Race one of the Dark Side Challenge! Having stayed up much too late eating at Narcoossee’s and watching Wishes from our table, I set the alarms to allow maximum sleep time while still allowing us enough time to get ready and walk to the event bus by 4:00 am. I set my phone across the room with the alarm set for 3:15 am and placed a wake-up call for the same time. The cheerful voice of Mickey Mouse on the phone would surely make getting up with less than five hours of sleep easier, right?
By 3:50 we were ready to go. Star Wars-themed shirts, ear buds, phones, and race bibs in place, we told a sleepy Raymond goodbye and headed for the bus. I’d brought along Cliff Bars for breakfast and we munched on those as we walked. I’d expected to see other runners, but we were alone in the dark, making our way from the Villas at the Grand Floridian past the resort’s main entrance, past the park bus stop, and finally to the runDisney bus. We climbed aboard and found a big crowd of folks who were as tired and silent as we were. The bus stopped for more runners at Shades of Green and then dropped us off in the pre-race assembly area. It was probably about 4:20 by now and we could see some runners sprinting their warm-ups. Yeah, we wouldn’t be sprinting at any point and felt no need to warm up any further than what we were already feeling from the humid morning air. The temperature was around 70-degrees.
Runners are divided into two groups for entrance to the starting area – those with bags and those without. We breezed on through the “without” entrance and I immediately started looking for my friends Dave and Anne. In a sea of ten thousand runners, I couldn’t believe I spotted them almost right away. We had only a few minutes to chat and snap a few pictures before the announcement was made for runners to begin making their way to the starting corrals. Joseph and I wished them luck and made our way to corral A. We had an hour to go before race-time.
runDisney does an excellent job of trying to keep you entertained while you wait. With a stage and screen set up, live emcees alternated with Star Wars movie trailers and film clips. Corral A is a bit of a double-edged sword. You get to start the race first (after the wheel chair division), but you’re with the most serious runners, so there are a lot of people trying to squeeze to the very front of the crowd. We found a relatively calm spot to wait and after the National Anthem, we were led to the starting line. Every wave is sent off with a burst of fireworks! All I could think about was how much the resort guests trying to sleep nearby must have been loving that!
We were off. This was an entirely new race course and while we’d seen the course map, we didn’t really know what to expect. At first there was a whole lot of nothing. Pitch dark in places, we couldn’t even see our feet. Then there would be flood lights before more darkness. We saw a couple of character stops, but had agreed to save stopping for pictures for later in the race (if at all). Because we had 13.1 miles to run the next day, we concentrated on keeping a comfortable pace and not pushing ourselves too hard. That was actually more challenging than I thought it would be – hot, humid, nothing to look at in the dark, I could tell we were speeding up to get to the fun part.
At nearly four miles into the race, we finally reached Disney’s Hollywood Studios. We entered from an area behind Tower of Terror and it struck me as a little eerie to see the Hollywood Tower Hotel but not hear any screaming. Here’s where we got to see lots of Star Wars characters! It was light enough out to enjoy running down Sunset and Hollywood Boulevards. Coincidentally, my playlist hit the Star Wars theme song just as we got to this part of the race.
Next we took the walkway along the water towards the Boardwalk area. This is a narrow sidewalk! We were able to keep running, but there was quite a bit of congestion. Dave and Anne told us later than when they reached this part of the course it was so crowded that no one was able to run at all. Once we reached the end of this part, we ran through the Beach Club resort area and into Epcot.
At this point, we had reached the mile 5 marker. We passed the U.K. and Canada pavilions, ran past Spaceship Earth, out into the parking lot and across the finish line. We got our medals, drinks and snack boxes and headed to the post-race area where we found some nearly-empty bleachers to sit on while we cooled off and munched on our goodies. Joseph and I both felt surprisingly good! We were ready to get back to the Grand Floridian to clean up and get on with the fun of being at Walt Disney World! One race down, one to go.
Here are the race stats for those of you who like that stuff. Yes, I held Joseph back, but he insisted that running a race together meant running it together and he didn’t care about his time. I love that kid!
Finish Time: 1:04:53
Overall Place (We crossed the finish line exactly at the same time, but clocked 5 places different!)
- Lisa: 1994/10,895
- Joseph: 1999/10,895
- Lisa: 577/5,888
- Joseph: 1,421/5,007
Age Group Place
- Lisa: 33/397
- Joseph: 69/195