May 3, 2017

A RunDisney Runcation

Two weekends ago I traveled to Walt Disney World to participate in the Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon Weekend. Apologies in advance because unlike most races, this write up is for the whole event and all 3 races, so it is a rather long post. Unfortunately, last night I deleted ALL my photos when I accidentally formatted my SD card (you think they'd have some "are you sure you want to do this" button!) and I haven't been able to find the high resolution photos I took of characters during the races among the 15,000 files I had to restore and now need to sort through. 

I had actually registered for the Dark Side Challenge, a 10K followed by a half marathon, the week before I found out I was pregnant with Jamie in 2015. But, when the time came, I did not feel comfortable flying and running alone at 33 weeks pregnant, when the race would have taken place. Although RunDisney’s policy has since changed (they no longer allow deferrals for any reason), at the time they still allowed deferrals, so I was able to put off the challenge for a year.

One of the major downsides of a RunDisney race is the fact that you generally have to registered at least 9 months out otherwise there is a very strong chance you'll get shut out (PRO TIP: If you purchase a bib through a Travel Agency, you usually still have the ability to defer or at least get a partial refund). So, when registration opened for the 2016 race, I convinced my mother to  meet me in Orlando and run the challenge with me. Of course, this meant my father would also come, which therefore meant they’d be running the 5k…which meant I would be pressured to be signing up for the 5K as well. Now, this is not my first time doing a multi-day challenge at Disney, but it was my first time doing 3 consecutive races since I ran the Dopey Challenge in 2015 and let me say, there is not really any way to prepare your body for having to get up at 3am to participate in physical activity for 3 days in a row (except, of course, for getting up at 3am three days in a row and running at home, but ain’t nobody got time for that. Especially when you’ve got a baby who has a night feeding).

So here is my take on the races:

The 5K – The 5K had huge corrals that went off a little differently than I am use to. Instead of sending each corral off in one go, there were multiple waves per corral. We dropped back to my father’s corral (E, with the last corral being F) and it took 45 minutes from the start of the race for our wave to go off. Even though this race started earlier than all other Disney 5Ks I have participated in, the run was coming up by the time we crossed the start and we ran the entire race in the daylight. The downside of this was that there was over 3 hours between our wake up call and actually getting to run (two of those hours were spent at the start) and the upside was that all our photos came out wonderfully because we had fantastic early morning light for the entire run. It was also really great to see all of the topiaries that were in place for the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival. I have to say, if you're in it for the bling, stick with the 5ks! They have upgraded the medals from rubber to actual medal and they're quite nice! For this race I wore a pair of Nanette Lepore leggings (which are my absolute favorite, the quality is fantastic and Amazon has amazing deals), a Believe Racer from Raw Threads and Ears from Be Ear Guest (which stayed on the entire race with no flopping around!).

The 10K – This was my most favorite race of the weekend. The first half of the race was quite boring – we spent 3.75 miles running the freeway in the dark, which I don’t think is really anyone’s cup of tea when the race registration runs in the hundreds of dollars. The rest of the race seemed to mostly follow the 5K The first park we hit was Hollywood Studios. Once inside HS, there were quite a few generic Star Wars characters, there was even a section where it was essentially Star Wars extras in costume, milling around freely for runners to take selfies with. It was pretty fantastic (usually the lines for "official" characters are quite long) and gave everyone, even slower runners who might not otherwise be able to wait in a character line. I was running this race with my mother and we were so slow that even though we started in corral D and did the first 4 miles at a 12 minute pace, we ended up with the balloon ladies in the last 0.1 of the race. It was hilarious! After ten RunDisney races, we finally saw them! The back of the pack was SO crowded we could hardly move as we "ran" into the chute just outside of Epcot (more like walked because we weren't able to run even though we were trying). Overall we spent probably less than a mile in the parks, first Hollywood Studios and then Epcot. I was so spent from the day before and then stopping and starting from character pictures that the rest of the day ended up being a total waste - a 3 hour nap, NO PARKS, followed by going to bed at 8pm. A total #DisneyFail! For this race I wore a Believe Anything is Possible Racer from Raw Threads, a running skirt from SparkleSkirts (this one is Fiesta, my favorite), and my favorite Sweaty Band.

The Half - After 2 days of getting up at 3am and running, my RA/PsA/Fibro was flaring pretty hard so I decided to use the Galloway method to get me through this half. It was also extremely humid and rather hot, especially for a New Yorker. When we got to the start around 4:45, it was already 72 degrees! My strategy was to pace myself and get as much of the race done before the sun came up. I "ran" into a new friend who was an experienced Galloway runner (for those curious, it uses intervals to run/walk) and she suggested we use a 15/30 to make sure that we saved lots of energy for once the sun came up. I know a lot of people disparage Galloway runners, but quite frankly IDGAF. This was the first time I seriously used Galloway for a race and also the first time I used a 15/30, and I have to say, I felt fantastic at the end of the race! Since my joints were already stiff, I opted not to do photos during this race, although in retrospect, I wish I had stopped a bit during the last half mile or so, because there were no lines. This course was essentially the same as the 10k and all the additional mileage was on the freeway. I do have to add though, that there was one awesome part on the back roads: it was relatively early, in the second mile and at one point you ran in the dark. There was music, lasers, lights and fog, and it was pretty fun. At first I was a little annoyed, as the lasers were a bit blinding, but 10 miles of boring ass freeway later, I was really missing the space rave. I more or less copped out of dressing up for the other races, but I was pretty excited to wear this Princess Leia tank because it matched my custom Lilly inpired Sparkle Skirt perfectly!

So, the week’s total miles ended, accumulated over 3 days, added up to 22.4.  Yeah, not doing that again. I must have sent my husband no less than 5 separate texts telling him that if I ever mentioned signing up for a mulit-day race again, or hell, even more than one race per Disney event, to remind me of my Dark Side experience. I am so exhausted. If I were to run this particular RunDisney event again, I would probably limit myself to the 10k (I have to learn how to withstand peer pressure!), because it gave you the most access to the Star Wars characters in relation to the number of miles spent on various Florida freeways.

If you follow me on Instagram, then you know that after the half marathon, I decided to treat myself to a decadent milkshake at the Planet Hollywood Observatory in Disney Springs. Being a supportive friend, Ashley was kind enough to both enable me and document this adventure! I wore my mine Disney AF tank, which got me many knowing looks, laughs, and compliments from CMs and paired it with rose gold sequin ears from Magically Made Ears and Adie shorts from Lilly Pulitzer.

Did you run any of the Star Wars Dark Side races or have you run any RunDisney races? What was your experience? At this point I've run all of the WDW races and Tink is next on my list (I hope)!

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