark Side leanings. :-)

Star Wars Half Marathon

One of my favorite things about this course is that it crosses Newhope Street. How appropriate for a Star Wars-themed race! That's after the halfway point - about mile 7.5, and just before we turn north to go back towards the finish.

Star Wars Half Marathon

But my favorite thing about this course is around mile 8 and mile 9 - the two areas where there are Cosplayers who come dressed in their Star Wars costumes to cheer us on. They are so amazing! They love having their photo taken with runners, and there's usually no line to do that. I can't say enough about their wonderful enthusiasm and support. Their placement on the course is really good, because it's when runners are getting tired, but still have a ways to go to the finish. They really help give us an extra boost to keep us going as we get a lift out of all of their energy.

Star Wars Half Marathon

There are lots of heroes:

Star Wars Half Marathon

And villains:

Star Wars Half Marathon

And even cars and droids!

Star Wars Half Marathon

Lee found his fellow X-wing squadron pilots.

Star Wars Half Marathon

This video shows most of both sets - as you can see there was really an extensive variety of costumes from all of the different movies.

After the excitement of the cosplayers, mile 9-10 of the course is pretty quiet. It's largely in a residential neighborhood, so in the interest of keeping the noise down early on a Sunday morning there are no bands or other entertainment. Though there are residents and groups, like my friends Colin and Richard, who come out to cheer on the runners in that area, and it is greatly appreciated.

Star Wars Half Marathon

Just before mile 10 the course goes right on Chapman Avenue for about a mile. There's a lovely pond there, and it always has nice reflections in the morning. Thanks to all of the recent rain the water level was higher than normal, and on this race morning there were lots of ducks enjoying the pond.

Star Wars Half Marathon

My legs were a little tired after my hard run the day before, but I'd managed to mostly stick to my usual run/walk pace. But by about mile 10.5 I started to feel it and had to slow down a little more. I was very happy when we turned left onto Harbor Blvd since I knew I had just about 2 miles left. I could see runners at the back of the pack still coming towards us. It was just before mile 12 that I saw the balloon ladies.

Star Wars Half Marathon

The last mile of the course took us down Katella to Disneyland Drive, and then around the Paradise Pier Hotel to the finish line at the Disneyland Hotel. I finished in JUST under 2:22 - 2:21:59 to be exact. :-) Considering photo stops, a restroom stop, and tired legs I was VERY happy with that.

Star Wars Half Marathon
Star Wars Half Marathon

I got my race medal - it's a spinner with Han and Leia (awwww) on one side and the Medal of Yavin on the other. And my Rebel Challenge medal. That's a new design this year. I'm not really sure I like it.

Star Wars Half Marathon

I didn't talk about the runDisney snack box after the 10K...we received the same assortment after the half. It had a slightly different variety than what I've seen before. The best part is that it has a small container of Nutella!!!! Yum. I guess I'm resigned to the fact that it's what we're going to get after any Disney race from now on. Most of it is stuff I'll eat except the Builder Bar - yuck.

Star Wars Half Marathon

In the finish area there was a Nesquik van, and they were handing out chocolate milk! Yay!!! Or "Protein Enhanced Milk Beverage", as they called it. There was a choice of chocolate or vanilla. I didn't hear anyone ask for vanilla.

Star Wars Half Marathon

The "trash compactor" photo backdrop had a short line, so I had my photo taken there.

Star Wars Half Marathon

Lee was still somewhere behind me (though it turned out he was closer than I thought - apparently he was flying down the course!), so I walked back to the room before I started to get cold. The sun was out, and it was slightly warmer than it had been for the 10K, but still. I was ready to get back and take a hot shower! Lee also had a good race - took it easy and stopped for some photos.

Star Wars Half Marathon

Final Thoughts

I still really love this race weekend - it's definitely my favorite of the Disney race weekends. And I think this half marathon course has now overtaken the Tinker Bell course as my favorite half marathon course. The roads are nice and wide so it doesn't feel crowded. The course is mostly flat, also. A few slight inclines - the only hill is the tunnel under the tram area. No overpasses!

The race medals are always a highlight. The BB-8 medal is really cute, and I really liked the re-design of the half marathon medal.

Star Wars Half Marathon

I still wish there were more characters on the course...or in the finish area.

I was surprised that the half marathon and 10K didn't sell out this year. There were about 15,000-16,000 entered in the half, and 12,434 finishers. This is a PERFECT time for running in southern California. I don't want to jinx it, but in the five years that runDisney has held a race weekend at Disneyland in January, we've always had great weather for running.

We will be back for this race weekend next year.

Good luck to all of you running Dark Side in April to complete the Kessel Run Challenge! We will not be there this year.

Thanks for reading.

January 21, 2017

2017 Disneyland Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend - Part 2, 10K


Saturday - January 14, Star Wars 10K

I know I've mentioned this before, but it's so much easier to run races at Disneyland! The start area and all of the hotels are all walking distance, so we don't have to get up really early to catch a bus to the start.

The race started at 5:30, and we set a wakeup call for 4:00. That's pretty much sleeping in by runDisney standards. :-) We left our room about 4:45.

Both of us were in costume. Lee wore his black Luke Skywalker Jedi outfit - complete with one black glove. :-) I didn't go with a Star Wars costume this time, and just wore my trusty Cinderella costume. Though really, I think she's a Jedi at heart.

Star Wars 10K

This year the new variable was Disneyland's new security perimeter. Since Downtown Disney is within a "secure zone" now, we were pretty sure we would have to go through security from our hotel into Downtown Disney, but weren't sure how long that would take. As it turned out it was very fast. It was quite easy for the security personnel to see that most runners weren't carrying anything. We did not have to go through a secondary screening at what was the race checkpoint in the past. But there were still security people patrolling, some with dogs.

By the time we arrived in the pre-race area a lot of people had already gone to their corrals. So we couldn't tell if it seemed more crowded this year now that there were 12,000-13,000 runners in the 10K as opposed to under 10,000 as in previous years.

Star Wars 10K

Both Lee and I were planning to run the 10K for time and not stopping to take photos. We were in different corrals, so I went to B and he went to C. Most of the photos below were taken by the PhotoPass photographers. As Annual Passholders we can download them for free. Disney started using their own photographers rather than MarathonFoto at the Dark Side weekend at WDW last April. The information on how to turn your bib nunber into a PhotoPass ID is on the back of the race bibs. It's really been a MUCH better service than MarathonFoto ever was. The photographers seem to get a lot more photos, AND some of the photos are available on race day - usually by the next day they are all there.

It was really a perfect morning for running. It was 48 degrees at the race start, with little or no wind. I had gloves, arm sleeves, and a throwaway sweatshirt, and I was actually pretty comfortable while waiting for the race to start.

There really wasn't much of a pre-show with the race announcers in the 15-20 minutes before the race started. No Storm Troopers or Darth Vader on stage. We saw a couple of different sets of scenes from The Force Awakens.

Star Wars 10K

At 5:29 the wheelchairs started.

Corral A was a minute after that, and Corral B was five minutes later.

Star Wars 10K

There were new courses for the 5K, 10K, and Half Marathons this year. The biggest change was that from the starting line the race courses went south on Disneyland Drive rather than north as they have the previous two years. All three courses went through both parks - DCA first and then Disneyland - with varying routes in the parks depending on the race distance.

I really liked the new 10K course. The designers absolutely maximized the park time. Unlike previous 10K courses that have been outside the parks for the first mile or so, this one was all on property - if you consider the first .3 miles on Disneyland Drive to be on property, which I do.

After that first .3 miles we turned left in front of the Paradise Pier Hotel and went backstage at DCA. This part of the course was a little too dark, and could have used some additional light. Fortunately the pavement was smooth, so there wasn't really much danger of tripping, but it still made me a little more cautious. There were projections on some of the buildings, like the Rebel Alliance symbol, the Millennium Falcon, or an X-wing fighter.

Star Wars 10K

We went into the park near the Pacific Wharf where we ran through Radiator Springs past Radiator Springs Racers (so pretty at night with all of the light on the Cadillac Range) and Luigi's Rollickin' Roadsters.

Star Wars 10K

We ran through Flik's Fun Fair past the Mile 1 sign and out to the parade route. The first character stop was Threepio and R2-D2 by the Cars Land sign - I was surprised at how long it was that early in the race. I wasn't planning to stop anyway, though.

We ran clockwise around Paradise Bay. As I mentioned I was wearing my Cinderella costume, and I heard a cast member say something like "Go Cindy! Oh, it's ok, she still has both her shoes." I cracked up at that - which was when the PhotoPass photographer snapped the picture below. :-)

Star Wars 10K

At Ariel's we turned left towards Grizzly River Run, past Soarin' and into Hollywood Land to the Tower of Terror. There were Jedi and Storm Troopers next to the Tower. We went backstage behind the Tower and passed the Mile 2 sign.

We took the tunnel down and up under the east tram area over to Disneyland. This was really the only significant hill on the course. That took us backstage at Disneyland for quite a while - past the Mile 3 sign. The BB-8 photo stop was back there, but I completely missed seeing it. This was another area where it was a little dark in places. We'd had great Star Wars music playing most of the time, but once we reached this point it got a little quiet until we emerged into Toon Town.

We ran past "it's a small world", which was still lit up with all of the holiday lights.

Star Wars 10K

We turned left at the Matterhorn and ran towards Tomorrowland. Kylo Ren was somewhere in there - between the Matterhorn and the Tomorrowland Terrace, as I recall. The course took us past the Launch Bay, where there were Storm Troopers above us. We ran past Star Tours and out to the hub.

Star Wars 10K

Once we reached the hub we did a 180 onto Matterhorn Way past Alice in Wonderland, then made a left at the tea cups and passed the Mile 4 sign. I was happy to see that I was on pace - maybe slightly ahead of pace. This year the Star Wars 10K course went through the castle to the hub, which it's never done before.

Star Wars 10K

We went through Frontierland and New Orleans Square, then the course did a hard 180 just in front of the Haunted Mansion and went back to the hub via Adventureland. We had quite an extensive tour of Disneyland and visited all of the lands except Critter Country.

We ran down Main Street. Chewbacca's photo op was at the end of the street by the Disney Showcase shop.

Star Wars 10K

After we went out the park entrance we ran into the Esplanade and to the left to go backstage at DCA again. We passed the Mile 5 sign on a perimeter road that took us around the back of Radiator Springs Racers and Paradise Pier. For about a tenth of a mile we could see some of those in the last corral coming towards us - only about .4 miles into their race whereas we were 5.8 miles into ours! I saw the balloon ladies at the very end of the race.

After we crossed Disneyland Drive we went around the back of the Paradise Pier Hotel (and the Mile 6 sign), and then it was just .2 miles to the traditional finish line near the Disneyland Hotel. It was still dark!

Star Wars 10K

I finished in 56:41, which is a new personal best 10K time for me. I was very happy with that. I was hoping to crack the top ten in my division, and I finished 8th! 10K is definitely my favorite distance.

Star Wars 10K

The BB-8 medal is really cute. It spins!

Star Wars 10K BB-8 Medal

I exited into the finish area and talked to Lisa (Hi Lisa!) for a while I waited for Lee to finish. Fortunately the volunteers had handed out mylar sheets at the finish (they sometimes don't do that for 10Ks), because it was still only 48 degrees and I was starting to get a little chilled.

Star Wars 10K

There was a vendor selling Death Star balloons (that's what the balloon ladies had been carrying, too).

Star Wars 10K

Once Lee finished we went over to the Annual Passholder tent. We showed our passes and they gave us an Annual Passholder string bag - it was nice for carrying our snack boxes and water bottles back to our room. There was a photo backdrop and a photographer there, too.

Star Wars 10K

Another change in the course this year: in previous years the 10K has finished by going all the way through Downtown Disney. While it's been kind of thrilling to run by all of the cheering crowds, it's been a nightmare after the race when trying to get back to the hotels, because you have to cross the race course at least once, and usually more than once. This year we didn't have to do that, and it was much easier to get back to our hotel.

I really enjoyed this course - I think it's now my favorite of the Disney 10K courses. And not just because I ran it for a personal best. :-) With all of the Star Wars Land construction in Disneyland I expected that we might have less park time this year, but instead I'm not sure how they could have given us any more! While yes, we had a fair bit of time that was in not-so-exciting backstage areas, I still enjoyed being on property for the entire race.

There were 11,606 finishers this year as opposed to 8,994 last year, so quite a few more runners out there. Since I was at the front it was not congested for me, but I can't speak to how it might have been further back. Certainly the first mile of this course was narrower than the first mile of the former course, which was all on wide city streets, and that might have been an issue. If you ran the race and experienced congestion, please leave a comment and let me know how it was for you.

The characters...still not a strong point, especially compared to our experience at Disneyland Paris last year. (Over 10 character stops in a 5K!) For this 10K there were four character stops, plus a couple of unattended backdrops and "run bys" like the Storm Troopers and Jedi. I would still so LOVE to see the Disney characters in their Star Wars attire out on the course! In Florida there are character meet and greets in the pre/post-race area, and I'd like to see them do that in California, also. Though there were a couple of photo backdrops (with photographers) in that area - the Wampa cave and the trash compactor.

Star Wars 10K

Coming next: The Star Wars Half Marathon

January 20, 2017

2017 Disneyland Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend - Part 1, Expo

Star Wars Half Marathon

For the third year Lee and I participated in the 10K and half marathon races at Disneyland's Star Wars Half Marathon. Or Star Wars Half Marathon - the Light Side as they now call it, to distinguish it from the Star Wars Half Marathon - the Dark Side at Walt Disney World. :-)

Unlike previous years, the 10K and half marathon races did not sell out, and runDisney was still selling race registrations at the Expo. That was a surprise. Of course part of the reason is that they raised the race capacities: the 10K had almost 13,000 spots, as opposed to 10,000 last year, while the half had 16,000 instead of 14,000. Of those numbers, about 6,000 were those running the Rebel Challenge. There were 5,000 entered in the 5K, and 1,500 in the Kids Races.

We arrived at the Expo on Friday afternoon - it had opened on Thursday. As usual, bib pickup was downstairs in the Disneyland Hotel Convention Center. This is the first time I remember that there wasn't a specially designed rug on the ramp going down to the pickup area. But we've had a lot of rain recently (and it rained on Thursday) so the rug would have been soaking wet. This photo is from last year.

Star Wars Half Marathon

We had printed out our race waivers in advance, so all we had to do was go to the correct counter to pick up our Rebel Challenge bibs. There are computers and printers available for those who don't bring waivers with them. I think this was the most people that I've ever seen in bib pick-up, but it still was a fast process for us.

Star Wars Half Marathon

As Rebel Challenge runners we had to get our photo taken with our bib number - that's how they verify after the half marathon that we 1: completed the 10K, and 2: are the same person who picked up the bib. They used to give us wristbands at the end of the 10K - this is a nice alternative to not having to wear the wristband.

Star Wars Half Marathon

The race brochure was again condensed down to a "Final Race Instructions" pamphlet. It has all of the essential information like course maps, road closures, times, transportation, and viewing, but without all of the ads. I prefer this format - "just the facts, ma'am." (Am I showing my age there or what?) What I *don't* prefer is the new "on-line magazine" format for the official race guide - I can no longer download it as a PDF like I used to. And I find it very cumbersome and slow - really useless.

Star Wars Half Marathon
Star Wars Half Marathon

Once we picked up the bibs we went back upstairs to the main expo in the Disneyland Hotel Convention Center. I always enjoy seeing how they have decorated the entrance. The different banners are nice photo ops!

Star Wars Half Marathon
Star Wars Half Marathon
Star Wars Half Marathon

We picked up our race shirts. I liked this year's designs, but a gray shirt AGAIN????? I wish they would do more white shirts. These are long sleeve shirts - typical for January races. This particular weekend they felt pretty good since the weather was cooler than usual - highs in the low 60s, lows in the upper 40s.

2017 Star Wars Half Marathon shirts

There was a shirt exchange available, but neither of us needed to get a different size. It's very nice to have that option, though. I've found Disney sizing to be consistent in recent years, but that wasn't always the case.

Star Wars Half Marathon

Usually when we arrive on Friday afternoons there is either a short line or no line to get into the Official Merchandise area. This time the line extended out into the foyer, and it took 15-20 minutes to get into the area. The line moved pretty consistently so it wasn't too bad. But still, I was surprised to see it that long.

Once we went inside, it seemed like there was still plenty of merchandise left. A few things were sold out, like the special edition runDisney Star Wars Weekend Christmas tree ornament, and the Star Wars Weekend wine glasses. I believe the Dooney & Bourke bags were sold out by then, also.

Star Wars Half Marathon

There were already only limited sizes available on a few of the shirts. Lee bought this one. They were out of size large, so he had to get an XL, which is a little big.

Star Wars Half Marathon Rebel shirt

Race weekend logo:

Star Wars Half Marathon

All of the pins, mini medal pins, magnets, water bottles, mugs, etc. seemed to be available.

Star Wars Half Marathon magnet
Star Wars Half Marathon water bottle
Star Wars Half Marathon pins
Star Wars Half Marathon hat

I thought there was a very nice selection of shirts available for the Rebel Challenge and the Half Marathon.

Star Wars Half Marathon shirt
Star Wars Half Marathon
Star Wars Half Marathon shirt
Star Wars Half Marathon shirt
Star Wars Half Marathon tank
Star Wars Half Marathon shirt

The Han/Leia graphic on this one is especially poignant right now.

Star Wars Half Marathon Han/Leia shirt

But for the 5K and 10K, there seemed to be only one shirt plus the "I Did It" shirts. With BB-8 as the theme for the 10K, I was surprised that there wasn't more merchandise available for the 10K.

Star Wars 5K shirt
Star Wars 5K I Did It
Star Wars Half 10K shirt

Star Wars 10K I Did It

There were some other fun Star Wars items that weren't themed to any specific race.

Star Wars Half Marathon
Star Wars Half Marathon shirt
Star Wars Half Marathon Yoda hat

There's a new design for the Coast-to-Coast merchandise this year. The shirts are available in men's and women's cuts. I bought one of these.

2017 Coast to Coast shirt
2017 Coast to Coast hat

The rest of the Expo seemed about the same. Honda was a major sponsor and they had a special pace car. We weren't sure how a pace car would be used in a half marathon, but I guess there was one.

Star Wars Half Marathon

There were Star Wars-themed Stance socks.

Star Wars Stance socks

The latest versions of New Balance Disney running shoes were available. This time they represent Disney attractions rather than characters. The women's shoes are Haunted Mansion and Mad Tea Party.

Star Wars Half Marathon
2017 New Balance Mad Tea Party shoe

The men's shoes are Star Tours and Toy Story Mania.

2017 New Balance Toy Story shoe
2017 New Balance Star Tours shoe

I don't know if I'm mentioned this before...Runner Tracking is available for the races. You can track runners of your choice, or you can provide the information for others to track you. My parents always like to know how we're doing, so I set up tracking to send them an email or text message. And if Lee and I aren't running together we track each other.There's typically a link on the event page under the "Spectators" tab. Sometimes you need a log in to set it up, sometimes not. There's usually options to have your times sent via text message or email, or to have it automatically post to Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

As we wandered through Downtown Disney we saw several signs advising guests that various businesses would be open at 4:00 a.m. on race mornings, like Starbucks, Jamba Juice, and Haagen Daz. That's a nice service for runners and spectators!

Downtown Disney Early Openings

Coming next: The Star Wars 10K

April 30, 2016

2016 WDW Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend - Part 3 - The Food


What's a Disney race weekend without the opportunity to enjoy a little food? And some adult beverages, too. :-) One of the things I was looking forward to on this trip was the opportunity to sample foods from the food booths at Epcot's Flower and Garden (aka mini Food and Wine) Festival.

Epcot Flower and Garden Festival

Lee and I arrived fairly late on Wednesday night. We were headed to the Boardwalk Bakery when we noticed that the Trattoria al Forno pizza window was still that's what we had. We were hungry, and scarfed it down pretty quickly, so there's no photos. :-) My cheese pizza was just ok - it had been sitting around under the heat lamp for a while. Lee really enjoyed his piece of the Boardwalk Signature Pizza, though. (This is the stock photo of the cheese pizza - mine didn't look quite this good. :-) )

Trattoria al Forno Pizza Window Cheese Pizza

The next morning we went to the Bellevue Room at the Boardwalk, which sells "Continental Breakfast" types of foods in the morning - pastries, bagels, cold cereal, yogurt, fruit cup/whole fruit, and beverages: coffee, tea, juice, milk. We were planning to visit the food booths at Epcot, but needed something to eat since they didn't open until 11:00.

When we walked into Epcot I picked up a "Garden Passport". This little booklet had the menus for all of the food booths, and there was a place to get a stamp at each booth.

Epcot Flower and Garden Festival Passport

All of the food booths had unique stamps, and there were some really interesting designs. There were stamps for the butterfly garden, the Festival shops, playground, and tours, also. No reward (such as a pin) for getting all of the stamps - just the completion stamp. But I had fun doing it anyway.

Epcot Flower and Garden Festival Tasting Passport stamps

The first thing we sampled was Seared Pork Tenderloin with Mushroom Ragout, Spring Vegetables and Marble Potatoes from Urban Farm Eats. It was excellent, and a good-sized serving for $6.00. I appreciated the fact that it had some vegetables - pieces of asparagus, onion, and beans - in addition to the sliced potatoes.

Seared Pork Tenderloin from Urban Farm Eats

Next was "Adult Soft Serve", as the Pineapple Promenade CM called it: Pineapple Soft-Serve with Parrot Bay Coconut Rum for $10.00. Oh wow. This was SO good! The rum was on top so we had to make sure we got a little on our spoons in addition to the pineapple soft serve - but once the ice cream level was low enough we could mix it in. We liked this so much that we went back later in our visit to share another one.

Pineapple Promenade Pineapple Soft Serve with Coconut Rum

One thing we really enjoyed about the food booths was that there were no lines! Mostly we walked right up to the cashier, or at most waited behind 2-3 other people. Very different from the Food and Wine Festival.

Hanami Japan Food Booth

From La Isla Fresca we sampled the Jerk-spice Grouper with Mango Salsa, Chayote and Green Papaya Slaw with Lime-Cilantro Vinaigrette. This was another good one though I had to eat around the red and green peppers.

La Isla Fresca Jerk Spice Grouper

We also tried the Frozen Simply Tropical Juice Drink with Cruzan Mango Rum. I was surprised that this had chunks of mango in it - but I thought that was the best part. It was all pretty tasty, though.

La Isla Fresca Tropical Juice Drink with Cruzan Mango Rum

At the coffee kiosk near Mexico I tried the Tiki Torch - a passion fruit slush with Grey Goose vodka. I was expecting it to be more slushy, but it wasn't really frozen. It was fine, but Lee enjoyed this one more than I did.

Coffee Kiosk Tiki Torch

At Lotus House in China Lee tried a Gaoli Beef Bun, which a friend had recommended. He really liked this.

Lotus House Gaoli Beef Bun

I had my first sparkling wine at Germany's Bauernmarkt: Farmer's Market - Hugo-Charles de Fere "Organic" Brut with Elderflower and Mint. This was good - fortunately the mint was not overpowering, so I could taste the elderflower. Lee tried the Kostritzer Schwarzbier Black Lager, which he enjoyed.

Bauernmarkt Brut with Elderflower and Mint

From Primavera Kitchen at Italy we ordered Mezze Lune Primavera - Egg Pasta stuffed with Ricotta and Spinach in a Creamy Sauce with Spring Vegetables and Pecorino Cheese. This was...OK. It seemed a little bit dry.

Primavera Kitchen Mezze Lune Primavera

At THE SMOKEHOUSE at The American Adventure we tried most of the food items. The Pulled Pig Slider with Crispy Onions and Coleslaw was pretty good, but not great. I think I liked the coleslaw more than the slider.

Smokehouse Pulled Pig Slider

We also tried Smoked Pork Ribs with Roasted Corn Salad. I thought these were better. They were pretty meaty and tender. Lee liked the corn salad.

Smokehouse Smoked Pork Ribs with Roasted Corn Salad

For topping the BBQ offerings there were three BBQ sauces at the condiment station to choose from - I had North Carolina (nice and mustardy) and Lee had the classic.

For dessert we tried the Warm Chocolate Cake with Bourbon-Salted Caramel Sauce and Spiced Pecans. This was just ok. The top part of the cake which had the caramel sauce and nuts on it was the best part. And when they say "spiced" pecans they mean spicy hot and not spicy cinnamon. These had a kick to them.

Smokehouse Chocolate Cake with Bourbon Salted Caramel Sauce

That was pretty good for a first round of tastings. The last thing I tried was the La Vie en Rose Frozen Slush - Grey Goose vodka orange, St-Germain liqueur, white and red cranberry juice at France. Lee didn't care for it, but I thought it was tasty. I knew I had to finish it before we could leave the park, though. :-)

La Vie en Rose Frozen Slush

That evening we went to Disney Springs for dinner at Morimoto Asia. This was our first experience driving ourselves there and parking in the "Orange" garage. The "smart garage" worked really well - when we first pulled in the sign told us which parking levels had the most spaces, and then once we chose level 4, each row told us how many spaces were in it, and there were green lights on the ceiling of the garage over each open space to identify it. Super easy! We arrived about 5:20, so it might be more of a challenge when it's busier, but we had no problem.

We were a little early at Morimoto Asia - instead of a pager, they told me they would send a text message to my phone instead. We were seated in less than 10 minutes, but had a nice conversation with a blog reader (Hello!) while we were waiting. Our table was the outside corner of the middle block nearest the hostess station - I was concerned it might feel very busy with the aisle right next to us, but it was fine.

I'd been to Morimoto in February, but this was Lee's first visit. We started off with a couple of glasses of wine from their "Spring Selections" list. They were both very good. We also shared two appetizers. The first was the Tempura Rock Shrimp. It was $16, and I was expecting it to be just a few pieces of shrimp, but it was a very generous serving! Easily an appetizer for 3-4 people and not just two. Very good, also.

Morimoto Asia Tempura Rock Shrimp

Our other appetizer was Kakuni Pork Bao - steamed buns, braised pork belly, lettuce, spicy mayo. This was also excellent, and very filling. Lee was concerned that the pork belly might be very fatty but it wasn't. I was expecting it to be more of a traditional bao (sort of a large dumpling) rather than the something more like a taco, but we definitely got a lot more filling this way.

Morimoto Asia Kakuni Pork Bao

And then the entrees arrived. Honestly, after the appetizers I didn't need much more to eat!

I ordered something different this time and tried the Lo Mein Noodles with Chicken - stir-fried egg noodles, Napa cabbage, carrots, bean sprouts, and scallions. This was good but not awesome - the Shrimp Pad Thai I had last time was much better. I still enjoyed part of it (I was too full to eat much of it), and took about 2/3 of it with me, figuring it would taste good after one of the races (and I ended up eating it after the half marathon, when it tasted REALLY good).

Morimoto Asia Lo Mein Noodles Chicken

Lee tried the Singapore Laksa Noodle - creamy coconut and spicy curry, rice noodle, chicken meatballs, and soy marinated egg. He was disappointed in this. He didn't care for the chicken meatballs, and thought the curry didn't have enough coconut flavor. I tried it, and it was a bit too spicy for me. He also ended up taking about 1/2 of it with him, which he also ate after the half marathon. Things taste a lot better after a half marathon when your body is just saying: "FEED ME", and you're shoveling it in as fast as you can. :-)

Morimoto Asia Singapore Laksa Noodle

We'd left some room for dessert. I would've liked to have had the MM Parfait again, but there was no way the two of us were going to make any serious inroads on that! So we tried the Churro Fondue instead. Housemade churros, with Nutella and vanilla cream sauces. The churros were freshly made and hot, but I thought they were a little doughy inside. They were dipped in sugar - I would've preferred cinnamon sugar, though. I really liked the Nutella sauce, but Lee preferred the cream sauce. I didn't think it was very creamy - it was a little too thick.

Morimoto Asia Churro Fondue

When our server brought us the dessert menu, I had a chuckle over a typo under the tea selections. I guess this is not the Mos Eisley Cantina, and they serve droids here. :-)

Morimoto Asia Tea Menu
Cylon Tea

It was still a really good dinner - we loved the appetizers. Next time (and there will be a next time!) we might just do appetizers/sushi/dessert and skip the entree. This is not a quiet intimate experience - the restaurant is very noisy. Though our table, being along the edge, wasn't as noisy as the one I sat at the last time. I think one of the tables along the outside wall might be better, also.

Friday morning we went to Animal Kingdom. As a snack we tried the Smoky Cheddar Grits, served with pulled pork and bread-and-butter pickles, from the Smiling Crocodile kiosk. We'd wanted to try this in February but the kiosk was closed, so we were happy to see that it was open. At $5.99 it's a pretty small serving - the size of the bowls you get at the F&W Festival. But it was really good - once Lee pulled the green peppers out of it. Ick. The pork was moist and flavorful and the grits were very cheesy - even had little bits of cheese in them. Yum.

Animal Kingdom Smoky Cheddar Grits

That afternoon we went back over to Epcot to sample from some of the food booths we hadn't yet tried. First was the Cider House at the UK. We wanted to sample three of the food items. Unfortunately they had just run out of the corned beef and cabbage that Lee wanted to try, and wouldn't have more for 15-20 minutes. But we tried the Land-harvested Field Greens with Apples, Dried Blueberries, Stilton Cheese and Apple Cider Vinaigrette. This was a nice salad, though I don't care for blue cheese.

Cider House Land Harvested Field Greens

We also ordered the House-made Potato and Cheddar Cheese Biscuit with Smoked Salmon Tartare. We both really liked the biscuit. I also enjoyed the salmon tartare, especially with the little bit of fresh dill, but Lee let me eat most of that. :-)

Cider House Potato and Cheddar Cheese Biscuit

We washed it down with two of the ciders: Keel & Curley Mad Man Blueberry Hard Cider for Lee and McKenzie's Black Cherry Hard Cider for me. We tried what the other had ordered, and both were happy with our own choices.

Cider House Blueberry and Black Cherry Hard Ciders

Next stop was Hanami in Japan, where we ordered all of the food items. First up was a Chicken Edamame Bun: Steamed Bun filled with Chicken and Edamame and topped with Curry Sauce. It was very good - maybe my favorite Festival item. The curry sauce was more like a curry aioli, but it really added a lot of flavor to the bun and the filling inside. Yummy.

Hanami Chicken Edamame Bun

One of Lee's favorite items was the Beef Teriyaki Udon: Thin-sliced Beef, Onions and Noodles tossed on the grill with Soy and Ginger. We ordered this and the steamed bun again on a later visit.

Hanami Beef Teriyaki Udon

We also tried the Frushi - Fresh pineapple, strawberries and melon, rolled with coconut rice, topped with raspberry sauce, sprinkled with toasted coconut and served with whipped cream on the side. These were tasty, though the fruit leather they were rolled in was a bit odd. And they gave us an awful lot of whipped cream - we didn't use very much of it.

Hanami Frushi

We decided that Japan won the award for most attractive presentation of their food items. They really were very pretty.

I also tried a Desert Rose from Taste of Marrakesh at Morocco. It was sparkling wine with pomegranate liqueur. It was very pretty, though a little too sweet. At $7.00 it was the cheapest sparkling wine I had, though!

Morocco Desert Rose

That evening we met friends at the Crew's Cup Lounge at the Yacht Club for dinner. I hadn't realized this place existed, much less that they served food! It was a really nice place to hang out with friends and enjoy some beverages and conversation. I tried the Tomato and Mozzarella Sandwich. It was excellent - plenty of thick-sliced fresh mozzarella, with nice slices of tomato and pesto sauce on toasted sea salt foccacia. The bread was very good also. I had a choice of house-made chips, French fries or pasta salad and chose the chips - they were crisp and salty and yummy.

Crews Cup Lounge Tomato Mozzarella Sandwich

Lee ordered the Angus Cheeseburger - he had his choice of cheese, and it came with lettuce, tomato, onion, and French fries. He said it was an excellent burger.

Crews Cup Lounge Angus Cheeseburger

Saturday morning after the 10K we went to the Boardwalk Bakery to get something to eat. I got a great big Sticky Bun. After a 10K I figured I was entitled to it. The pastry at the bakery is lighter and not so doughy, which I really like. So this was not as huge and filling as it looked, though I was still surprised that I ate the whole thing.

Boardwalk Bakery Pecan Sticky Bun

We went to the Studios later that morning...after using our Star Tours Fastpasses we were hungry, and the Backlot Express was about to open. This place has a Star Wars overlay menu now. We both had the Dark Side Chicken and Waffles, though Lee had the adult portion and I had the kid's meal. I wasn't expecting chicken nuggets as the chicken part, though at least they were tasty chicken nuggets.

Darth Vader Chicken and Waffles

I was surprised that my kid's meal came with fries - the menu said carrots and applesauce, which was actually what I wanted. I enjoyed it all, though, and it was plenty of food for me. At $7.99 the price was not too bad, either, especially since it included a small bottle of water.

Backlot Express Kids Chicken and Darth Waffles

The friends with us got their food on the lucky orange tray, which meant that they were invited to choose a free dessert. They chose the BB-8 cupcake, and shared with the rest of us. It was lemony, and just ok. We were all glad that no one had paid for it. The "pebbles" on the outside were candy covered chocolate - but very inferior chocolate.

Backlot Express BB-8 Cupcake

Saturday evening a group of us went to Il Mulino in the Swan Hotel for our pre-half marathon Italian dinner. Our reservation was at 5:00, which was when the restaurant opened. We were seated pretty quickly at our table for 11 people. The server was a little slow getting drinks and initial orders taken, but after that things moved along ok.

Lee and I ordered Parmigiano Reggiano for Two as an appetizer. I think I forgot to take a photo of it. But it served more than two people! Quite a lot of really yummy cheese for $10. We passed it down the table and a few other people partook and we still had about 8 pieces left that we took with us at the end of the meal.

We also shared an Insalata Trattoria, which our server split onto two plates. Nice selection of greens with fennel, red onions, and pine nuts.

As an entree I chose a half order of the Pappardelle Pasta with a tomato basil sauce. I'd had this before and thought there wasn't quite enough sauce, but this time it was a more generous serving. Still very tasty and I enjoyed it - and a half serving was plenty for me.

Il Mulino Pappardelle Pasta

Lee tried the Spaghetti Carbonara - spaghetti with pancetta, cheese and egg. He ordered the full serving, and managed to finish all of it.

Il Mulino Spaghetti Carbonara

While most of us enjoyed our dinners, one of our fellow diners ordered the Pollo Parmigiana and did not like it at all. It was very tough, and she couldn't cut it. Our server apologized, offered to bring her something else, and did not charge her for the entree. Unfortunate, but they tried to do the right thing.

The restaurant is pretty noisy, but fortunately it wasn't packed with diners, so it wasn't as loud as the last time I'd eaten here. (Obviously I came back, because I did enjoy the food I had last time.)

We all passed on dessert though the Torta Di Cioccolati (flourless chocolate cake) was tempting.

I found Il Mulino to be a nice alternative to the Disney restaurants like Mama Melrose, Via Napoli, and Trattoria al Forno which always seem to be disastrous dining experiences on the night before a half marathon. And actually there were a number of menu items that I'd enjoy trying when I don't have a race the next day.

For "breakfast" on Sunday after the half marathon we finished our Morimoto Asia leftovers. :-) That afternoon we went to Afternoon Tea at the Beach Club - but that is going to be a whole separate review coming soon to the All Ears Team blog. It was a very nice experience.

Sunday evening we had dinner at The Hollywood Brown Derby with our friends Dave and Holly. The restaurant was very busy and we were very pleasantly surprised when the hostess led us to a separate room at the back of the restaurant. It was so nice and quiet in there! There was one large group in there, plus two tables that were set for four people. It was really, really a very welcome oasis of calm. So nice to talk to each other without shouting!

Our server was not very good. He seemed to keep getting lost, or forgetting about us. It was a long time before we got any water or bread. Dave's drink order was messed up (though that might have been the bartender), and there was confusion about Lee's wine and he brought me the wrong salad.

I ordered a sparkling wine flight, with a prosecco, Iron Horse Fairy Tale Cuvee, and Rosa Regale. It was very nice.

Brown Derby Sparkling Wine Flight

Holly had a martini flight, with a gin martini, citrus vodka martini and cosmopolitan. Such cute little martini glasses!

Brown Derby Martini Flight

For an appetizer, Lee and I both ordered the Local Greens - tossed in champagne vinaigrette, with blueberries and peaches, Laura Chenel goat cheese, spiced candied pecans. It was a really nice salad.

Brown Derby Local Greens Salad

Dave tried the Tomato Soup.

Brown Derby Tomato Soup

As an entree I ordered the salmon, which was very tasty. It came with roasted potatoes, crispy leeks, English peas, and cauliflower puree.

Brown Derby Salmon

Lee and Holly both ordered the Charred Filet of Beef - Cabernet and Shallot Butter, Forest Mushroom and White Truffle Oil Mashed Potatoes, Sautéed Rainbow Carrots, Haricot Verts, and Red Wine Reduction. They were both pleased with it and the way it was cooked to order.

Brown Derby Charred Filet of Beef

Dave had the Pork Three Ways with a grilled wild boar chop, pork rillette, and crispy pork belly. Served with sweet corn and chili spoonbread.

Brown Derby Wild Boar special

Desserts are served as a choice of three mini desserts now - no full-sized servings of anything (even the famous Grapefruit Cake). We were disappointed in the dessert choices, so didn't order any of them. Our choices were: Amaretto Flan and Opalys White Chocolate Whip (whatever that is), Warm Blueberry Cobbler, Chocolate Mascarpone Sphere, Double Vanilla Creme Brulee, Banana-Toffee Cake, and the aforementioned Grapefruit Cake.

The food was good, the service was so-so. The company was terrific, and we really enjoyed being in the "quiet room" - we were sorry to leave it. And we probably lingered longer than we would have if we'd been in the main dining room.

Monday was our final park day - we had an evening flight home. We started with breakfast at Trattoria al Forno. We've eaten breakfast here several times since the conversion from Kouzzina. Mostly because it's the only place to get a hot breakfast at the Boardwalk rather than because we really love the food.

I ordered something new this time: Breakfast Pizza, with sliced potato, tomato sauce, and cracked egg. Normally it also comes with fennel sausage but I requested bacon instead. It was really good, and VERY filling - it was unfortunate that it was our last morning because otherwise I would've had most of it to take with me. As it was I ate the eggs and two pieces of the pizza, and picked off the potatoes and bacon from the rest.

Trattoria al Forno Breakfast Pizza

Lee had the Frittata - with red peppers, prosciutto, onions, potatoes, and pecorino romano cheese topped with arugula. It was served with breakfast potatoes and a multi-grain croissant.

Trattoria al Forno Frittata

Monday afternoon we made one last circuit of the food booths at Epcot. We had a few favorites a second time, but also tried some new items. Lee was able to get his Pear Cider-brined Shredded Corned Beef with Braised Cabbage and Pears and Branston Dressing from Cider House this time, and enjoyed that.

Cider House Corned Beef and Cabbage

We also tried the Lemon Scone with Créme Fraiche and Mixed Berries. I thought this was very good - it wasn't overly lemony (and that's a good thing). I was very surprised to read that this was gluten-free - it certainly didn't taste like it.

Cider House Lemon Scone

Lee sampled a Frozen Strawberry-Lemon Sunset – Layered frozen Strawberry and Lemonade topped with Grey Goose Vodka from the coffee kiosk near the American Adventure. He said it would've been better without the vodka. :-)

Frozen Strawberry-Lemon Sunset

From Florida Fresh we ordered Kale Salad with Dried Cherries, Almonds, Goat Cheese and White Balsamic Vinaigrette. This was very good - I think it was the best salad I had anywhere the entire weekend.

Florida Fresh Kale Salad

We finished our food adventure at Japan, where we ordered the Chicken Edamame Bun and Beef Teriyaki Udon again. And I also tried a Yuzu Plum Wine Slushy. It was different...not bad, but not my favorite beverage.

Hanami Yuzu Plum Wine Slushy

I really enjoyed the mini Food and Wine Festival aspect of the Flower and Garden Festival. It wasn't nearly as busy, so it was a much more pleasant experience. And with fewer food booths it seemed like there were more tables set up - only rarely did we not find an open table. I enjoyed the selection of foods and beverages - with fewer food booths the choices weren't so overwhelming.

April 26, 2016

2016 WDW Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend - Part 2


A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away...

Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

Sunday, April 17 - Half Marathon

The half marathon was scheduled to start at 5:00, rather than the usual 5:30. Even though we knew that, the alarm going off at 2:15 was still a shock. The buses started running at 2:30, but we were driving, so we left about 3:00. As we walked to the car we could see two buses waiting to transport runners. No one was getting on them, so there wasn't a line. Looked like Disney was much better prepared than the day before.

We had little traffic on our drive, and even ended up in the same row of the parking lot that we had for the 10K.

I forgot to mention the bag check area. As usual, everyone needed to pass through the security perimeter. There was a queue set up for those who had bags, but there were plenty of people checking. There was no line when we went through.

The characters were out again. I wanted to get a photo with Captain Phasma but the line was long and not moving at all, so we skipped the photos - all of them had pretty long lines.

It was a much cooler morning than the day before - 64 degrees, lower humidity, and a cool breeze. Very nice running weather, and we were thankful that the half marathon had not been the day before! It was a bit cool for sitting around, though, and most of us were sporting various fashions of trash bags or runDisney mylar sheets saved from previous races. (Lee and I have quite a collection of them at home.)

Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

There were over 50% more runners than in the 10K so the pre-race area was much more crowded. We were sent to our corrals about an hour before the race, and that was a pretty slow shuffle most of the way - until the split for A-G and H-L.

I was in corral G, but everyone that I was planning to run with was in corral F. My friend Kim was also in G, and she managed to wend her way through the runners to place us near the front of the corral.

While we were waiting, there were clips from the various Star Wars movies shown on the big TV monitors.

Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

The race started pretty close to 5:00, with the usual burst of fireworks. For A-G the release was spaced 5 minutes apart - I'm not sure about the later corrals. Those are larger, so there may have been more time between them.

Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

Kim got me right up to the start line - I've never been up there before! I got a smile and a wave from race announcer Rudy Novotny, who also lives in San Diego.

Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

Kim told me "Go get them", and when Rudy said "Runners...Set...Gooooooo!" I went.

Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

The proof of time thing really seems to be working. I was one of the faster runners in the corral, and very few people passed me in the first mile. There were several guys ahead (and pulling way), but I ran by myself for about .2 miles. At .4 miles I caught up with the walkers at the back of corral F.

Even once I caught up with F the course was much less crowded than it had been the day before.

The first part of the course was similar to the 10K, with R2D2 in Epcot's backstage near mile 1. In addition to the long line for R2, there was a line for photos with the mile marker! So I didn't stop for that.

I caught up with my group not long before we entered World Showcase. Our entry point was still near Mexico, this time we went left towards Norway and around to the International Gateway. I think there was a character somewhere along there, and Chewie was again by the International Gateway.

Another difference from the day before is that we ran by the Yacht and Beach Club resorts this time before getting to the dreaded canal path. It wasn't as bad as it was for the 10K - but I had also started ahead of a lot more people than I had the day before. We had a group of 9 running together, so we tried to stay mostly single file where it was narrow.

Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

We took the same route through the Studios that we had for the 10K - down Hollywood Blvd, then Sunset, and past the Tower of Terror. Kylo Ren and some Storm Troopers were on the stage in front of the Chinese Theater. (Kylo Ren and the Storm Troopers - that might be a good name for a rock band.)

Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

The first set of Cosplayers was backstage behind the Tower of Terror, but again, there were lines. The Emperor's chair was in that area again, too.

This time when we reached Osceola Parkway at about mile 5 we went right towards Animal Kingdom. Lots of running room, which was very nice.

Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

At just before mile 7 we reached the Animal Kingdom toll plaza - it was about sunrise.

Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

We took a big turn around the parking lot before going backstage. The Wampa ice cave photo op that they'd had at Disneyland's Star Wars race was set up there. With a pretty long line, of course. :-)

Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

The course took us through a fair bit of Animal Kingdom, from Dinoland around to Asia past Expedition Everest, though we turned left at the first bridge instead of going all the way to Harambe.

Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

We ran past the Tree of Life and out through the Oasis. The second set of cosplayers was just inside the park entrance. No lines for photos, but I took this video. Not the number of folks that we've seen in California, but we appreciate all of them coming out to cheer us on!

As we left the Animal Kingdom area and hit mile 10, we could still see a lot of runners who were over three miles behind us still heading towards Animal Kingdom. There were a fair number of people who had come out to cheer us on from the overpass near the McDonalds.

Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

By now the sun was up, and it was a clear day. I had been concerned that it would warm up quickly, but the temperature was still holding at 64, and we still had our cool refreshing breeze. It was a lovely day to run.

I was surprised that there was very little on-course entertainment in the form of cheerleaders and bands for this race. There were some DJs, and several big screens showing Star Wars clips, but I only remember one band, and no cheerleaders.

Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

About mile 10.5 we saw the "Balloon Ladies" on the other side - appropriately carrying Death Star balloons. Many of the runners on our side called out encouragement to those on the other side.

Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

Our merry little band of runners was moving along just fine and keeping each other entertained and motivated. When you're not going for time I think it really is easier to run with a group, especially mentally. It made the race go much faster for me.

Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

As we approached ESPN Wide World of Sports we ran on the same gravel path we did the day before. One of the props there was the leg of an AT-ST Walker (apparently recovered from the Forest Moon of Endor). The Speeder Bike photo op was also there again.

Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

The last mile+ of the course was the same as it had been for the 10K, though it didn't seem quite as congested as the day before.

Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

We made it to the finish - my time was 2:45:51. A nice mellow pace, and I was still feeling pretty good at the end, though my feet were tired.

Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

After we finished there were volunteers handing out the Dr Kool towels - those felt really good, even though it was still only about 65 outside. We also could pick up the usual bottles of water and PowerAde, and the runDisney snack box and a banana.

We got our half marathon medals, then went to the Challenge tent for our Dark Side Challenge, and most importantly, our Kessel Run medals. One interesting thing about the medals: there were a number of people who picked up both their Kessel Run and blue Coast-to-Coast medals that day! They allowed people to use the two Star Wars races for both. We'd gotten our blue Coast-to-Coast at the Princess Half in February. I was just as happy NOT to have one more medal around my neck. :-)

Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon Kessel Run Medal

For the official finisher photos, PhotoPass put a nice border on the bottom - there were different stations for the half marathon, Kessel Run, and Coast-to-Coast.

Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

We got our group together for a photo.

Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

One surprising (and disappointing) thing about the finish area: it's in a different county than Epcot, and because of that, they couldn't sell beer and wine in the finish area on Sunday until after 11:00! (We finished around 8:15.) I had been looking forward to a celebratory glass of champagne, and most of the rest of our intrepid band had been looking forward to a beer. I guess the good news was that Dave, our advance scout, had already discovered this, so we didn't waste time heading over to that area after we finished...Lee and I decided to just go catch the bus.

The bus situation was MUCH improved. I'm not sure if part of that is because I finished ahead of more people than I had the day before, or changes that Disney made, or both. Certainly they had completely changed the location and queue for the Epcot bus, which is what we took. It was a very long queue off to the side, and there were a lot of buses lined up waiting. It took us a while to walk the queue, but we were moving the whole time, and essentially walked right onto a bus - they were loading three at a time. In speaking with friends who took buses back to their resorts, they also reported that the bus service was much better - anywhere from no wait to less than 15 minutes in a line that was consistently moving.

Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

The half marathon was a much better race for me than the 10K - starting in an earlier corral made a lot of difference. At the front of G, I figure I started before 2/3 of the runners - there were 18,171 official finishers. While the first 3+ miles of the race was still more congested and narrow than I would've liked, conditions were much better than they had been the day before. The rest of the course was fine, and I especially enjoyed all of the running room we had when we ran both directions on Osceola Parkway.

Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

I'd essentially run this course backwards previously for the Wine and Dine Half Marathon, which has been at night. (Though it will be a morning race this year.) I have to say that it was nice to run through Animal Kingdom during the day rather than at night.

And although I know runDisney is trying to change things up, I'd rather see the Star Wars race also start at ESPN and end at Epcot like Wine and Dine does. That three miles at the start from the Epcot side is just too narrow to support the number of runners that are all bunched together early in the race. And not being able to buy beer and champagne at the end??? GASP!

I thought the whole Dark Side theme was well done. I really liked the race medals for these races - very nicely designed. As were the race shirts. I thought it was a little odd having "Light Side" characters on the course, like R2D2, Chewbacca, and Ezra/Sabine. But there was a really good selection of Dark Side characters in the start and finish areas.

Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon medals

I'm a big fan of the new PhotoPass system for race photos. The photos seem to be of much higher quality and there are a lot more of them than before. AND I don't have to pay an exorbitant fee for them - they are included since I am an annual passholder!

runDisney has already announced the dates for next year's Star Wars - The Dark Side Half Marathon Weekend - April 20-23, 2017. I was chatting with Cindy (Hi Cindy!) who pointed out that next year's dates are the week after Easter. And that for those of us who are DVC members, that week falls into Premier Season, where point costs are very high - 30-40% higher than for Magic Season. I hadn't realized that. Wow. Not to mention that the weeks before and after Easter are always very busy at the parks.

We had a good time this year, and I'm very happy to have my Kessel Run medal, but I think we'll probably pass on this race next year. I think we'll concentrate on the Star Wars Half in California instead - it's a lot easier for us to get to, and I prefer the course, the characters, the weather, and the logistics in general.

April 25, 2016

2016 WDW Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend - Part 1


A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away...

Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon Weekend

But really, it was only last summer that runDisney announced a new Star Wars Half Marathon weekend to be held in Florida in April, 2016. But this one would have a Dark Side theme. All of the usual races: Kids Races, 5K, 10K, half marathon, and 10K/half marathon challenge. For those who also ran the Star Wars Half Marathon at Disneyland there would be a new coast-to-coast challenge: The Kessel Run, with a medal shaped like the Millennium Falcon!

Lee and I, as you might expect, signed up for the new Dark Side Challenge - running the 10K and half marathon on consecutive mornings. Since we were also running the Star Wars Half at Disneyland we also qualified for the Kessel Run Challenge. All of the races sold out very quickly. But we were surprised when registration for the half marathon and the challenge re-opened briefly a couple of months later. It again sold out, though.

Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon Weekend

There were new courses for the 10K and half marathon, since both of those races would start at Epcot and end at ESPN Wide World of Sports. The half marathon looked like essentially a reverse of the Wine and Dine Half Marathon course, which starts at ESPN and goes through Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and Epcot. The 10K would be completely new, though, and go through Epcot and the Studios before finishing at ESPN.

Star Wars Dark Side race courses
I find your lack of running disturbing.

I was concerned about transportation since the start and finish were in different places, and parking at ESPN would not be allowed. Everyone who drove themselves to the start would require transportation from the finish area back to Epcot. The rumor was that the 10K had 12,000 runners and the half had 19,000, and that's a lot of people to move around. Any bags that runners checked at the start line needed to be transported to the finish. And there were separate start and finish areas, which meant multiple sets of porta-potties, medical tents, concession stands, entertainment stages, etc. Yes, Disney has done that sort of thing before, but it looked logistically challenging.

Thursday, April 14 - The Expo

Lee and I had arrived at Walt Disney World on Wednesday night. The Expo opened on Thursday morning, and we knew that it would be a zoo, with great demand for all of the inaugural merchandise. So we didn't go until about 2:30 on Thursday afternoon. By then there were no lines for packet pick-up or to enter the merchandise area.

I was happy to see that the individual race banners were back at the entrance again - they were missing for Princess weekend.

Star Wars Dark Side 10K

Star Wars Dark Side 10K

A view of the show floor at about 5:00 p.m.

Star Wars Dark Side Expo show floor

Some of the merchandise was already sold out. Except for Kids Races there were no magnets left, which is my usual race weekend souvenir. And almost nothing that said "Kessel Run". There was a Kessel Run Challenge shirt, but my size was the only one still available, and there weren't many of those. Lee was very disappointed not to get a Kessel Run shirt.

Star Wars Dark Side Kessel Run shirt

There did seem to be plenty of "I Did It" shirts. Though the women's version of the Dark Side shirt was pink. "Pink" and "Dark Side" do not go together. (Now that I think about it, I didn't see anyone wearing one, either.)

Star Wars Dark Side Challenge I Did It shirt

Star Wars Dark Side Challenge I Did It shirt

It was nice to see and "I Did It" shirt for the 5K.

Star Wars Dark Side 5K I Did It shirt

There were still some fun shirt designs left, though.

Star Wars Dark Side shirt

Star Wars Dark Side shirt

Star Wars Dark Side shirt

Star Wars Dark Side shirt

The race weekend shirt was a nice design on both front and back and Lee and I both bought one of those.

Star Wars Dark Side weekend shirt  Star Wars Dark Side weekend shirt

I was able to buy my mini-medal pins of the half and challenge medals, also, but not the Kessel Run medal. So the good news was that there was still some merchandise left, even if it wasn't everything we wanted. I still don't understand why they don't impose quantity limits on race merchandise.

Star Wars Dark Side merchandise

But of course we also had three new race shirts. I thought the designs were nice, though I didn't need yet another gray shirt.

Star Wars Dark Side race shirts

We didn't run the 5K, but that shirt was nicely done as well. (Thanks Helen, for use of the photo.)

Star Wars Dark Side 5K shirt

The Expo done, we had time to enjoy WDW before our first race on Saturday morning. This was a slightly longer trip for us and it was great to have most of the day Thursday and Friday to go to the parks before rather than having to rush to our first race day.

Saturday, April 17 - 10K

The race started at 5:30 and the buses were due to start running at 3:00. We decided to drive to the start at Epcot. (Actually we swapped driving duties with friends: they drove us all to the 10K, we drove us all to the half.) The secret to driving yourself is not to use it as an excuse to sleep in. We get up almost as early as we would if we were taking the bus, and that way traffic and parking are still easy.

It was a very warm and humid morning - already 70 degrees at 4:00 am! There was a chance of thunderstorms, but fortunately those did not materialize. But it was humid.

I could never get inspired to make a Dark Side costume so I wore my Rey costume instead. But without the arm wraps - too warm for those. This photo was taken by a Disney PhotoPass photographer. That's one thing that was new with this race weekend - no more MarathonFoto. Instead there were PhotoPass photographers all along the courses and at all of the photo locations, and all of our photos were included as part of our registration! There was information on the back of our race bibs on how to link our race photos to our PhotoPass accounts. It worked really well for the most part. I was really pleased - I had more race photos than I have ever had from MarathonFoto - and they were free! Well done, Disney.

Star Wars Dark Side 10K pre-race

N.B. I stand corrected - the PhotoPass photos are free if you otherwise have access to free downloads of your PhotoPass photos: e.g. you are a qualifying Annual Passholder and/or you have purchased Memory Maker. Otherwise there is still a charge for them. Still, a friend or family member can link your photos to their account and access them that way.

In the pre-race area there were seven or eight different photo spots, all with PhotoPass photographers. Some of them were set pieces, like Jabba the Hutt and the rapthor, but there were also characters: Boba Fett, Captain Phasma, Storm Troopers and Darth Maul. The lines were pretty short when we arrived so we had our picture taken with Jabba, and then went to Captain Phasma but they had closed the line, even though it wasn't that long and there was still over an hour until the race started. :-(

Star Wars Dark Side 10K Jabba the Hutt

So we got a photo with BB-8 instead.

Star Wars Dark Side 10K BB-8

We waited for friends in the pre-race area - they were still at their resort in the bus line. There was a huge line at Pop Century and no buses. They finally arrived but it had been a long wait. (That was an issue at some of the other resorts, also.)

For the other 10Ks the start line is in the Epcot parking lot, but for this 10K and the half marathon the start line was out on World Center Drive as it is for the marathon and most of the other half marathon races. One big difference: this time we started in the opposite direction. It was a slightly shorter walk than it is to the start of the "regular" half marathon course, but still pretty slow getting to the corrals. This sign was entertaining.

Star Wars Dark Side 10K

For the 10K the corrals were A-F. I unfortunately never submitted my proof of time (though I was sure that I had) and so I was in the last corral, F, while Lee was in A. It was my own fault, and no reason to make him suffer, too, so he went up to A and I went to F. (At least that meant that he got photos, so most of the ones you'll see are his.) But I wasn't alone - my friend Liz had done (or hadn't done) the same thing, so we were at least together.

The race started at 5:30, but we didn't start until almost 44 minutes later. And F was a huge corral - I think there were over 2,000 people in it. We were in the first 1/4 of it, and mostly surrounded by walkers.

There were fireworks for each corral.

Star Wars Dark Side 10K fireworks

Star Wars Dark Side

I'd looked at the race course in advance and I knew the first three miles would be a slog, since most of it would be on fairly narrow roads and paths where we wouldn't be able to find much running room. I was especially concerned about running the path between the Boardwalk and the Studios along the canal. I've done that at the end of the Wine and Dine half and the end of the marathon a number of times and it's congested enough then when runners are a whole lot more spread out than we would be at the beginning of a race.

And the running experience was about what I expected. To try to find some running room we did all of the things you're not supposed to do - dodging and weaving around people and running on the grass. We weren't alone - there were a number of other runners also back in F. I can't fault the walkers, as they were doing their thing - we were in their territory really. Liz and I were running single file and trying not to annoy them too much. About 3/4 of a mile in we got clear for a little while - and then we caught up with the back of corral E. :-/

Star Wars Dark Side 10K

The course took us backstage at Epcot where R2D2 had a character stop. The line was huge, not surprisingly. We entered World Showcase near Mexico, then turned right and ran past Canada and the UK and out the international gateway. Chewbacca was there, and I think that line was even longer than the one for R2D2. We ran around Crescent Lake past the Boardwalk resort. There were a number of people who had come out to cheer us there - thank you to those who came out so early!

Star Wars Dark Side 10K

Star Wars Dark Side 10K

Once we passed the Boardwalk we came to the dreaded canal path. One good thing: rather than running on the concrete path right next to the canal we were on the asphalt access road above it. That was a little wider. I was afraid we'd end up walking that whole path, but it wasn't that bad. We did drop to a walk several times, but we never totally stopped, and we could usually jog. Still, it was a huge relief to get off the path near the entrance to the Studios.

Just like the Star Wars Half Marathon in California, runDisney invited Star Wars cosplayers to come out and cheer the runners on. Some of them were just outside the Studios entrance. At first I thought it was a regular character stop because there were long lines - THAT doesn't happen in California! I honestly did not get a good look at them because too many people were around them, but it wasn't crowded when Lee went through, and he stopped for a photo. There weren't as many of them as we've seen in CA. And it was still pretty dark.

Star Wars Dark Side 10K cosplayers

We took a short tour of the Studios: down Hollywood Blvd, around the stage in front of the Chinese Theater, and then down Sunset, then past the Tower of Terror and out of the park onto Buena Vista Drive. That's where we finally had some running room, now that we were over 4 miles into the race.

Star Wars Dark Side 10K

We ran up an overpass and ended up on Osceola Parkway. We had to do a short out-and-back where the course doubled back on itself to add a little bit of extra distance. At about 5.5 miles we ran on a narrow gravel path towards ESPN. This got us all bunched up again and there was a lot of grumbling from runners and walkers. There was a photo op with the speeder bikes from Endor along there, also - not really a good location for it.

Star Wars Dark Side 10K speeder bikes

Congestion wasn't much better when we got onto the concrete paths at ESPN, which were still narrow and lined with cheering spectators.

Less than .4 miles to the finish was the second set of cosplayers. There weren't lines for most of them, and we stopped for one quick photo. (No PhotoPass photographers with any of them.)

Star Wars Dark Side 10K Cosplayers

The course widened out for the last quarter mile or so, and I was relieved to see the finish line. I was very happy to be done. It was really not a good race for me - 1:12 with NO character stops. I could never really get into a rhythm, and the high humidity didn't help. But at least the first part of the Dark Side Challenge was complete. And I enjoyed running with Liz again - we ran the second half of last year's Wine and Dine Half Half Marathon together.

Star Wars Dark Side 10K finish

Liz and I posed for a finish photo, but unfortunately it never showed up under either of our bib numbers. :-( It would have been nice because PhotoPass put a special 10K border on it. Here's the one that Lee got, though:

Star Wars Dark Side 10K finish photo

The TIE Fighter medal is really nice. Lee pointed out that it was very fitting that we received an X-wing fighter medal for the "Star Wars - The Light Side 10K" in California, and the corresponding Dark Side fighter medal in Florida.

Star Wars Dark Side 10K medal

Lee had finished over 45 minutes before I did, so he'd used the time to get several photos taken. All of the photo ops in the start area were duplicated in the finish area. And he'd finished early enough that the lines were short. I was very envious that he had a photo with Captain Phasma - that was the one I really wanted.

Star Wars Dark Side 10K Captain Phasma

He had one with the rapthor, too. :-)

Star Wars Dark Side 10K Rapthor

But by the time I arrived the photo lines were pretty long and we both wanted to get back to the room. So we went to the bus area. Our friends had already finished and taken the Epcot bus back to their car, so as planned we took the Swan/Dolphin/Boardwalk bus back to our resort. We were glad we were not going to Epcot because the line was huge. It seemed to be moving steadily but it was still very long. (Our friends waited about 15 minutes, but later we heard the wait was well over an hour!) We waited 10-15 minutes for our bus. The line had more than doubled behind us, so our timing was not too bad. The lines for buses to the resorts seemed to be much more reasonable than the line for Epcot.

We had the usual runDisney snack boxes. The selection seemed a little better than usual - or maybe I've just resigned myself to the fact that I'm not going to get real food from Disney. I ate the applesauce while waiting for the bus.

Star Wars Dark Side 10K snack boxes

I really like the idea of this 10K course - it is SO much more interesting than the one that spends half its distance looping around on roads outside Epcot - but running it from Epcot TO ESPN is the wrong direction. The first three miles is just too narrow, and I think it would be much better in the opposite direction. Which is likely what we'll get when the new Wine and Dine 10K makes its debut this fall. Though even then I expect that path along the canal will be crowded - we got a taste of it (so to speak) during the abbreviated Wine and Dine Half last year, which was about 6.8 miles long, and the path was more crowded than during the normal half marathon because we weren't spread out as much.

Not a lot of characters along the course, but on a par with other Disney races. In addition to R2 and Chewie there were Ezra and Sabine, and Storm Troopers, plus the cosplayers. There was also a photo op with the Emperor's chair which was very popular. The lines were very long for all of these.

Big failure with the buses for the 10K. Lots of issues traveling both to the start and from the finish.

Even more than the other Disney races, I think your perception of the race experience was inversely proportional to where you started. If you started early the course was much less crowded - Lee was in A and really enjoyed the course. And for those who finished early the wait for buses at the end was minimized. If you started at the back, well, whole 'nother world - or galaxy, as the case may be.

Still, the addition of PhotoPass was a major benefit, and having so many characters available at the start and finish was also a plus. The thing I liked most about the characters at the start is that it's a level playing field for everyone. It didn't matter what corral you were in. If you were willing to get up early and get to the race start area as early as possible you had the opportunity to maximize the number of photos you could get.

Half Marathon the next day...Don't get cocky!

February 5, 2016

2016 Disneyland Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend - Part 4 - Dining


During our three days at Disneyland for the Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend, we tried a few different dining options. We (gasp!) did not have any meals at our usual pre-race favorite, Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta!

Friday evening we were tired after a long week at work, driving in traffic to Anaheim, visiting the Expo, and checking into our hotel. So we wanted something fairly easy, and went to Earl of Sandwich in Downtown Disney. It was about 6:00, and we were surprised that the line wasn't very long.

They have some new items on the "Get the Skinny" menu, which are under 400 calories. There's a BBQ Chicken Flatbread, Quinoa Chicken Salad, and Turkey Wrap. They looked interesting but I opted for one of my favorites: The Holiday Turkey, with turkey, cranberry sauce, dressing, and gravy. Yum.

Earl of Sandwich Holiday Turkey

I also had a cup of the Chicken Noodle soup. It was good, but it was a small serving - they didn't fill the cup very full.

Earl of Sandwich Chicken Noodle

Lee had The Original 1762 - roast beef with horseradish sauce.

Earl of Sandwich Original 1762

Lee also picked up a container of Brownie Bites. These were surprisingly good! Moist and chewy and very chocolaty and satisfying. We really enjoyed these - we still had a couple left on Monday, and even then they were still very good!

Earl of Sandwich Brownie Bite

Earl of Sandwich Menu

On Saturday morning after the 10K and Kids Races we went into Disneyland - I wanted to try the breakfast menu at the Galactic Grill, which has Star Wars-inspired menu items.

I tried the Bantha Blue Milk Bread. This was essentially French toast, served with bacon and fresh fruit. It was pretty good.

Galactic Grill Bantha Blue Milk Bread

Lee went with the Darth Tamale. A blue corn tamale with scrambled eggs, chorizo, red chili sauce and tomatillo salsa. I had a bite and found that the chili sauce was pretty spicy. I couldn't have eaten this but Lee really enjoyed it, enough that he recommended it to several other people. Though with the caution that it was for people who like spicy food.

Galactic Grill Darth Tamale

Galactic Grill Breakfast Menu

That afternoon we had something from Lucky Fortune Cookery. I like the idea of rice bowls and veggies with choice of meat and sauce, but they use peppers in the veggie mix, which makes it inedible for me. But on the kid's menu there's a chicken and brown rice offering, served with oranges and carrots - but no peppers. So I tried that. It was a good-sized serving and I liked it. The oranges were on top of the chicken, and the carrots were in a bag. There was a mild teriyaki type of sauce on the chicken. I'd get that again.

Lucky Fortune Cookery Kids Chicken and Rice

Lee ordered the beef bowl with teriyaki sauce. He liked it.

Lucky Fortune Cookery Teriyaki Beef

Lucky Fortune Cookery Menu

That evening a group of us went to Naples in Downtown Disney for dinner. We had a reservation for 5:30. As you might expect, it was a popular choice on the night before a race, and there was a long line to check in. Some in our party knew from previous experience that it was for walk-ups, and that those with reservations checked in at the podium inside. Once our fearless leader did that, we were soon seated at an outside table.

It was coolish evening, but there were gas heaters around us, so that was fine - until they ran out of propane. And then apparently there were no additional gas canisters to be had, so it got a little chilly by the time we left.

Unlike our experience at Italian restaurants at Walt Disney World, Naples had a couple of "runner's specials" in addition to their regular menu. These included salad as well as pasta choices. We didn't go for any of those, though.

Our server (Amazing Amanda!) brought us fresh bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Must...Not...Fill...Up...On...Bread....(But it's sooo good!)

As an entree I ordered Agnolotti - housemade cheese ravioli with fresh tomato and basil sauce. I requested marinara rather than basil sauce - I love pesto, but it can be too garlicky the night before a race. It was very good.

Naples Restaurant Agnolotti

Lee tried the Lasagna, a traditional eight layer lasagna with Bolognese meat sauce, béchamel and Parmesan cheese. He enjoyed it.

Naples Restaurant Lasagna

Some of our dining companions ordered the Spaghetti and Meatballs.

Naples Restaurant Spaghetti and Meatballs

The restaurant was quite busy, but we didn't feel rushed to finish, and had a very nice meal. Naples is not my favorite restaurant but this was a very nice experience.

Naples Restaurant Menu

Sunday morning after the half marathon and a hot shower we met friends at the UVA Bar for breakfast. Lee and I had never had breakfast here before, but our friend Eddie really likes it - and he had already gotten a table for all of us. It's outdoor seating, but there was a heat lamp nearby (that had plenty of propane ;-) ) and we were warm enough. It was fun to people-watch and see all of the runners coming by in their medals and costumes. We saw several people we knew.

We started with celebratory mimosas, and then ordered breakfast. :-) I went with "2 Organic Eggs", served with potatoes and choice of toast. Thankfully there were no peppers in the eggs! Nothing fancy, but it was nicely prepared.

UVA Bar Two Organic Eggs Breakfast

Lee went with the Breakfast Burrito with scrambled eggs, potatoes, applewood smoked bacon, mild red chile sauce, and aged cheddar. This looked very good, and he liked it.

UVA Bar Breakfast Burrito

Eddie tried the Buttermilk Pancakes, and enjoyed those.

UVA Bar Buttermilk Pancakes

Phill ordered the Steel Cut Oats, which was served with honey, raisins, and almonds. I didn't get a picture of that - oatmeal is just not very photogenic. :-)

We enjoyed the food and ambiance and especially the company - definitely a place we'll consider returning to for breakfast on a future Disneyland trip.

UVA Bar & Cafe Breakfast Menu

We didn't really have lunch - we had an afternoon snack at Ghirardelli. :-) I had my new favorite Nob Hill Chill, though it wasn't quite as thick this time as I like it.

Ghirardelli Nob Hill Chill

Lee had the Sea Salt Caramel Sundae.

Ghirardelli Sea Salt Caramel Sundae

For dinner, we joined several friends at Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen. Lee and I have eaten here several times before and have always enjoyed the food, and there's a lot of variety on the menu. Our friends told us later that it was the best meal they had on their visit - and they'd eaten at several other Disney table service restaurants.

We had an early reservation, and were seated in the corner of the big room upstairs. That was nice and out of the way. It was quiet when we arrived, but it got a lot noisier as the place filled up. Oh well...we enjoyed it while we could.

There were several specialty cocktails on the menu. This is The Blue Marquise, in honor of Disneyland's 60th anniversary. The color apparently came from 44th North Huckleberry Vodka. It was very pretty and quite tasty.

Ralph Brennans Blue Marquise

Lee and I shared an appetizer: Boudin Balls. Slow roasted cochon pork, dirty rice, Creole mustard aioli with Tabasco pepper jelly. They were deep-fried, and they were really, really good.

Ralph Brennans Boudin Balls

Another couple shared the Louisiana Crab Cake - with fire roasted corn cucumber salsa and Creole mustard drizzle. They liked it.

Ralph Brennans Crab Cake

Since I knew I wanted dessert, I didn't order an entree, and instead ordered soup and salad. The soup of the day was tomato and artichoke, and it was excellent.

Ralph Brennans Soup of the Day

I ordered the house French Quarter salad - mixed greens, candied pecans, cherry tomatoes and cider vinaigrette. Not too exciting, but it was a nice salad.

Ralph Brennans French Quarter Salad

Lee ordered the classic BBQ Shrimp and Grits with barbecue sauce and andouille-parmesan grits. Very good.

Ralph Brennans BBQ Shrimp & Grits

Other entrees:

Blackened Chicken Mac & Cheese - Applewood smoked bacon, caramelized onions, oven roasted tomatoes, baby arugula and rosemary garlic ciabatta bread.

Ralph Brennans Blackened Chicken Mac & Cheese

Grilled Medallions of Beef - Filet mignon, crawfish mashed potatoes, bacon & pecan-crusted green beans and a zinfandel reduction.

Ralph Brennans Grilled Medallions of Beef

Gumbo Ya-Ya - Chicken, andouille sausage, dark roux, Creole seasoning and rice.

Ralph Brennans Crab Cake Gumbo Ya-Ya

Southern Fried Chicken - highly recommended by our server, and a winner. With smoked gouda mac & cheese, bacon braised turnip greens, lemon-pepper gravy.

Ralph Brennans Southern Fried Chicken

As I mentioned, I didn't order an entree because I knew what I wanted for dessert: Double Chocolate Bread Pudding. It takes about 25 minutes to prepare and should be pre-ordered - the servers should ask about it in plenty of time so that you don't end up waiting for it. It's served with dark chocolate and white chocolate sauce - use one or the other or both. This is a dessert for two (or more) people to share...Lee and I only got through about 2/3 of ours. Really good.

Ralph Brennans Double Chocolate Bread Pudding

This was a wonderful meal with great company, and we really enjoyed it.

Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen Dinner Menu

Monday morning a group of us did early entry at DCA. After two rides on Radiator Springs Racers (for our first ride we were in the first group of cars for the day!) and a wrist and arm workout on Toy Story Midway Mania, we went in search of breakfast.

Pacific Wharf Cafe is no longer serving breakfast, and neither is Cozy Cone #3. :-( That left Fiddler, Fifer and Practical Cafe (Starbucks) and Flo's V8 Cafe as our only options. So we went to Flo's. I decided I wanted some Churro Bites from Cozy Cone #1, but when I got there was very disappointed to find that they no longer serve Churro Bites - just regular churros. Not what I wanted.

I don't like the scrambled eggs at Flo's - they are baked or steamed or something and have a weird texture. I had the fruit plate, which came with yogurt and a mini oat bran muffin.

Flo's Breakfast Fruit Plate

Lee had the American Breakfast, with the aforementioned weird eggs, potatoes, bacon and a biscuit. That's another thing I don't like about Flo's - the potatoes have peppers in them.

Flo's American Breakfast

Kim had the Kids Waffles - this came with turkey bacon and fruit. It's a pretty decent-sized breakfast, I think!

Flo's Kids Waffle Breakfast

Someone else had the Chicken Tamale, topped with scrambled eggs and salsa verde. This is pretty good, except that I think the tamale has too much masa and not enough filling. It's very attractive, though.

Flo's Chicken Tamale

Flo's V8 Cafe Breakfast Menu

By lunch time almost all of our playmates had departed for the airport, but there were still four of us left, so Dave and Holly and Lee and I all went to Trader Sam's. We were just in time to get a table inside as another party was leaving. It's noisier in there, but more fun. The one bartender was really into all of the special drink effects, and that made it a lot more entertaining.

Trader Sam's

I had a Passionate Python, with a couple different types of rum, passion fruit juice, and other tropical juices.

Trader Sam's Passionate Python

Lee went with the Piranha Pool - Strawberry vodka blended with pineapple juice, cream of coconut, strawberry puree, and blue Curacao. This is a good one.

Trader Sam's Piranha Pool

I think Holly has not yet forgiven me for suggesting the Murky Mojito to her. :-) Rum, fresh lime juice, mint and agave nectar topped with Angostura Bitters - she said it was really strong.

Trader Sam's Murky Mojito

We had food, too. I tried the Shrimp Tacos, which were new to me. They were quite good.

Trader Sam's Shrimp Tacos

Lee and Dave both had the Kalua Pork Flatbread, which I did not photograph, but you can see the corner of it in the Piranha Pool photo above.

Holly had part of Dave's flatbread, but also ordered the Panko-Crusted Chinese Long Beans, which she shared with the rest of us - those are so good.

Trader Sam's Panko-Crusted Long Beans

Trader Sam's Menu

That was our final meal for this particular trip. It was fun to have some new experiences this time, and especially to share a number of meals with good friends.

January 22, 2016

2016 Disneyland Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend - Part 3, Half Marathon


January 17, 2016 - Star Wars Half Marathon

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

Another 3:30 a.m. wakeup call.

I had a new costume for this race - Rey, from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I knew there would be a number of other people with the same idea, but since Rey does a lot of running in the movie at least I knew it would be functional. :-) And there was no makeup application required for this one!

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

I made the shirt, though I wasn't successful in getting it to look as dirty as I wanted despite smearing it with mud and rinsing it in muddy water. And at least the "distressed" look meant I didn't have to hem the bottom or sleeves. (I hate hemming.) I purchased a chiffon scarf and used a steam iron to create the pleats. I placed some strips of iron-on interfacing on the back of the scarf, and then sewed the interfacing to the shirt at the shoulder seams. That was Very Important. I saw a number of other Reys who had not done that, and their criss-cross wrap thing would not stay on their shoulders.

I wear a hydration belt for half marathons, and I made that look like Rey's belt by basting some sueded-type fabric over it. Then made another belt out of the same fabric to give me the hip/holster belt look.

For the arm wraps I used rolls of 2" gauze. I was able to make them look dirty by rinsing them in inky water. I wrapped them around a pair of white arm sleeves.

Since the shirt was long I'd planned to wear black shorts under it, but at the Expo I found a khaki-colored running skirt at Sparkle Skirts, so I wore that instead.

Lee wore the Jedi costume he wore for the 10K last year. With long pants and long shirt he was a little concerned it might be too warm, but it was OK.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

There were a few thousand more runners in the half marathon than the 10K, but we still didn't have any issues getting through the security check. The pre-race area was more crowded, and even though we went to Corral A at about the same time we did for the 10K, we were further back in the corral. Still, we were in A, so we were ahead of 10,000 other runners.

The temperature was a little warmer than it had been the day before (52), but it was even more humid (94%) and it felt chilly. I had one of the runDisney sheets (saved from a previous race) wrapped around me while we were waiting, and that kept me warm enough.

The race started a few minutes after 5:30 - a little bit late this time.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

The first mile of the course was exactly like the 10K the day before. Most of the "on property" part of the half marathon course was an abbreviated version of the 10K course. Fortunately it kept most of the "inside the parks" parts, and left out a lot of the less-interesting backstage and doubling-back-on-itself stuff.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

We still ran through Tomorrowland (Storm Troopers on the Launch Bay building!), the Castle (front-to-back again), Fantasyland, Frontierland, Adventureland, and Main Street, and Buena Vista Street, Paradise Pier, Cars Land, and Hollywood in DCA.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

I think I have not yet mentioned the great music and sound effects there were for both races. We heard lots of different Star Wars music throughout both parks. On Sunday, when we ran through a backstage tunnel between Fantasyland and Frontierland, we heard Darth Vader breathing, as well as his voice advising us to give in to the Dark Side. Really cool, but a little eerie! :-)

One issue: the pavement in the parks was very wet. Disney must have power washed during the night, and with the very high humidity it had not dried very much. It was slick in places, especially on wooden bridges and boardwalks. Lee saw a woman slip and fall on the Adventureland Bridge, though fortunately she was ok. And our friend Eddie, who was running fast, said that he slipped several times even though he was trying to be careful. I was mindful of the footing when we ran around Paradise Pier, since part of that has wooden boardwalk areas. Still, it's always lovely to run around Paradise Pier when it's dark.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

The character and photo ops were the same as the day before. The lines looked to be about the same - 10+ minutes for the popular characters, and only getting longer. We only stopped for the trash compactor scene, which we had bypassed during the 10K. Unfortunately the photos the CM took were all out of focus. :-( (And I'm not spending $29.95 to download one photo image from Marathon Foto! Their prices are outrageous.)

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

We again ran through Cars Land - I think Ornament Valley looks like it could be on another planet.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

We passed the mile 4 sign and not long after we were out of the park and running south on Harbor Blvd. And it suddenly felt very chilly. The fog had crept in and it was very damp. I'd been feeling a little warm, but the rest of the race I was happy that I had Rey's arm wraps.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

We had a beautiful sunrise during last year's race as we ran down Harbor, but not this year. This part of the course was great for running because it was nice and wide, but it was not very interesting. Not too many people out, though there were several enthusiastic groups of high school cheerleaders in one area, and we were grateful for their encouragement. Overall it seemed like there were fewer spectators this year. And I didn't see very many in Star Wars costumes - there were quite a few last year.

For about 3/4 of a mile we were paralleling the return course, so we saw some of the leaders fly by on the other side. We didn't see the overall male winner (he had already passed by), but I think we saw the top female finisher, and she seemed to be running effortlessly at what was almost mile 12 for her.

Eventually we reached the city of Garden Grove and turned right. We were back into commercial areas again, and it was no longer a "quiet zone" so we finally heard a number of bands. Though I don't think I heard any Star Wars music. And there were more cheerleaders.

I still get a kick out of how this course goes by "Newhope Street". :-)

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

With the new costume restrictions this year, I didn't really see any wildly creative costumes in the half marathon. Lots of X-wing pilots, Princess Leias, Han Solos, R2D2s, Darth Vaders, and yes, Reys. BB-8 was well-represented, also. As Jedi robes were expressly forbidden, the Jedi weren't quite as recognizable.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

Just past mile 8 was what we'd really been waiting for - the first set of Star Wars cosplayers. Unfortunately I thought I was taking video and I wasn't, so I don't have any photos. But at the end of this section was a guy with his Star Wars-inspired car. His license plate was: RBLIALNC.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

After that the course took us down the block of Historic Main Street Garden Grove, and then we headed back north again.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

And then there was an even larger group of cosplayers! The cosplayers are the best part of this race. Their costumes are amazing, and there's a much wider variety of characters than we see in the Disney parks. They are so enthusiastic and supportive of the runners, also.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

Rey and Finn are back together!

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

And we found our friend Caitlin.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

This time I made sure the video was running on my phone, so this video will give you an idea of the number of people and the variety of costumes. I didn't start taking video until we were about 1/3 of the way through the line of people, so there were even more than you see here.

The mile 9 sign was just after the cosplayers. We were back in another fairly quiet residential area. Still plenty of running room, but everyone was pretty quiet.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

Mile 10. We were running east on Chapman. Still a little foggy and grey, and I was getting a little chilled. I won't lie - that last 5K was tough for me. I was still managing my 4:1 run/walk intervals, but my run pace was down.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

About mile 11 we turned onto Harbor Blvd again, so at least the end was (almost) in sight. This sign made me laugh.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

The mile 12 sign was NOT at mile 12 - it was on Katella at about mile 12.25! Messed me up, because this made me think I had more than a mile to go, when really I had less than a mile. And I was very ready to be finished!

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

There were storm troopers at the finish line! My official time was 2:26:37.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

I was very happy that the volunteers were distributing mylar sheets - I needed that.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

It was strange not to be getting two additional medals (Rebel Challenge and Coast-to-Coast), but at least Lee upheld the family honor and received the Rebel Challenge medal. :-)

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon medals

My costume worked very well and I was happy with it. As I mentioned before, one of the keys was sewing the wrap to the shoulders of the shirt so it wouldn't slip off. One of my arm wraps didn't stay in place very well, but the other one was fine. I will probably wear this costume for one of the Star Wars races at Walt Disney World in April, though I may not wear the arm wraps, depending on the weather.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

The parks part of the half marathon course was changed from last year, though the rest of it was basically the same. I didn't think the park changes were as noticeable in the half as they were in the 10K, though there were still some narrow areas and sharp turns. Although we didn't experience it, we heard that in the parks the course was crowded for those who were further back. Once you're out of the parks this is a very fast and easy course: no hills and nothing narrow or technical.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

So it was another great Star Wars race weekend. This one is still my favorite Disney race weekend - I really enjoy the Star Wars theme. All of the signs and photo ops and characters and music and lighting make it a lot of fun - and then there's all of the cosplayers in the half marathon.

And now we're ready to complete the Kessel Run at Walt Disney World in April when we take on the Dark Side Challenge!

January 21, 2016

2016 Disneyland Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend - Part 2, 10K and Kids Races


January 16, 2016 - Star Wars 10K

3:30 came much too early, though I didn't sleep much and was awake before 3:00. Doesn't matter how many races I've done, I always get pre-race jitters.

I wore the same Queen Amidala costume I made for last year's 10K - I'm into recycling. The white makeup is the most time-consuming part of this. Lee had a new X-wing fighter costume. He'd wanted to wear this one for the half marathon, but since it was a new costume that he'd never run in before he opted to wear it for the shorter distance instead. (It turned out to be just fine for running.)

As you might have heard, runDisney announced new costume guidelines in early January. Basically no weapons, no masks, no long dresses or anything that might conceal a weapon. Interesting that Jedi robes were specifically called out as prohibited. Items that were expressly allowed were plastic swords and plastic light sabers, tutus, and transparent wings. Fortunately neither of our costumes required any last-minute modifications.

With all of the new costume regulations and security screening measures we allowed a little bit of extra time to get to the start area, though it turned out that we didn't need it. The screening was fast and efficient. (If you're new to Disneyland races - one of the best things about them is that if you're staying in any of the Disney hotels or any of the nearby hotels, it's a short walk to the start line. No bus transportation required.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

The pre-race area is so much less crowded for the 10K than for the half marathon - but 10,000 runners as opposed to 14,000 will do that. :-) We met up with friends and made the obligatory porta-pottie stops before heading to our corrals.

The weather was GREAT!!!! It was 50 degrees at the start, with very little (if any) wind. The humidity was pretty high - probably 90%. Still, it made for excellent running conditions and even waiting around before the race wasn't too bad for everyone dressed in skimpy running clothes (or even skimpier Slave Leia outfits).

Lee and I were in Corral A. I still find it interesting that my current proof of time gets me Corral A in California but only Corral D in Florida. Who knew east coast runners were so much faster! I really like being in Corral A - it's so nice to be where we can actually SEE the start line, instead of looking at a screen from a corral far far away. While we were waiting we watched scenes from Star Wars Rebels and one of the trailers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I think everyone had seen the movie at least once - it should've been a requirement for participation. :-)

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

A Disneyland Cast Member sang the National Anthem, and it was time for Rudy Novotny's famous "Runners....set...GOOOOOOOOOO!" Accompanied by hyperspace graphics on the big screen.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

As I mentioned earlier, it was a new 10K course this year. We've asked for more time on property, and they gave us more time on property. :-) But be careful what you wish for - an awful lot of it was backstage in some pretty uninteresting areas. We were almost to mile 2 before we finally entered a "real" part of a park. And it was not a fast course: narrow in places, and there were some very sharp turns where the course doubled back on itself. You couldn't take those very fast.

But we did get to see a lot of the parks - I think in Disneyland we were in every land except Toon Town, and we ran through most of DCA. So I have to say that the race organizers really found a way to design a course to maximize the amount of on-stage time that we had.

With the new course, this year instead of the first mile+ being outside the parks, we were only outside for about 1/2 mile, and then ducked backstage off Ball Rd. next to the Team Disney Anaheim building.

Boba Fett was out for photos in a backstage area even before the mile 1 marker. There was already a long line and we didn't stop. Our goal was BB-8, so we were running pretty hard, and only planned to stop if we saw a pretty short line.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

As I mentioned we spent a LOT of time backstage, some of it in areas I don't think I'd ever run in before. We ran next to the monorail track around much of the eastern perimeter of Disneyland. It was quite dark in places - they really needed some additional lights. Had the running surface been uneven it could have been a real problem, but fortunately it wasn't. Watching over us, Yoda was. :-)

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

We ran under the bus/tram lot (pretty much the only hill we had on the course), then made a hard right turn in a DCA backstage area, and eventually ended up out on the Esplanade and into Disneyland's main entrance. But we only ran past Town Square before going backstage again, coming back into the park between Redd Rockett's and Innoventions. Unlike last year we didn't run all around Tomorrowland: we headed straight for the hub past Star Tours. And then something different: we ran through the castle from the front side to the back - all of the other courses go the other way.

A quick tour through Fantasyland and then we ran up towards "it's a small world", which still has all of its holiday decorations. We ducked backstage again next to the Fantasyland Theater, ran through a tunnel, and emerged onto the Big Thunder Trail.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

We ran along the perimeter of Frontierland, and saw Ezra and Sabine from Star Wars Rebels next to The Golden Horseshoe. The line was fairly short so we stopped.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon Rebels

In front of the Haunted Mansion we made a 180 degree turn and ran back along the upper level of the walkway along the Rivers of America and entered Adventureland. The Mile 3 sign was in front of The Jungle Cruise.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

Then we ran down Main Street. There were First Order Stormtroopers at the train station, but we ran past them and across the Esplanade into DCA.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

We turned left at the Walt and Mickey statue and ran up Hollywood Blvd. And at the end of the street, finally, was BB-8! There were a lot of people waiting, but we didn't care - we knew the line was only going to get a lot longer! While zigzagging in the queue we at one point ended up next to another woman who was also dressed as Queen Amidala - in a much more elaborate costume than mine. In addition to a more authentic robe she had the full headdress! I don't know how she ran in that, but she looked great.

2016 Star Wars 10K Queen Amidala running costume

It took about 12 minutes until we got our chance to meet BB-8. The cast member who took my phone told us not to touch his head, and to look at the real photographer first, and then at her. It was all very efficient, and she got a nice photo of us. We heard later that the line for BB-8 eventually went down Hollywood Blvd all the way to Award Wieners, and was estimated to be 35 minutes long.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon BB-8

This seems like a good place to say that I thought that the race organizers did a much better job of handling the lines at the character stops this year. There were masking tape queues already marked on the ground and there were CMs managing the end of the line as well as multiple CMs handling runners' cameras and giving us instructions on how it was going to work. It really seemed to help keep the lines moving as quickly as possible.

After leaving BB-8 we went backstage again next to Tower of Terror. And then we did what was my least favorite part of the course: this weird loop out to the Toy Story tram area and back. Obviously just a means of adding some additional distance because there was nothing to see out there. But it's always rather frustrating to be running and then see runners that are ahead of you coming back towards you on the other side of the course.

2016 Star Wars 10K

We ran behind Cars Land, then back into the park at the Pacific Wharf, through Radiator Springs, behind the Tower of Terror, and then into Flik's Fun Faire and past Mile 5.

2016 Star Wars 10K

R2D2 and C-3PO were at the exit of "a bug's land". This line didn't look as long as BB-8, but we still waited 10 minutes. I was disappointed that all of the photos the CM took were out of focus - this was the best one.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon R2D2 Threepio

We ran all the way around Paradise Pier and then in front of Grizzly River Run. We were just about to exit DCA next to Soarin' when I spotted a photo stop with the speeder bikes. This didn't seem to have a long line, but it took longer for people to get set up with it, so we probably waited 8-10 minutes.

2016 Star Wars 10K

The last part of the race was through Downtown Disney. Lots of people to cheer us on to the finish line. I'd looked at my watch when we left the speeder bikes and realized we could finish in less than 1:30 if we booked it, so we did. Lee had more energy than I did and finished in 1:29:33, while I came in at 1:29:53. Not bad considering we had over 30 minutes of photo stops - our running time for the 10K was under an hour.

2016 Star Wars 10K finish

We got our lovely X-wing fighter medals! I'm really pleased that they changed up the 10K medal this year - hope that will continue for next year's race.

2016 Star Wars 10K medal

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

In the finish area was a nifty backdrop of the Wampa cave from The Empire Strikes Back. We had to wait for a while to do that, but we were still feeling good and we were warm enough, even though the temperature was only 52 degrees.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

The finish area was not too crowded, and I liked the decor around the stage area.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

We got the usual runDisney snack boxes, though the stuff inside was a little more interesting this time. The "puffed corn" one is surprisingly good.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon snack boxes

As we made our way back to the hotel we had to cross the race course near ESPN Club. Sometimes this takes a long time, but we got across with just a short wait. We've learned from past experience that on 10K days it's easier to return to the Grand Californian by walking past Earl of Sandwich down to the Paradise Pier and crossing Disneyland Drive there rather than trying to make our way through Downtown Disney along the race course.

I still love a good Disney 10K - and this is a good one. Though I still haven't decided what I thought about the new course. On one hand I like that it was almost all on property, but on the other hand I didn't like all the backstage areas, and especially all of the doubling back. I give them an "A" for effort, though. And while we didn't have any issues with course crowding I heard that it was a problem for those who started further back, and that there were places they just couldn't run because there were too many people.

One of my biggest complaints last year was character photo ops. I think there was one more this year than last year, and in addition to the characters, there were a couple of set pieces: the speeder bikes and the trash compactor (from episode IV) - though we didn't stop for that one during the 10K. Now that you can get photos with Chewbacca and Boba Fett in Disneyland, I didn't feel the need to stop for those photo ops. But I was very excited about BB-8 and R2D2 and Threepio - those were Must Dos for us. I'm still disappointed that there were no Disney characters in Star Wars costumes, though. We KNOW those outfits exist! Maybe if I keep mentioning it, someone will eventually take notice and it will happen.

Overall it was a good race experience, and we will plan to do it again next year.

After we'd showered and changed I actually did something that I've never done at a Disney race weekend before: I went to watch some of the Kids Races. We have friends whose 15-month-old son was participating in his first runDisney Kids race - the 100 meter run/walk/toddle.

There were four different events - the 100, 200, and 400 meter races, and the Diaper Dash. Distance is determined by age group: under 12 months for the Diaper Dash, and 1-3, 4-6, and 7-8 years for the others. The races used the Downtown Disney parking lot for staging, but the final 100 meters and the finish line were the same used for all of the other races. After finishing they continued into the same post-race refreshment/reunion area, also.

The 100 meter event was first, and the kids and their parents (all these kids had at least one parent with them) were already lined up in the holding area when I arrived. Wow...there were a lot more than I expected! I heard the announcers say 500 kids, though I don't know if that was over all events, or that was how many were in the 100-meter.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon Kids Races

My little friend A and his mom were already lined up, so I went and found A's dad near the finish line. Carissa Bealert and Rudy Novotny were the race announcers for these races, also, and they were joined at the finish line by special guest Chewbacca.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon Kids Races

They sent the kids off in groups of about 50. There were some pretty fast runners in that 100-meter group of 1-3-year-olds, but the majority of them were walking, most of them holding tightly to Mom or Dad's hand. And some of them just couldn't make it and were carried across the finish line. :-) There were a few tears, too. A lot of the kids and the parents were dressed in costume. Mostly Star Wars, but there were some Princesses and Mickeys and Minnies, too.

Some of them were thrilled by Chewbacca, but a lot of them weren't quite sure about him. There were lots of "Awwww" moments, as you can see if you look at the expressions of the women in the background of this photograph. :-)

2016 Star Wars Kids races

There were bananas and bottles of water available afterwards for the kids. And they all received a Yoda finisher medallion.

2016 Star Wars Kids races

I'm happy to say that A did just great in his first race, and walked the whole thing. He looked adorable in the Han Solo costume his mom made for him, and she was dressed as Chewbacca. And he seemed very proud of his rubber medal - though he gave it a test chew and did not seem impressed. :-)

I only saw the one race, but this was a fun event - I can understand why the Kid's Races sell out so quickly.

Next up: The Star Wars Half Marathon

January 20, 2016

2016 Disneyland Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend - Part 1


January 2016 - time for the second annual Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend at Disneyland. I thought last year's inaugural event was an unqualified success so I was interested in seeing what changes they might make this year. I'm happy to report that it was still a great event, and has firmly solidified its position as my favorite runDisney race weekend.

Star Wars Half Marathonr

There weren't any huge changes this year. A few more runners (14,000 in the half vs. 12,000 last year), since they decided the courses could handle it, and I thought there was a better variety of merchandise - and more of it. The biggest changes were to the race courses for the 10K and half marathon, but I'll get to those later.

For the first time since 2012 we did not participate in Marathon Weekend at Walt Disney World and then return to the west coast and run a half marathon at Disneyland a week later (two weeks later in 2012). It felt strange not to be at Marathon Weekend, but we were certainly a lot more rested going into this race weekend than we usually are. :-) Though we weren't as well trained, since we hadn't trained to run a marathon this last season.

We did not participate in the 5K on Friday morning, though we had a number of friends who did. It was very exciting when all of the photos from the on-course character stops started coming in on Facebook and Twitter, and I saw that BB-8 was one of this year's characters! Squeee!!! That was a must-do as far as I was concerned. The other characters were Chewbacca, Ezra and Sabine (Star Wars Rebels), and R2D2 and 3-PO.

Although we weren't there, we heard from friends about the official merchandise lines at the Expo, which was held at the Convention Center in the Disneyland Hotel. Thursday was opening day, which has historically been very busy, since many people want first chance at the merchandise before some of the limited items sell out. Disney has learned from past experience and had things under control and well-organized again this year. Shoppers were queued upstairs in one of the large convention center ballrooms and then escorted downstairs to another queue then admitted to the merchandise area in groups. In the ballroom one of the Star Wars movies was playing, so at least there was some entertainment. Our friends waited for over an hour on Thursday morning, but they were able to purchase everything they wanted.

Star Wars Half Marathon Expo entrance

We arrived at the Expo about 4:15 on Friday afternoon. As usual, packet pickup was a breeze - no lines. Lee was signed up for the Rebel Challenge; I had signed up individually for the 10K and half marathon. (We were traveling when registration opened, and it was logistically challenging to get both of us registered - and the Rebel Challenge was more important to Lee than to me.) But that was before I knew they were going to change up the Rebel Challenge medal - it was different this year. Still, Lee was getting one so there would be one in the family.

Speaking of the medals, they displayed them differently in the Expo this time. Instead of hanging in the runDisney booth where we could handle them, they were on display in cases.

This was my first opportunity to see the Kessel Run challenge medal in person (the one we will receive for completing both the Disneyland and Walt Disney World Star Wars half marathons) - it's fabulous.

Kessel Run Challenge Medal

All of the Star Wars Dark Side medals look great.

Star Wars Dark Side medals

As usual, they had done up the actual entrance to the Expo nicely with different banners.

Star Wars Half Marathon banner

Star Wars Half Marathon banner

Star Wars Half Marathon banner

Once inside we picked up our race shirts. Really nice designs this year, though some of us joked that the 10K shirts were recycled from unused 2014 Wine and Dine half marathon shirts, since they are the same color.

Star Wars Half Marathon shirts

I was very disappointed that I wasn't registered for the Rebel Challenge since the shirt has R2D2 on it!!! Sigh. I won't make that mistake next year.

Star Wars Rebel Challenge shirt

We went over to the official merchandise area. At almost 5:00 there was still a line to get in, though it wasn't too bad - we waited 10 minutes or so. Inside there still seemed to be a good variety of merchandise remaining.

Star Wars Half Marathon merchandise

There were lots of Rebel Challenge items.

Star Wars Half Marathon merchandise

Star Wars Half Marathon merchandise

I thought this one was clever - 13.0999. :-)

Star Wars Half Marathon merchandise

Some items were down to limited sizes, though - Lee would've purchased the men's version of this shirt but it was only available in a medium.

Star Wars Half Marathon merchandise

One wall had only runDisney branded merchandise, so it was obvious that some items had sold out.

runDisney merchandise

All of the "I Did It" shirts were still available, most in both men's and women's cut.

Star Wars Half Marathon I Did It

There was still a good selection of magnets - I purchased the race weekend magnet.

Star Wars Half Marathon merchandise

The only mini medal pins were the half marathon, Rebel Challenge, and Coast-to-Coast pins. I would've bought a 10K medal pin, though I'm not sure that one was available at all. There seemed to be plenty of race pins available.

Star Wars Half Marathon pins

There's a new Coast-to-Coast shirt this year.

Star Wars Half Marathon merchandise

Most of the race shirts featuring Inside Out and other characters were still available.

Star Wars Half Marathon merchandise

There were also mugs and water bottles, headbands, pins, and a very nice messenger-style bag. I was happy to see that there weren't racks of generic Star Wars merchandise like we saw last year when they had run out of so much of the race merchandise.

Star Wars Half Marathon merchandise

Star Wars Half Marathon merchandise

The rest of the expo seemed to have the usual merchants. Champion had some new shirts that were mashups of Star Wars and (mostly California) universities.

Star Wars Half Marathon merchandise

Star Wars Half Marathon merchandise

New Balance has new Disney shoe styles. These were much more appealing than last year's black and white shoes and there lots of people purchasing them. We continue to resist the temptation. (One of the few runDisney temptations that we have successfully resisted, if truth be told. ;-) )

2016 New Balance Disney shoes

In the lobby outside the Expo there was a photo op. No line, so we had the CM there take our photo.

Star Wars Half Marathon photo op

Expo done, we checked into the Grand Californian (thank goodness for DVC points) and unpacked, had dinner, etc.. We made it an early night, since 3:30 a.m. was going to come early for the 10K wake-up call the next morning.

To Be Continued...

April 13, 2015

Trip Planning for a runDisney Race Weekend


In response to one of my recent half marathon blogs, Kristyn sent this comment:

Enjoy your RunDisney posts. I am looking for recommendations on two topics if you can help me, Laura. I am doing my first event this fall at Wine and Dine. Can you do a blog on how you prepare for a nighttime race as most of us are used to the early morning runs. Also, not sure if it has ever been covered, but how to plan on where to stay and how to get to to packet pickup and the event if you don't have a rental car. Would love some advice on how to plan for a RunDisney trip. Thanks.

I'm hoping there are others of you that are interested in this information, too. So here are some of my thoughts on how to plan a trip for a runDisney race.

7-9 months in advance

Choose a race weekend and a race or races.

The first decision you have to make is which race weekend you're going to attend, and which events are you going to participate in. This could be influenced by a number of factors, including work/school schedules, potential weather conditions, and race theme.

As I write this, runDisney offers seven different race weekends in Florida and California, with most race weekends including 5K, 10K, and half marathon races. (There's no 10K for Wine and Dine Weekend; and WDW Marathon Weekend also features the WDW Marathon, which is the granddaddy of them all!)

Planning for a runDisney Race Weekend

So, what's it going to be? Decisions, decisions. WDW Marathon Weekend in early January offers all four race distances, in addition to the Goofy Challenge and the Dopey Challenge. This is also the largest runDisney race weekend and has the most participants.

Planning for a runDisney Race Weekend

Is The Force with you? Then you might want to choose Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend at Disneyland, which is also in January, a week after Marathon Weekend. There are 5K, 10K, and half marathon races, as well as the Rebel Challenge, where runners do both the 10K and the half marathon. Races at Disneyland have smaller fields since the resort is smaller - this tends to make for a more pleasant race experience, but it also means they often sell out faster.

Planning for a runDisney Race Weekend

Are you looking for a "Girls' Getaway"? Then you might be interested in Princess Half Marathon Weekend at Walt Disney World or Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend at Disneyland. Both of these race weekends are women-focused. That doesn't mean that men are not allowed, but in the last few years women have outnumbered men by about 11:1 in the half marathons. Both race weekends offer 5K, 10K, and half marathon races, as well as a 10K/half marathon challenge. Princess Half Marathon Weekend takes place at the end of February.

Planning for a runDisney Race Weekend

This year Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend has been moved from January to Mother's Day Weekend in May. We'll see how that works out - many of us (myself included) think that's a poor choice for a race weekend, especially one focused on women. Getting up really early to run a half marathon is not the kind of pampering that most moms are looking for on Mother's Day!

Planning for a runDisney Race Weekend

Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend is held over Labor Day weekend, and also offers 5K, 10K, and half marathon races, and includes the Dumbo Double Dare 10K/half marathon challenge. It's pretty warm in Anaheim at this time of year, but a race weekend is a great excuse to visit Disneyland, if you haven't been out here before. The City of Anaheim really comes out in support of this one, with lots of high school bands, cheerleaders, Boy and Girl Scouts, and community dance groups. And then there's the classic cars!

Planning for a runDisney Race Weekend

Do you want to run a race and party afterward? Then the WDW Wine and Dine Half Marathon might be for you. This is my favorite WDW race: it's at night, it's a different course that goes through three theme parks, and there's an after-race party in Epcot until 4:00 a.m. The Food and Wine Festival food booths are open, as well as some attractions, and there's also special entertainment. The race weekend takes place in early November. There's no 10K for this one, just the 5K (which takes place the same day as the half marathon - but early in the morning), and the half marathon. But the 5K is also slightly different, since it's held at Animal Kingdom and not at Epcot like the others. This half is also a smaller field than the other WDW races.

Planning for a runDisney Race Weekend

If you want to bring out your inner super hero, then how about the Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon Weekend at Disneyland? In addition to having the longest name, this is the last runDisney event of the year, and takes place the week after Wine and Dine. There are 5K, 10K (new this year), and half marathon races. With the introduction of the 10K, there's the new Infinity Gauntlet Challenge. Weather-wise, this is a terrific time for a race in California.* In addition, the parks are fully decorated for the holidays. making it a special time of year for a visit to the Disneyland Resort.

*Last year's wind event during the half marathon was an anomaly.

Now that you've decided on a race...

Race registration opens 7-9 months in advance, (you can visit the runDisney web site to sign up for a reminder email) and many of the races sell out quickly (sometimes in under 30 minutes!). I highly recommend that you be prepared to register the minute that race registration opens (typically at 12:00 eastern time) so that you don't get shut out. The 10Ks and race challenges are usually the earliest to sell out, because they allow fewer participants. If you are an Annual Pass Holder or DVC member, there will be a pre-registration opportunity about two weeks before regular registration opens. A limited number of registrations are available during this time, and they also tend to go quickly. The good news is that if you qualify for this you get two shots at registering, and if you don't get in via pre-registration, you can try again during open registration. (In the past pre-registration was also available to Disney Visa card holders, but I do not know if this is still the case.)

RunDisney uses as their registration site. If you don't already have an account, then it's a good idea to set one up in advance. It doesn't help with pre-registration, but during open registration it will speed the process if you have an account you can log into.

So you're registered...what's next?

Time to make some additional decisions about the race weekend. Are you going to turn it into a vacation, and add on some days before and/or after the race? Where are you going to stay? How are you going to get around? Some of these considerations are slightly different depending on whether the race is at Walt Disney World or Disneyland, so I'll address them separately.

Since most of us travel to WDW or Disneyland we want to spend some extra time there apart from the races to give some added value to the trip. I personally recommend adding more of the time on after the race and not before. You'll still want to arrive at least a day or two before the race so that you have time to visit the Race Expo and pick up your race bib and shirt, etc., but once the race is over it's nice to have some time to relax and enjoy the parks.

At Walt Disney World, if you are staying on-site at a WDW resort, then race transportation and where to stay are kind of all rolled together. For each race weekend, there are multiple Walt Disney World resorts that are designated "host resorts". Race transportation is provided for runners staying at these hotels - this includes free transportation to/from the Expo in addition to transportation to/from the races. So, between using Disney's Magical Express for airport transportation and normal Disney transportation to the parks, then if you're staying at a host resort you probably don't need a rental car. For Marathon and Princess weekends, all WDW resorts are considered host resorts and offer race transportation. For Wine and Dine, the resort choices are more limited. You can visit the runDisney web site and go to Travel->Walt Disney World and then select the race weekend you are interested in for more information on the host resorts.

At Disneyland everything is much more compact, so from any of the Disney hotels and from many of the hotels in the surrounding area you simply walk to/from any race weekend events. The Expos are held in the convention center at the Disneyland Hotel, and the races all start/end near either the Disneyland Hotel or the Paradise Pier Hotel. (This makes the race morning logistics a WHOLE lot easier than at WDW - no bus ride required!). There are some designated host hotels that are further away which do offer Expo and race transportation, so that's also an option.

One thing to keep in mind is that there's no "Magical Express" equivalent at Disneyland, though there are a number of reputable shuttle services that provide airport transportation to all area hotels. You'll have to pay for it, but balance that off against the price of a car rental. Also, most hotels (including the Disney hotels) charge a fee for parking, so that's another thing to keep in mind. The two most popular airports to fly into are John Wayne (SNA) and Los Angeles International (LAX). SNA is a whole lot closer to Disneyland, but doesn't have as many flights. Long Beach (LGB) is another airport option, but it's very small, and few airlines fly there.

There are only three Disney-owned hotels at Disneyland, and they are all high-end, so Disney depends on their "Good Neighbor" hotels to provide the more moderate and budget-priced options. You won't get the Disney theming, but the accommodations are just fine, especially if your biggest requirement is a place to sleep and shower.

And did I mention that a lot of them are walking distance to the race events and the parks? :-) i can not stress enough what a huge benefit that is when running a race at Disneyland. You can find some additional information, including links to the hotel web sites, on our Good Neighbor Hotel FAQ

2-7 months in advance

Train for your race(s). I'm not going to say too much about this, since everyone has their own strategy, and what works best for them. But I will address Kristyn's question about Wine and Dine, and how to prepare for a nighttime race: I personally don't do anything differently in my training. I typically run one evening a week, but the first time I ran Wine and Dine I wasn't doing that, and it didn't make a difference in my performance. I think that if you've done your training, then your body knows what it needs to do, and time of day doesn't matter. If anything, I find it a little easier to run at night because it's dark and I don't have the sun beating down on me.

This is also the time period where you'll be able to submit your "Proof of Time". This is a race result from some other race you've participated in during the past couple of years, which runDisney will use in determining your placement in a start corral. This is done via a web page. You can use another runDisney race, but most of us don't have our best times in a runDisney race. :-) You'll need to have the race information, including the name of the race, date, location, distance, your time, AND a URL where runDisney can find the race results. If you run a different race and get a better time, you can go in and modify it. But you will not be able to modify your proof of time within about 3 months of the Disney race date - the cutoff date will be posted on the page. You are not required to submit a proof of time, but if you don't have one runDisney will assign you to one of the later corrals.

For WDW races, starting 6 months in advance you can make your Priority Seating arrangements for dining. So if it's important to you to eat a particular kind of food - or at a particular place - before a race, it's something to consider far in advance. And of course there's probably other restaurants you'd like to enjoy after the race - we often have a celebratory dinner at one of our favorite restaurants on Sunday night of race weekend.

60 days in advance

At Disneyland it's time to make your Priority Seating, though this isn't nearly as critical as it is at WDW. The exceptions would be for a special dining package, such as Fantasmic! viewing, or if you're booking for a large party.

For WDW you can make your Fastpass+ selections, if you are staying at a WDW resort.

1-4 weeks in advance

Race waivers will be available on the runDisney web site. You must complete a race waiver and present photo id to pick up your bib at the race Expo. While there are print stations at the Expo, it's a lot easier and faster if you print the waiver in advance and bring it with you. This is also how you find out your bib number, and you can determine your corral placement from that - otherwise you'll have to wait until you pick up your bib, as the corral will be printed on that.

Make a packing list. Don't forget things like gels, running belts, and throwaway clothes. If you use a particular nutrition product bring it with you - don't count on being able to purchase it at the Expo. If you're planning to run in costume, make sure you list all of the pieces. If you can do a test run in the costume to make sure it's going to work that's great, but I'm sure most of us (myself included) don't do that.

The week before

Obsessively stalk the weather channel. Ok, maybe that's just me. :-) But honestly, you want to know what to expect so that you can bring the appropriate clothing, both for running and park touring. And be aware that the weather can change drastically, even a day or two before the race (though this is more often an issue in Florida than California). Predicted starting temps in the 60s can suddenly turn into the 40s (or 30s!), or 50s can turn into high 60s, with finishing temps in the 80s. And rain is always a possibility. I've had experience with all of those, and they all have their own challenges. If it's chilly, the worst part is all the waiting around before the race. In that case, those little chemical hand warmer packets and some cheap throwaway gloves will go a long way to keeping you more comfortable. I ALWAYS pack a LARGE trash bag in my suitcase - it comes down past my knees and really helps me retain body heat while waiting.
Planning for a runDisney Race Weekend

Race Weekend

Yay! You've made it to your destination, with your running gear and waiver in hand. Next up is the race Expo. If you want first chance at the race merchandise, then you need to arrive EARLY on the day the Expo opens and be prepared to wait in line. This is the one situation where it's easier if you have a car since the buses don't start running until 30 minutes or so before the Expo starts. Also, remember that bib pickup and merchandise are in separate areas - you can choose to go to merchandise first and later pick up your bib or vice versa. If you don't want to wait in a lot of lines and are willing to take your chances on merchandise, then I would suggest visiting the Expo sometime after 2:00 in the afternoon. I've never encountered much in the way of lines at that point in time.
Planning for a runDisney Race Weekend

Be a little cautious about trying the samples that are available at the Expo. That energy bar might contain some ingredient that doesn't agree with you - and stomach issues are not something you want to deal with on race day.

The day before the race

It's really difficult to stay off your feet when you're at Disney, but it's a good idea the day before a race, especially if you're running the marathon. Even with a half marathon, being on your feet for hours the day before will tire you out to some extent. We try to do some limited touring in the morning, and then take an extended break back in our room in the afternoon, before venturing out in the early evening for dinner. And you should be drinking water throughout the day - not drowning yourself, but if you're running a half or the marathon then you want to be well-hydrated.

When you're out and about, pick up whatever it is you're going to want to eat in the few hours before the race. This might be a bagel or a banana, or yogurt - or maybe it's an energy bar that you brought with you. Your choices the morning of the race will be very limited, so if you already have what you need that's one less thing to worry about in the morning.

Planning for a runDisney Race Weekend

When it comes to dinner the night before, just about everyone has their own idea of what works best for them. Some want pasta, others pizza, and some swear by Chinese food. At this point, you should have done enough long training runs to know what you need to fuel yourself for the next day. You definitely do NOT want to gorge yourself the night before, but you should eat a good dinner, with some carbs and protein. I like chicken and rice, with some vegetables or a salad, though my go-to meal the night before a Disneyland half marathon is four cheese ravioli from Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta.

For the Wine and Dine Half Marathon, since it's a night race, we do things slightly differently. We still do some touring in the morning, and then we'll try to have our big meal of the day around 1:00-2:00 in the afternoon. And by "big meal", I don't mean gorging on an all-you-can-eat buffet - I mean your largest meal of that particular day. I recommend something similar to what you would eat for dinner the night before a morning race. Then around 6:00 have a light (and I do mean light) meal or snack.

In the couple of hours before the race, whether it's in the morning or the evening, you'll want to have something to eat. Again, from your training, you should be familiar with what works for you. You may want to eat in your room, or you may want to take something with you to the start area.

The Disney resorts usually have some kind of quick service option that's open very early on race mornings where you can get coffee and light fare such as fruit and bagels. At Disneyland several locations in Downtown Disney are open early on half marathon mornings, like Starbucks and Jamba Juice.

Race Day

Planning for a runDisney Race Weekend've made it to race day! Get out to the start line and have a great time on the course!

What about the rest of you? What are your suggestion on planning for a runDisney trip?

Learn more about runDisney from Laura on this episode of AllEarsNet TV

January 24, 2015

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend - Half Marathon Recap

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

Sunday, January 18

The alarm again went off at 3:30. This is starting to seem normal. That worries me.

As usual, we had a light breakfast. Lee was unhappy to discover that, while we had started with two packets of coffee in our Studio, the remaining one was decaf. An uncaffeinated Lee is not a happy Lee.

Different costumes today - Lee was an X-wing fighter pilot. I thought it was pretty effective as a running costume! Since I'd been unable to come up with something else (I used up all my creativity with Amidala), I wore my Cinderella costume again. Which has the advantage that I've run in it before, and I know it's not going to give me problems.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

This time we knew to go through Downtown Disney to get to the pre-race area, so it was a much more efficient process. We met up with friends and walked to our start corral - we were all in B. We weren't all planning to run together this time, though - just Lee and me.

For the half marathon there were some fireworks during the national anthem and for the start of the race.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

And then we were off. The course started the same as the 10K - north on Disneyland drive and east on Ball, but instead of going over the freeway we ducked into the Team Disney Anaheim area, then backstage at Disneyland. That was all before mile 1. Most of the park time part of the half marathon course was similar to the 10K the day before, though there were a few times we ran in the opposite direction. Like the 10K we ran around the perimeter of Disneyland and behind the Indiana Jones attraction, then out to the Esplanade, but then we went into Disneyland's main entrance and down Main Street to Frontierland.

Luke and Leia were posing in front of the Mark Twain's dock. Another loooong line. But this time there was a cast member pointing out a safe place to stop for a quick photo or selfie, and telling us we were fine as long as we stayed within the yellow cones (meaning we were off the actual race course). It was nice to see them bow to the inevitable and do that at most of the character stops, though at one of the stops in DCA they STILL were chasing runners off.

We ran around Big Thunder Mountain in Fantasyland. At the teacups, Lee demonstrated that an X-wing pilot can fly anything. :-)

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

Leaving Fantasyland we went back towards the hub. Chewbacca was behind the Matterhorn this time. The line wasn't quite as long as the day before, but still more than we wanted to deal with!

We again ran into Tomorrowland. Darth Vader and the Storm Troopers (sounds like the name of a rock band) were in front of Star Tours. I can't remember how, but we ended up backstage near Space Mountain and then went out into Town Square, then exited Disneyland. I saw my friend Masayo cheering in the Esplanade before we went backstage between Disneyland and DCA.

We entered DCA by the Tower of Terror and ran down Hollywood Blvd. Boba Fett was near Off the Page, still with a long line, but shorter than the day before - we didn't stop, though.

Along the way between Grizzly Peak and "a bug's land" there were several sets of Storm Troopers. Which was a great idea because it meant none of them had very long lines. At some point we also saw the Star Wars Rebels characters again, but didn't stop because we'd gotten them the day before.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

This time we went counter-clockwise around Paradise Bay, and passed by The Little Mermaid and Jumpin' Jellyfish. The Jedi were in front of Silly Symphony Swings. This was the third set of Jedi we'd seen, so another example where there were multiple instances of similar characters, which made the lines a lot more reasonable!

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

After that we went out the parade gate again, and behind California Screamin', again re-entering the park by the arch into Radiator Springs. There was some nice lighting on Ornament Valley as the sun was starting to rise.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

We exited the park between Flik's Fun Fair and Luigi's Flying Tires, and found ourselves going south on Harbor Blvd. About mile 4.5 of the race, and we'd been on property for about four miles. Quite an improvement over the Avengers half marathon course, in my opinion. One of the best parts about park time is that it makes the race seem to go by more quickly - we were over 1/3 done with the race when we left the parks!

As we ran down Harbor there was a spectacular sunrise.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

There's about a mile of Harbor Blvd where the course is going both directions - outgoing runners at ~miles 5-6, and returning runners about miles 11-12. We saw some of the early finishers - we didn't see the men's winner, who was almost done by then, but we saw the first woman runner - yeah, she was about 6 miles ahead of us...

Harbor is a very wide street, and runners had two lanes in each direction. That made for very easy and uncrowded conditions. It was great.

In the median was a guy dressed as Chewbacca. He looked just as good as the one in Disneyland, and did NOT have a 30 minute line. The spectators really embraced the Star Wars theme, and we saw lots with Star Wars-inspired signs, and some in costumes. I saw a guy dressed as a Jedi master and said "May the Force be with you". He saw Lee's X-wing fighter costume and replied: "Stay on target." :-)

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

I guess one thing I haven't talked about is runner costumes. I think R2D2, or something reminiscent of him, was what I saw the most of. There were also a lot of Princess Leias, a number of them accompanied by Han Solos. I didn't see nearly as many Jedi as I expected - Lee suggested that the robes would've been too warm for running. Though we did see one guy in a complete Chewbacca costume! Yikes.

There were a lot of X-wing pilots, and a few runners in Darth Vader helmets. I saw almost no Disney characters, and I actually received quite a bit of attention in my Cinderella outfit - probably because the spectators could easily tell who I was. :-)

The high school bands and cheerleaders were out, also, and several of the bands were playing Star Wars music.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

By about mile 6.5 we were in the city of Garden Grove, and had turned west on Garden Grove Blvd. There were a number of policemen, fire departments, and paramedics along the course to cheer us on.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

Around mile 7 we entered more of a residential district, so no more bands for a while, in consideration of the residents who were probably still trying to sleep! I noticed that we crossed "Newhope Street" - how appropriate for a Star Wars-themed race! (For those who are not big Star Wars fans, the original Star Wars movie's subtitle was "Episode IV: A New Hope.")

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

We had heard the Disney had invited "Costumers" (though we would call them Cosplayers) to officially come out dressed in Star Wars attire to cheer us on, and we passed the first set of them about mile 8. That's at a point in the race when we're starting to need a distraction and some encouragement, and since we were still in a residential area, no bands or musical groups were appropriate. But these people were terrific. There were so many wonderful costumes!

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

And even a special vehicle - notice R2D2 in the back. (The license plate was OBISHWN.)

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

Soon after that we went down Garden Grove's Historic Main Street. This was only one block long, but it was a nice area with lots of shops.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

Then we headed north again and just before mile 9 we encountered the second set of Costumers - a much larger group than the first. Wow! Lots of different costumes, and a much better variety of characters than we'd seen in the parks. Honestly, after seeing them I think there was really no reason to wait to see the characters in the parks - these were even better!

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

We had friends who were dressed as Leia and an X-wing pilot, and it was wonderful to see them out there!

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

In miles 9-10 we went east on Chapman Avenue.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

It seemed like we had a few more residents/spectators out cheering for us than we had in miles 6-8 - the support was great. The residential areas that we ran through seemed very nice - there were several parks as well as this one more natural area.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

Just before mile 11 we turned north on Harbor again - we'd already run this stretch of road, but in the opposite direction. All the runners had gone through on the other side and they were starting to clean everything up, but they hadn't re-opened the southbound lanes yet.

After a mile we turned left on Katella and ran around the outside of California Adventure. This was different, since for the other three half marathons the last mile is all on Disney property. We saw Colin and Beci cheering - and also this guy. :-)

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

We turned onto Disneyland Drive and then into the Simba parking lot. On the course map I'd seen that there was a loop in this lot, and I was a little concerned about that. It seemed like a cruel place to add some extra distance! But it was short, and we were soon on the familiar final 1/4 mile finishing stretch past the Paradise Pier and the Disneyland Hotels to the finish line.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

I'd really hoped to finish in 2:35 or less and we did it: 2:33:53!

This time the volunteers were handing out mylar sheets! Nice, because it was a cool and overcast morning. We also got our half marathon medals.

And then went to the Coast-to-Coast tent to get both our Rebel Challenge and Coast-to-Coast medals.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

They looked our bib number up on the computer and matched us to the photo taken at the Expo, and also verified that we had a finishing time for the 10K. It was quick and efficient. For Coast-to-Coast we just showed the wristband we'd received at the Expo and got that medal.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

The medals are nice - the Rebel Challenge is a spinner, with Yoda on one side and Vader on the other. The ribbon is also different colors on each side. I mentioned this in a previous blog, but one thing I noticed about the Half Marathon medal: it does not say "Inaugural" on it. That most important word is only on the ribbon, but not the medal. :-( The 5K, 10K, and Rebel Challenge medals all say "Inaugural".

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

We got our runDisney boxes, and had someone take our photo, but then we went back to our room - it was chilly to just be standing around, and we just wanted to sit down/shower/get a hot beverage/all of the above.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

All in all, this was a terrific experience. The Star Wars 10K is my new favorite "more fun than anyone should have while running" race. The half marathon was great, and I really enjoyed the course. It was wide and fast and made for very easy running. It certainly wasn't crowded, so it'll be interesting to see how many more entries will be added to next year's race. There were about 12,000 entered this year, with 10,374 official finishers. While I liked this course a lot the Tinker Bell half marathon course is still my favorite because it spends more time on Disney property, and I think the downtown Anaheim areas are a little more interesting.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

When it comes to the overall race experience, though, I think this one is my new favorite half marathon. The organizers brought so many wonderful elements of Star Wars to these races. There were the costumes worn by the race announcers and DJs, the movie clips while we waited in the corrals, the Stars Wars "crawl" at the beginning of the races, and the marvelous music and sound effects in the parks.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

I only wish that the Disney characters in their Star Wars costumes had been out in the parks. They didn't even have to be available for photos - they could have put them on the ramp of Innoventions or someplace like that where we could only see them, and that would've been fine with me.

And my very favorite part was the Costumers who were out on the course. The costumes were amazing - it was great to see such a variety of characters from the Star Wars universe - both the heroes and the villains. As I said earlier, there really wasn't a reason to wait in character lines in the park when there were so many more out on the course! And they were so very enthusiastic and supportive, too. I'd like to express my thanks to runDisney for inviting them to participate in both the Avengers and Star Wars half marathons, and I sincerely hope that they will be invited back again next year. And thank you to all of you who came out - it really meant a lot to the runners for us to see you, especially at that point in the race. We get a burst of energy from your cheers and enthusiasm at a time when we need that.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

Thank you to everyone who came out to support us: the bands and cheerleaders, friends and family of runners, the kids who high-fived us, and the kind people who handed out orange slices, red licorice, and pretzels.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

And thank you to the volunteers who checked us in at the Expo, kept us supplied with water and PowerAde, distributed medals and mylar and food at the finish, and performed all of the other tasks that are so essential to a race. Thank you to the cast members and police departments who kept us safe, and the medical teams who were ready to assist if needed.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

And that's just some examples of the people that we SAW - there's an awful lot of people behind the scenes, too. The audio visual people, the graphic designers, the people who set up and tear down the bleachers and the tents and deal with all of those barricades and orange cones - and let's not forget those who have the less-than-pleasant duty of servicing the porta-potties! :-)

The entire race weekend was a lot of fun, and we definitely hope to participate in the Rebel Challenge again next year!

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

Learn more about my runDisney experiences on AllEarsNet TV Show #33:

January 20, 2015

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend - 10K Recap


It is a dark time for the Rebellion. (5:30 is really early.) Although the Out-of-Breath Star has been destroyed, Imperial troops have driven the Rebel runners from their hidden fitness expo and pursued them across 6.2 miles. Evading the dreaded Imperial Sweeper Bikes, a group of Rebel Challengers, led by run/walkers, have established a new secret race retreat near the icy world of Frozen Fun.

The evil Lord Darth Vader, obsessed with finding the run/walkers, has dispatched official photographers into the far reaches of the course in an attempt to find runners and lure them to the Park side...

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

Saturday, January 17

Our alarm went off at 3:30 a.m. Since at Disneyland we can walk to the start line and don't need to drive or take a bus, we don't have to get up quite as early, even though the race still starts at 5:30.

We planned to leave the room about 4:30, but we still needed that hour to have something to eat and to put on our costumes.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

I hadn't originally planned to run in costume. When the race was first announced I had something in mind, but could never really get inspired and figure out how to do it, and between the holidays and Marathon weekend I just ran out of time. But then on Wednesday, inspiration hit, and I decided to run the 10K as Queen Amidala. I went shopping Wednesday after work, started on some of the cutting and sewing, and finished it on Thursday night. The costume was actually very comfortable - it was essentially a tech shirt (men's size large) with some ribbon sewn on, and a black running skirt underneath. I made the collar and decorative piece out of red felt, painted with gold fabric paint. The most time-consuming part in the morning was putting on the make-up (and I hadn't had a chance to do a trial run on it), but it worked out ok, I think.

Lee had adapted a Jedi costume that he has worn in the past to something he could run in, replacing the vest/belt with a grey tech shirt and his regular running belt. He was a little warm in it, but otherwise very happy with it.

Getting to the pre-race area was more challenging than usual. Since this was a new race we didn't know where everything was going to be! We walked out of the Grand Californian onto Disneyland Drive, but that put us right into the corrals, because this race starts by going north and not south. We eventually went out to Downtown Disney and managed to get to the pre-race area, which is in the same place used for the Disneyland and Avengers races. It's a longer walk to the start corrals from there for this race than for the other two, though, since corral access is south of the Paradise Pier.

I really enjoyed the graphics and the way the stage looked. The DJ was even in Jedi attire.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

We met up with Eddie and Brad, who were going to be running with us, and then went back to our start corral - because of where we were staying it would've been a lot easier to just go straight to the corral from the hotel! :-)

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

We were in Corral B. While we waited they played some clips from Star Wars movies on the big screens, including the trailer for the new movie that is supposed to be released in December. R2D2 and C-3PO joined the race announcers on stage.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

The wheelchair athletes started first - no fireworks, though. Corral A started a few minutes later, and then our corral. We started almost 9 minutes after the official start. The course goes north on Disneyland Drive, then east on Ball, then south on Harbor. All of those are nice wide roads, and we weren't crowded at all.

The temperature was great - about 50 degrees at the start. I was glad that I had l arm sleeves, but I was pretty comfortable for the entire race.

Once we entered Disneyland's backstage area at about mile 1.5 we were on Disney property for the rest of the race, though a lot of it was backstage.

When we ran through the tunnel that goes down under the bus/tram area we heard the spooky sound of Darth Vader breathing, as well as his occasional admonitions that our destiny lies with the Dark Side. I think not, Darth! :-)

The first water stop was just after that, and then we ran across the esplanade and through Disneyland's main entrance onto Main Street. The first character stop was a Jedi master, but he had a pretty long line. There was even a line to take photos with the mile 2 sign at the end of Main Street! I liked the mile signs - they all had different images from the Star Wars movies.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

We went left into Frontierland. Chewbacca was set up just in front of the Mark Twain, and a a HUGE line. There were several cast members just managing the queue, in addition to those who were taking photos! We didn't stop, but I asked a woman who had just gotten her photo how long she had waited, and she said 20 minutes - and she had started in Corral A!

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

We went around Big Thunder Mountain and into Fantasyland. This course did not go through the castle: instead we went out of Fantasyland next to the teacups and by Alice in Wonderland back to the hub, then made a left and went into Tomorrowland. For a Star Wars themed race of course you have to run through Tomorrowland!

We stopped for a photo in front of Star Tours.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

Darth Vader was in front of Innoventions, with another huge line, though not as long as the line for Chewbacca. There were Storm Troopers patrolling the Innoventions ramp, so we were able to get a quick photo of them.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

We ran past the submarine lagoon and the Matterhorn and then back towards "it's a small world". There were several Jedi on the terraced area overlooking the course, but apparently "these are not the Jedi available for photos", because we were chased off when we tried to take photos of them. Not even WITH them, just OF them. They were miked, and were offering Jedi-appropriate encouragement to the runners.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

"It's a small world" is undergoing refurbishment and was largely covered, but some of the holiday lights were still turned on.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

We ran backstage again to the mile 3 sign and the second water stop. We were having a great time and the race had gone very fast and we were surprised that we were halfway done already! I'd hoped that we would hear a lot of Star Wars music along the course and we did - I can't tell you the names, but I recognized a number of different pieces.

In the backstage areas there were some cast members to cheer us on, but it was pretty quiet. There were projections on some of the buildings that looked good, but I had a cast member tell me "no photos backstage" when I tried to take a photo of the Death Star projection.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

We ran around the outside of about 2/3 of Disneyland before entering the Esplanade again and running across through the main entrance of DCA, and down Buena Vista Street and past the mile 4 sign.

At the end of Hollywood Blvd near the Hyperion Theater were two characters from the Star Wars Rebels animated series. Finally a short line, so we posed with them. We ran past the Tower of Terror and into Flik's Fun Fair. The Mos Eisley Cantina music was playing there - that was fun to hear.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

From "a bug's land" we went towards Paradise Pier. Boba Fett was posing for photos near the entrance to Paradise Pier. Another pretty long line there. And I thought the cast members were being a little overzealous in not allowing runners to just stop and take a photo or selfie from the edge of the race course.

World of Color is undergoing refurbishment so the lagoon is mostly drained and the fountains weren't running. We've gotten very used to seeing them during races and it was strange not to see them this time. Hopefully next year!

There were several Jedi in the Midway area, and they also had a very short line. They appropriately acknowledged me in my costume. :-)

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

We went backstage at the parade gate near Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta and ran back behind California Screamin', and re-entered the park at the Pacific Wharf, just in time to run through the arch and into Cars Land. And the mile 5 sign.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

We ran by Luigi's Flying Tires and then backstage again onto the perimeter road. The route from here to the finish was quite familiar, as a number of the Disneyland races finish this way: across Disneyland Drive and past the Paradise Pier and Disneyland Hotels to the finish line.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

The volunteers gave us our lovely Inaugural Star Wars 10K medals. We were wondering if there was something we had to do for the Rebel Challenge, to show we'd finished the 10K (such as a wrist band), but there wasn't.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

After we exited into the Family Reunion area we met up with some other friends who had finished earlier. It was just after 7:00, and still only 52 degrees, so we started getting chilled just standing around, and soon headed back to our hotel for a warm beverage and a hot shower.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

We received the usual runDisney MRE box. Meh. I still don't like these. There wasn't even any chocolate in them this time - at the Disneyland races we have usually had some Almond Roca in them.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

The 6.2 miles really flew by - I didn't feel like I'd run that far at all. And in spite of the photo stops, we still finished in 1:16:07. We really had a great time - up until now last year's Tinker Bell 10K had been my most fun race, but now it's this one. I still smile thinking about it!

I REALLY love the 10K distance - it is by far my favorite. I can travel very light since I don't have to carry a hydration belt or anything with me other than my room key and phone, which fit into pockets of my running skirt. And it's really nice to be done in less than 90 minutes, and still have the rest of the day left! We actually had time to shower, walk to Disneyland, and still make the last 30 minutes of Magic Morning! (And we rode Star Tours, of course!)

This was a new 10K course, and I enjoyed it. I never felt crowded at all, not even in the early part of the race - it was really a very pleasant running experience. Of the Disney 10Ks I think I still like the Disneyland 10K course the best because of the finish through Downtown Disney, but this one is really good. It's all on Disney property after the first 1.5 miles, but because a lot of that is backstage, to me it feels more isolated from the spectators. But it was a whole lot easier to get back to our hotel (the Grand Californian) after this 10K than the Disneyland 10K since we didn't have to get across the race course. On the other hand, it was a lot harder this time for those staying at the Disneyland Hotel. They had to go left out of the finish area away from the hotel, then left on Magic Way, and left again back toward the hotel. Eddie said it was .35 miles.

The runners (and the spectators) embraced the Star Wars theme, and there were lots of runners in costume. I expected to see lots of Jedi, but actually i saw a lot more X-wing fighter pilots and Princess Leias. R2D2 was also very well represented.

As you can tell, I had a great time. For an Inaugural event I thought it went off extremely well - I didn't really see any major problems. They even did a pretty good job of anticipating the lines for the characters, and having personnel available to manage the lines. There were over 10,000 entered in the 10K, with 9195 finishers. That's a pretty good-sized field.

I suppose my only disappointment is the characters. I was REALLY hoping to see the Disney characters in their Star Wars attire out on the course. Besides, having more character opportunities would have helped shorten the lines by spreading people out more.

This event was a lot of fun, and we hope to do it again next year!

Learn more about my runDisney experiences on AllEarsNet TV Show #33:

January 19, 2015

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend - Part 3, Half Marathon

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

The Course was with us, and we successfully completed the Rebel Challenge and earned our Coast-to-Coast medals, also! I'll have a more detailed report to come, but here's a few thoughts.

It was a wonderful morning for running - 50 at the start, and cloudy and mid-50s when we finished. There was a beautiful sunrise!

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

The new half marathon course was interesting. We spent almost 4 miles in the parks, though a lot of it was backstage. We didn't exit the parks until mile 4.5, which made the first 1/3 of the race go quickly.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

Once we left the parks the course went south and west into the city of Garden Grove. It was a mixture of commercial and residential areas, and we went by a couple of pretty park areas, too. Nice wide roads, and it felt open and uncrowded. Easy running. The spectators really embraced the Star Wars theme, and they seemed to having a wonderful time, too. It was especially fun to hear the high school bands playing Star Wars music.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

The Costumers who were on the course between mile 8 and 9 were totally awesome (and I don't just say that because one of them is a friend). Much more variety of costumes and characters than we saw in the parks, without the huge lines. Thank you, Disney, for inviting them to participate in both the Avengers and Star Wars half marathons. They really bring a lot to the races, and give the runners a tremendous lift at a point when we are starting to need it.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

The medals are beautiful, though I thought it was interesting the the half marathon medal does not say Inaugural on it - just on the ribbon. The 5K, 10K and Rebel Challenge medals all say "Inaugural".

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

It was really a terrific Inaugural event - Congratulations to all involved! We will be back next year!

Learn more about my runDisney experiences on AllEarsNet TV Show #33:

January 18, 2015

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend - Part 2, 10K

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

A more thorough race recap is going to have to wait until I have time to write it, but I wanted to post this update to say that Lee and I had a blast running the Inaugural Disneyland Star Wars 10K this morning. We finished in 1:16:07. It was SO much fun. The miles flew by like the Millennium Falcon on the Kessel Run.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

We ran with our friends Eddie and Brad. We stopped for a number of photos, but didn't stand in any of the REALLY long lines for characters like Chewbacca, Darth Vader, and Boba Fett.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

The medal is beautiful! Very happy to add this one to my collection.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

I'll have more details in a later blog. Tomorrow we'll be running the Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon, completing the Rebel Challenge, and earning our Coast-to-Coast medal.

May the Course Be With You!

For real-time updates and photos follow me on twitter: @AllEarsLaura

Learn more about my runDisney experiences on AllEarsNet TV Show #33:

January 17, 2015

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend - Part 1


A long time ago in a galaxy far, far, away...

It is a period of taper and recovery. Rebel runners, operating from a hidden start line, have won the opening 5K against the evil Galactic Bonk.

During the race, rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire's ultimate weapon, the Out-of-Breath Star, which has the power to cause legions of runners to hit the wall.

Analysis of the plans has revealed a weakness, and a new hope for the Rebel Running Alliance. Only by undertaking the Rebel Challenge, and crossing the 10K and half marathon finish lines on two consecutive mornings, can runners defeat the Bonk and restore glycogen stores to the galaxy...

When runDisney announced that there would be a Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend at Disneyland in January 2015 there was a great disturbance in the Force, as though thousands of runners screamed for joy. When the event went on sale to the public in all race events were sold out in less than two hours.

The race weekend runs from January 15-18. Events include the Health and Fitness Expo Thursday-Saturday, the Star Wars 5K on Friday, the Star Wars 10K and Kids Races on Saturday, and the Half Marathon on Sunday. Runners participating in both the 10K and the Half Marathon have the opportunity to take on the Rebel Challenge, and earn an additional medal for completing both races.

And, let's not forget that this event has my favorite word: Inaugural. :-) It took about a nanosecond for Lee and me to decide that we wanted to sign up for the Rebel Challenge.

To say that this race weekend has been eagerly anticipated is quite an understatement, and Disney fans and Star Wars fans have been training, and, more importantly, planning their race costumes, for months. Lee and I are no exception - I can't remember when I've looked forward to a race weekend this much!

Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend has replaced Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend, which moved to May. So it is the weekend after WDW Marathon Weekend. While we "only" did the Goofy Challenge this year, that still means we'll be running 58.6 miles in nine days. And again earning our Coast-to-Coast medal in the shortest possible time. We're actually feeling pretty good, but these races are not going to about time, they are going to be about having fun!

We are really eager to see the special touches that Disney will put on the race courses. There's always the great mile marker signs, and I hope we will also hear lots of Star Wars music. And the characters...who will we see? In addition to Darth Vader and the Storm Troopers (who are regulars at the Disneyland Half) I'm hoping for Disney characters in Star Wars costumes. We also know that Disney has recruited "costumers" from the Cosplay world to come out and cheer us on - we have a friend who will be doing that, and we are looking forward to seeing her.

And speaking of costumes - it's going to be really interesting to see all of the creative costumes that the runners will come up with! I know Lee and I have worked on ours...

May the Course Be With You!

For real-time updates and photos follow me on twitter: @AllEarsLaura

Learn more about my runDisney experiences on AllEarsNet TV Show #33:

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About Star Wars Half Marathon

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Salute to All Things Disney but Mostly Disneyland in the Star Wars Half Marathon category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Princess Half Marathon is the previous category.

Team AllEars is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.