A week ago, in a Disney park far, far away...
I participated in the final leg of the Rebel Challenge by running the Star Wars Half Marathon! After waking up early to run the 10K on Saturday morning, I was pleased to learn that the 3-hour time change between my home state of Pennsylvania and the race locale of California was still working in my favor. Waking up so early so many days in a row is one of my biggest anxieties should I ever choose to run the 4-day Dopey Challenge in Disney World, however, the time difference made my Star Wars wake-up calls unexpectedly easy.
I dressed in my finest Rebel Alliance colors, including my orange Sparkle Athletic skirt, and I headed towards the starting line. My hotel was about 1 mile away from the start and, while I'd walked every other day to the races and parks, this morning I took the complimentary shuttle, knowing that I'd still need that energy to complete the race.
I had made the decision at the 10K the previous day that I was going to run slow and steady, stopping as often as I wanted on the galactic scavenger hunt for Wookiees and Ewoks and Jedis (oh my!). I knew that we would cover both the Disneyland theme parks within the first 4 miles of the race, and that's where the Disney official characters would be stationed. I didn't know what surprises waited in the 9 miles post-park, but I still committed to speeding through the parks to meet as many friends as possible!
The course came into Disneyland around mile 2, just like the 10K course. And just like at the 10K, a line had formed in New Orleans Square, this time not for Chewie, but for the most badass brother-sister duo in the Galaxy, Luke and Leia.
Vader and his Stormtrooper body guards boasted the longest line I encountered during the half. As always at Disney, the time was spent chatting and making friends with others in line. This morning, the runners were also treated to a spectacular sunrise over Tomorrowland, one so beautiful that I almost felt we were in the Blue Bayou or some other imagineered land inside a professionally-lighted dome. The beautiful skies over Tomorrowland were all real, and they were spectacular.
I quested on towards Disney's California Adventure. I continued in the spirit of my 10K, sprinting from one character to the next, enjoying discovering each one hidden throughout the parks. In DCA, I found the notorious bounty hunter Boba Fett, who I had previously met during the 10K. I also found more stormtroopers, picturesquely planted in front of Grizzly Peak's waterfalls.
And in Paradise Pier, a couple of new-school characters, Ezra and Sabine from Star Wars Rebels.
At this point the course, now nearing mile 5, exited the parks and took its turns onto the streets of Anaheim. I was curious to see how this would play out. Having previously run Disney races in Disney World, I knew that the California race wouldn't be contained within Disney property like the Florida races, and was unsure quite what to expect.
Disney invited dozens of marching bands and cheerleaders to encourage the runners along the way. There may not have been Disneyland rides or officially licensed characters to greet, but the post-park stretch of the race enjoyed fast, flat roads, ample entertainment, and gorgeous views of Southern California!
And, for the Star Wars nerds with attention to detail, the race course even had an unintentional nod to Episode IV, as it crossed Newhope street.
Around mile 8, the half marathon coursed through the Garden Grove business district, past its school, library, and community center. One of the coolest surprises on the course was that this area was chock-full of cosplayers in their finest Jedi robes, Mandalorian armor, and other Star Wars gear! No, they weren't the "Disney versions" of the characters in the parks, but it made it almost cooler that these were simply Star Wars enthusiasts here to cheer on their fellow fans!
After the cosplayers, we were in the home stretch! 5 more easy miles, exiting the Garden Grove neighborhood, and circling back up towards the park on the lovely, palm tree-lined Harbor Boulevard. At this point, there wasn't much more sightseeing to do, but I continued my decision to take it easy. In fact, with a little bit of pain in my knee, I observed the run-walk strategy for the last several miles. I knew I was far from a decent time, I didn't want to hurt myself, and I really just wanted to enjoy the beautiful Disney morning.
Over an hour after my half marathon PR time had passed, I happily crossed the finish line, high-fived Stormtrooper Donald Duck, and collected my bling! The half marathon medal is a replica of the medals that Han and Luke receive at the end of Episode IV, and the Rebel Challenge medal is shaped as the rebel-alliance logo, with a reversible Yoda/Darth Vader medallion in the center! Needless to say, I was both proud of my accomplishment and excited to add to my Disney medal collection.
This was easily one of the most fun and unique race experiences of my running career, even among runDisney races. I totally stand by my decision to take it easy and have fun, I met a ton of awesome fellow Disney and Star Wars enthusiasts, had an excuse to visit the Disneyland parks, and I got to take in so much of the beautiful Southern California sun!
And, to all my readers, May the Force, and the Course, be with You!