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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Less than 12 Parsecs - Star Wars Rebel Challenge Part 1 - 10K

It wasn't that long ago, but Southern California does seem very far, far away.
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away....   Disney hosted the inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend!  As a fan of both runDisney and Star Wars, I knew that I would have to be part of this event.  As an added bonus, the Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend gave me an excuse to visit the Mouse for the first time in his West Coast home at Disneyland!

In so many ways, Disneyland is the polar opposite of its East Coast sibling.  At Disney World, the sheer size of the property is both its greatest blessing and its greatest curse.  I'm pretty sure I've woken up at 2 in the morning for Florida races just to take a 45-minute bus ride to arrive at the starting line on time.  At Disneyland, I didn't even stay on property, but I rolled out of bed at 4 am at my Good Neighbor Hotel, changed into my Han Solo inspired Rebel gear, and enjoyed a brief 10-minute walk to the starting line.  The 3-hour time change was an added bonus for this East Coast girl.  Waking up at 4 am for a 5:30 race start still seems a tad daunting, but waking up at 7 am for an 8:30 race start is a piece of cake!

10K is my favorite race distance so I was thrilled to participate in my first-ever RunDisney 10K as part of the Rebel Challenge, a back-to-back 10K and half marathon event where runners earn extra shirts, medals, and bragging rights for completing both races within the time limit.

The time limit is enforced by the infamous "balloon ladies" whose names stir fear in Disney runners across the land.  The balloon ladies mark the back of the pack, keeping a 16-minute pace from the last corral.  During my previous two runDisney events, I had a healthy fear of the balloon ladies.  The Princess Half Marathon in 2013 was my first ever half and I had some nervousness about finishing.  The Goofy Challenge (half marathon and full marathon) in 2014 was my first back-to-back challenge and I had some anxiety about having the energy to carry myself through.

But here in 2015, at the Rebel Challenge, I finally had both the experience and the confidence to know that I could finish.  I was healthy, I had been training, and I knew that even if I saw the balloon ladies, I could outrun them with ease.  For this reason, I decided not to run the fast, flat course for a PR or for speed, but to stop as early and often as possible for character photos and whatever other silliness I encountered.

The race started in the Lilo parking lot outside of Downtown Disney.  The 10K course was incredible, as the majority of it looped within the Disneyland and California Adventure parks.  I knew coming from Disney World to Disneyland that not all of the course would reside within the parks, but I was pleased to see how much of the Star Wars 10K course really ran through the parks.  Miles 1-2 raced down some of the Anaheim resort area streets.  No characters yet, but plenty of cheerathoners and cast members encouraging runners along.

Right around Mile 2, we sped into Disneyland Park and down Main Street, USA.  The course didn't run through Sleeping Beauty Castle, but did circle past it for some great views and photo ops.

On a hunt for some characters.  But first, let me take a Castle Selfie!

Past the castle, the runners turned towards the New Orleans Square section of the park.  I could see that we were approaching a line, and figured that the first character must be close by.  I knew I wanted to stop regardless since I was making great time, but it was a fun surprise to see who the character would be!  The closer I got, I realized that it had to be someone good, because the line looked like this:

Longest line I have EVER seen in a RunDisney race, and that includes the always-lengthy queue for the princesses at Cinderella Castle in Disney World.  The line made sense though, seeing that the character at the end of the line was not only a fan-favorite, but also the poster-Wookiee for the entire race weekend - Chewbacca!

I was beyond happy to get my pic with Chewie, however, any runners plotting out character stops for future Star Wars races need know that the line was about 30 minutes long as I approached it from Corral B, the 2nd of 5 corrals.  It may have been shorter or longer for runners who started at different times.  I enjoyed the wait though, watching the sun come up over the Rivers of America and chatting with other runners.

Continuing into Tomorrowland, the next line appeared for another favorite character, Darth Vader.  I hopped into the back of the line, excited to meet another character, when a cast member informed everyone at the back of the line that, if we waited for Vader, we likely wouldn't have time to wait for the final "major character."  Who was that mystery character?  The cast member was super helpful letting us know that Boba Fett was waiting in the California Adventure park!  I figured I'd meet Vader tomorrow, and sped off to meet my favorite bounty hunter, running at a quick clip out of Disneyland, through a couple of back lots, and into DCA.

Totally worth it.  Boba Fett appeared coming towards the Paradise Pier section of the park, and while the line was lengthy, it was quite a bit shorter than Chewie's.  I knew that he was the final major character, but, as I ran past California Screamin', some random Jedis appeared.

After this, the course diverted itself out of the parks and into some of the back lots.  While the parks reliably prove to be the most exciting part of runDisney courses, the back lots are awesome, as they are where the men behind the curtains, the places where the magic are made.  Runners are treated to rare sights such as maintenance bays and this car from the Golden Zephyr.

The course turned back for a short stint past Cars Land, and then back out into the lots for the final mile.  At this point, I knew that my time was going to be slow, but I was thrilled with my character stops and knew I had plentiful energy to cary me through both the finish line of the 10K and the duration of the half marathon the next day.

My choice to make frequent stops and earn a "slow" race time?  Best.  Decision.  Ever.

Deciding to embrace the character stops made this race feel more like a scavenger hunt than a normal 10K race!  With the threat of the balloon ladies still in the back of my mind, that meant that each time I made it to the front of the line for one character, I sprinted as fast as I could to find the next.  Sprint. Wait in line.  Sprint.  Wait in line.  This game added such an extra element of fun to my race that I never would have predicted.  The race became not just about taking photos with characters, but about the chase to unlock as many character achievements as possible in the time allowed.

My official time ended up being TWICE my normal 10K speed!  And it was worth every one of the 3,600 additional seconds.  I crossed the finish line, collected my awesome Storm Trooper medal, and soldiered on, ready to explore Southern California just a little bit more, and tackle my Half Marathon the next day.


  1. Holy crap...30 minutes for Chewie! Well worth it, but, STILL! It's kind of like the line for Dopey at the WDW 5K last year (part of the inaugural Dopey Challenge, of course)...I spent almost 40 MINUTES in line! It's nice that the cast member let you know what was up ahead so you could make the best decision for you. But I gotta say, I would think they'd plan to have more characters stinks to know that those starting in later corrals might not have a chance for any of these awesome photo opps! Anyway, sounds like you had the perfect race-day plan, IMHO. ;) Love your costume!

    1. I was shocked how long Chewie's line was. I really think it was the longest line I've seen out of all 5 runDisney races I've been part of. I vaguely remember the Dopey lines being that long as well last year, but I let the Dopey's have him since I was "just Goofy." Thanks so much and maybe I'll see you in one of these lines at a race one day!