2017 Star Wars Kessel Run Challenge Recap

After completing the Dark Side Challenge in Disney World by finishing the half marathon and 10K in two days, I wrapped up my weekend with my mama with some time in Hollywood Studios. The Great Movie Ride, The Voyage of the Little Mermaid… we had a blast:

We even stumbled upon the Star Wars show happening right in front of the Chinese Theater almost as soon as we got there:

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I don’t think I need to tell you that’s me going “OOOOOOOHHHHH” and “YEEEAH!” in the background of both videos.

If you thought I was having a crisis of joy during the races just from all the Intergalactic Love, you should have seen me when this happened:

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As if my day couldn’t get any better, we headed over to Star Wars Launch Bay to meet some characters, and they did not disappoint. Once again, I was a total idiot around Kylo Ren (I swear I should make flipbooks of these photos just so you can watch me get dumber around him):

But me and Chewy had a MOMENT with a capital M when I showed him my Millennium Falcon medal:

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And I went 2 for 2 on getting lost in Wookiee hugs:

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After noodling around for a bit and having a drink at the Prime Time Cafe while we waited for our dinner reservations, we had the time of our lives at the buffet – where we shared our meal with Mickey, Minnie, and the rest of the gang! Commence happy tears breakdown #272 of the weekend.

Seriously, when Mickey hugged my mom, I burst into tears. I’m an emotional person, OK?!

After dinner we headed over to the theater where the Star Wars fireworks show was scheduled for 9PM, and man oh man. I wish I could describe what it’s like, but videos and photos and words don’t do it justice. It was incredible.

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After the show, we called it a day in the parks and got ready to head back home the next day, exhausted and happy and already planning our next trip back.

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All in all, running both Disney Star Wars races was a dream come true, when I didn’t even know I had this dream in the first place. When I “joined” the Star Wars fandom and discovered these races, they were a “wouldn’t it be nice” thing to add to my bucket list. But after talking it through with my husband and working out the financials – and a lot of hard work and sacrifice to get there! – my brand new dream was a reality. And it only took about 8,000 miles flown to run 19.3 twice in 2 different states and earn 8 beautiful medals that each represent their own accomplishment.

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There were plenty of pros and cons on each coast, and while I go into them in detail in their own recaps, I can say this:

  1. Disneyland was smaller but had a lot more on-course support from local cosplayers so the run felt much easier, plus the milder weather made it a breeze. Sadly, the Anaheim races have been suspended indefinitely due to issues between the town and the parks, and while that is very unfortunate, they do offer virtual races that you can run, earn medals for, and have count towards the Kessel Run Challenge if you still want to do it!
  2. The races in Walt Disney World were less in the park and more on the street (and HOT AS HELL) but they offered characters before and after the races to help you make the most of your experience.
  3. Both race weekends were excellently executed in terms of logistics. RunDisney races are NOT cheap by any means, but Disney quality and organization is second to none. There’s a reason they’re one of the most well-known brands in the world.

All in all, if you’re a Star Wars fan and have the chance to do even one of these races, I can’t recommend them highly enough. They take a lot of work and time (and yes, money), but it all comes down to creating experiences that matter, and Disney races allow you to do exactly that.

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Have you ever run a Run Disney race? Would you ever do a Star Wars race? What costume would you run in? Share your thoughts in the comments!

2017 Dark Side Challenge – Half Marathon

With the 10K complete (and another day of Florida fun under our belts), mama and I got back to the hotel on Saturday night and found this fun voicemail on our room phone:

Gotta love that Disney touch 🙂

The next morning we woke up nice and early – 2:30am again! – and after putting on Flat Vader (with Tiny Trooper!), I headed out for the Dark Side Half Marathon and the completion of the Kessel Run Challenge and Disney’s Coast to Coast Challenge!

The same bus ride as the day before took us to the same Start location, but instead of doing any character photos, I hung out near the stage area and watched the pre-race show (and almost got picked for the trivia contest but chickened out)! The best part was getting to see The Last Jedi trailer on the big screen with everyone, and admiring the insane costumes some people were running in.

That’s a Millennium Falcon in Mickey ears, a SUPER REALISTIC Krennic (hubba hubba), a Dark Helmet, and yes… a George Lucas (I stole the pic from Disney’s website, it’s too perfect). 

My friend Lizzie was running the half with her uncle, so we met up and headed over to the Corrals, where we chatted and waited for a final bathroom break, then went our separate ways. While waiting to start in Corral E, I managed to get some video of the fun psych up speech the Stormtroopers gave every morning about these races being a test for Captain Phasma to find the best soldiers and it gave me a little giggle.

Another fun thing I caught was the HUGE fireworks display they set off at the very start – Disney really pulls out all the stops for these things!

After corrals A-D and E1 went off, one of the coolest things happened: the corral was cut in half RIGHT in front of me and I was one of the folks that got to hold the start ribbon!!

Me and the folks around me were losing our minds – how cool was it to START our corral? It was an awesome experience to be the very first people to start, and gave me a taste of what the elites must feel (although they probably don’t selfie NEARLY as much when it happens to them):

When the gun went off and the fireworks shot off over our heads, I ran through some ash from the firework and laughed the whole first 100 yards – we felt like we were in the Olympics all by ourselves up there! I had to calm myself though: no sense in going out at an 8 minute mile when I still had 12.1 more to go.

The first 3-4 miles in the dark were on the highway and in back roads between parks, and almost immediately I noticed a difference from the 10K. They had more music on the course, screens playing the movies, and one section where they laid out a crazy laser light show along a stretch of about 100 yards between forest on either side, complete with big speakers playing music and background noises and Ewok battle cries to simulate the battle on Endor! I loved it, even if I did get blinded by a few rogue lasers.

By about Mile 5, the sun started coming up, but thankfully, it stayed behind the clouds. It was a true blessing:  with the sun hidden, it stayed relatively cool, even though the humidity was still around 90%, even at 7am.

In addition to a few character stops that I didn’t bother making, I got to see another fun piece of Disney magic around mile 6: a real live elephant! I didn’t get a picture, but apparently the Animal Kingdom park has an elephant care and rehab facility where they treat the animals, and one was hanging out watching us run! I know there’s some controversy around the fact that these guys are even there at all, but I had to laugh at how random it was to find an elephant on my half marathon course. Only in Disney.

After the Animal Kingdom we headed back out on the highway for mile 7 on, and my stomach was starting to get a little wonky. So I stopped at a medical tent for some Immodium (just keeping it real, folks), and headed back out for the final 5-6 miles feeling much better.

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One of the last character stops I made was partially for the character and partially just so I could get a break from running in the humidity! Darth Maul was never really a *must have* for me, but I turned out to really enjoy this guy. The cast members managing his line led him off for a break right before I got to meet him, so I was “first” in line again. The one cast member thought the line deserved a photo, so she snapped one. And when she showed me, I HAD to have it. But as I was giving her my cell # to text it to me, Darth Maul came back and had to wait for me to finish chatting. He was not pleased. Either that or that’s just his face. Either way, it made for some funny photos:

After Darth Maul, we ran through Hollywood Studios and I managed to get a fun picture with my squad, along with some nice runfies and shots of the scenery:

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While I had gone easy for most of the first 10 miles, I ran the last 1-2 miles feeling strong.

It was the same route we ran the day before so we got to pass the Dolphin and Swan resorts before entering Epcot for the final stretch (and I got to see Hux again! What’s up, General Bitchface Weasley?!)

Bonus: as we went through the Boardwalk, I found Denny of the Diz Runs podcast spectating at mile 11 (he’s at the far right in a red shirt below)!! Seeing a friendly face and giving him a big ol’ sweaty hug was just the boost I needed to get me to the finish.

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As if Mother Nature knew we were almost done, the sun came out FULL force as we rounded the corner into Epcot.

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Having to run the final mile in full sun was brutal, but the view was nice and knowing we only had a mile left made me run stronger than ever.

After learning that the finish line was just on the other side of Spaceship Earth during the 10K, that big metal ball was a sight for sore eyes.

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I gunned it and made it through the finish with a big ol’ smile – I had completed the challenge!

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After getting a cold towel and my medal (and a bottle of water that I was instructed to have OPEN as I passed through the finisher’s chute, thanks to a bunch of attentive medical volunteers), I was directed to the challenge tents where I picked up the bling that made me want to do this whole thing: my Dark Side Challenge medal, Kessel Run Challenge medal and Coast to Coast Challenge medal.

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I won’t lie: I cried when the volunteer put the last medal around my neck. She hugged me and said “Oh, bless you! Congratulations!” and I couldn’t pull it together. These medals were more than just pieces of metal; they were the culmination of a LOT of hard work, travel, and time, and they were finally mine. A fun side effect of all that bling: the music they made when we walked around the finish area:

After a quick stop at the medical tent to ice my sore calf (no big deal, just tenderness), I hung out and waited for one last picture with Kylo Ren (again with my awkwardness), and called it a day.

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Stay tuned for the final recap where I head into the parks and round up both Disney experiences in one last post!

2017 Star Wars Dark Side Challenge – Dark Side 10K

After a relaxing pre-race day in Florida, my alarm went off at 2:35 and I poured myself into my snazzy homemade Captain Phasma outfit for the Star Wars Dark Side 10K! PS – a HUGE thank you to Tiffanie (aka Star_Wars_Runnah) who made my skirt and tank BY HAND! She’s one of the only other runners out there who loves Star Wars as much as I do, and I pretty much fell in big-puffy-hearts-on-your-Trapper-Keeper-LUV with her after meeting her in Disneyland during the Light Side Challenge. Go give her a follow on IG.

If there was one good thing about getting to Florida a few days early, it was being able to acclimate myself to the heat and humidity. Seriously, it was brutal. Like, in the 90’s with 86%+ humidity every day we were there. But arriving a few days early gave me a chance to get used to it and hydrate extra, which paid off in the end. So I hopped on the easy-peasy lemon-squeezy bus to the start area right outside my hotel and before I knew it, we were at the Magic Kingdom parking lot start staging area!

I SPY A MATT THE RADAR TECHNICIAN!

The coolest thing I discovered about the WDW races (when compared to the Disneyland races in Anaheim) is that they set up character photo ops at the start and finish areas to guarantee that you get a pic with whoever your little heart desires without having to worry about missing them on the course (or being swept from the course if you waste too much time waiting)! They had Phasma, Kylo Ren, Darth Vader, Jabba, Boba Fett, and BB8! So what’s a girl who arrived way early to the start to do? Go make some friends in low places:

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I almost stole Salacious Crumb but the running from the cops would have added extra miles to my legs before 19.3, which seemed kind of pointless.

After heading into Corral C and waiting for what felt like a LOT longer than I waited during the Light Side Challenge (probably because I was alone this time), we were finally at the starting line!

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Once the gun went off just after 5:30AM, we took off in the dark through the Magic Kingdom parking lot and out the gate that folks drive through, which was fun:

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The one downside to the WDW races (compared to Disneyland) is the time spent off Disney property. The run down the highway to get to the first park was a loooooong one. Especially when it’s dark and about 90% humidity and you’ve got a cape that doesn’t breathe (but absorbs your sweat quite nicely) flapping round your ass the whole time.

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They DO kill it on the pro photos though, especially in the parks!

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This is a funny shot I had to share: apparently, social media is now a part of my very DNA, as evidenced by this pro shot after I stopped to snap some on-course pics:

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And while I kept an eye out for the character stops at each mile, no one really jumped out at me as a must have. Darth Maul and R2-D2 were there I think, but I was just kind of hot and wanted the whole thing to be over with, really. The last 3 or so miles as the sun came up were quite lovely, though!

And for all the miles of non-character filled highway we had to run, I will say that Disney made up for it BY PUTTING HUX ON THE MILE 5 MARKER.  YOU GUYS, HUX. GENERAL BITCHFACE HIMSELF. I died.

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He’s one of my favorite characters in the new trilogy. He continually looks like he’s watching someone NOT use a coaster on his new Ikea coffee table, and it’s killing him. I love his sassy ginger resting bitch face.

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They also had some non-Disney pro folks (aka the 501st Legion and Rebel Legion!) IN the parks, which was cool!

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Another fun part about the Dark Side race (and dressing up as a Dark Side character): is getting to play a BAD GUY! I had SO much fun sassing the Stormtroopers – and they got into it too, saluting me and giving Phasma the respect she deserves (yaaasss QUEEEEN).

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Right before we finished, the last character stop that I made was for Chewy, because how can you NOT stop for Chewy?

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Here’s another fun pro pic. Of course I had to do airplane arms because I’m a child and can’t think of anything better to do in front of a race photographer:

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Finally I entered Epcot, the final half mile in view of Spaceship Earth, and crossed the finish line with smiles and thanking the lord this running sauna was over with.

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The medal was so cool: a badass Stormtrooper with a red ribbon that matched my pedicure of all things!

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While I was glad the race was over, I was even more excited: now I got to wait for more character photo ops that I didn’t get before the race or on the course!!

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Finally, I jumped in line for a photo with my namesake and LOVED it. I wanted to hug her like Mickey Mouse, but I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t have liked that.

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Fun Fact: Alex, who I met at the Disneyland races, also went for the Kessel Run Challenge and ran these races too. He snapped a pic with Phasma and posted this to Twitter:

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Thank you for making me giggle-snort, Alex!!

Once I had my fill of character photos I headed back to the hotel on the bus and showered for a day of fun with mama and friends at Disney Springs.

I also made it to the WeRunSocial meetup as well, where I got to hang out with folks I’ve only ever seen online – so fun to make “real world” friends!

Overall we kept it low-key (to spare my legs before 13.1 the next day) and had a great time before heading back early for another 8PM bedtime and 2:30 wakeup for the next day’s half marathon!

2017 Star Wars Dark Side Challenge – Expo and Bib Pickup

So here’s the deal – I know I fell off the face of the earth on this blog, and I know this is a recap of something that happened 3 years ago, but when I was looking into doing any Run Disney races, a huge part of my decision to go was reading about others’ experiences. Also, this weekend is when the Star Wars Rival Run would have been happening in Florida (if we weren’t all stuck inside trying to stay safe and healthy), so I figured I’d kill some quarantine time and share the intergalactic fun by sharing my Star Wars Dark Side Challenge recaps. Let’s kick it off with the expo and pre-race fun!

For this race-cation, my husband opted to stay home and let the girls off the leash for a weekend – that’s right, Mama and I took on Florida in a big way. The flight was excellent (any day that starts with a mimosa that’s 95% champers is a good day) and we landed, picked up our rental car, and arrived at the All Star Movies Resort ready to take on the world.

Our first order of business was to get to the Expo to pick up my bib and ALL THE MERCH. After dumping our luggage and grabbing a snack, we hopped on a bus to the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex where everything was located, and found it to be super easy to navigate. We even made friends with a gentleman and his tween son on the bus – dad Paul was completing the Kessel Run Challenge like me and his son Avery was taking on his first Disney race. We had a good time talking Star Wars and racing while my mom shook her head, saying “you people are all insane but it’s great!”

Speaking of insane, the Expo was B-A-N-A-N-A-S.

After picking up my bib, getting my photo snapped for the Dark Side Challenge, and earning some bracelets that noted my Coast to Coast and Kessel Run medal status for the end of the half, we stopped at the merch tents at the bib pickup building and the expo building (they were about 100 feet apart). After snagging a few things at the expo, I stopped by the Altra booth to say hey to my people there, and hightailed it out of the building. I was going on 14+ hours of nonstop action and needed a break. (PS incorrect quote alert on the first picture there!)

Seriously, I posed with EVERY SIGN THEY HAD. I couldn’t help it. I was on Star Wars overload!

When we got back to the hotel at about 7pm, we were wiped out, but we still had to explore the hotel – and lo and behold, we discovered that they were playing a movie in the outdoor Movie Room by the pool!

The crisis of joy continued as I got to watch The Force Awakens while tooling around on social media and planning my race strategy for the 10k/half marathon to come in just a little more than 24 hours!

After the movie, we wandered to the pool for a bit, grabbed some dinner, split a Celebration Cupcake (because: CUPCAKE), and called it a night.

The next day was blissfully free of any plans, so we literally did nothing.

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No, for real, we really didn’t do anything but wake up when the hell we felt like it, ate breakfast, sat by the pool from about 7 hours, wandered around our hotel and made friends, and then went to bed again. It was GLORIOUS.

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The best part of our day was after dinner: in the hotel lobby, we stumbled upon a couple of women who were laughing their asses off at these screens hanging in the hall. See, we’d seen my name on one before, and wondered if it was just a coincidence. But these sassy ladies cracked the code: there were apparently sensors that read our Magic Bands (bracelets coded with our info that let us buy things all over Disney and get into our rooms), which then displayed our names on the screens. Krin and Julia realized that if they walked slowly past certain areas, it triggered their names to appear on the screens, which they demonstrated for us about a half dozen times, much to our mutual delight.

Seriously, we were laughing so hard I had to use the bathroom. It must have been the Disney Magic they pump through the air vents 😉

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After we got our cardio in by laughing with our new friends, we took a slow walk around the resort property and snapped some pictures – it really was a nice place, even if it was a more “budget-friendly” option it was still Disney, so the quality is everywhere!

After a glass of wine by the pool after dark, we headed back to the room for Flat Phasma and an early bedtime! That 2:35AM wake up wasn’t going to get any easier.

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Up next: The Dark Side 10K!

2017 Star Wars Rebel Challenge – Post Race Park Hopping

If you missed any of my recaps from this weekend, catch them here:

When we last left off, I’d just finished the Star Wars Light Side Half Marathon and earned my Rebel Challenge medal! After a quick shower and slipping into some Pro Compression recovery socks post-half, we decided to hit up Disneyland for our last full day in California – and MAN was it fun!

We’re not huge Disney fans, but when you walk through those gates and smack-dab into a parade of characters and marching band led by Mickey effing Mouse himself? You feel the love.

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The plan was to make a beeline for Star Wars Launch Bay because that was where Chewy and Vader were – I wanted at least to get photos with them before we did anything else.

 

 

I didn’t know what to expect – remember, I’m a total Disney newbie, only been to WDW like twice in my entire life, and not in about 17 years – but when we walked into the Launch Bay, I went into total Star Wars overload.

 

 

It wasn’t just a place to hang out and take pics with the characters, it was like a little museum! I also didn’t realize that Boba Fett would be there and walked in on him leaving for a break. A cast member with a tiny Minnie Mouse voice informed me that “Mr. Fett has an important meeting so unfortunately he has no time for photographs now, but Lord Vader is on the ship now and accepting visitors. We have also received reports of a Wookiee being onboard, but if you find him, please report him to us immediately.” I die.

So we found the spot to wait for Vader before being invited into his inner chamber for a photo op. I put all of my medals on for the picture, but that may not have been the best idea.

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Despite my best efforts to flatter our Dark Lord by complimenting his cape as I was introduced, I immediately had my personal space invaded and was accused of being “guilty by association”. I won’t lie – I really flinched, it was scary!

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not pictured: the fact that I may have peed myself a bit

Mike stepped in when he sensed the danger and saved me in time for a group photo (that I still look terrified in, lol):

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Once they took the picture I all but ran out of there, then discovered that Mike had some words with Vader after I left. He claims he was telling Vader that he was “on his side”, but the photos show a different story:

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Listen here, bucket head. I’m the Emperor now. You work for me. Got it? No back talk. Get out of my sight.

As soon as we left Vader’s area, I spotted the line for Chewy – FINALLY I was going to get my Chewy hug! I’ve waited forever. After the 15 minute line, I could barely contain my excitement, and by the time we were greeted by the Wookiee himself, I couldn’t help it – I burst into tears. Like full on, had to wipe them away tears. But to his credit, Chewy took one look at me and gathered me up in his arms for the BEST HUG EVER. I’ll never forget the feeling of him patting my back like I was some small child, like “There, there, tiny hairless Wookiee. It’s OK.”

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No, really – if you zoom in you can see the tears in my eyes:

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After my hug we got a group shot – when Mike came into the photo Chewy gave him a big hug too and that pic cracks me up just as much: look how happy I am that Mike got a hug too!

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It looks like Mike just accepted Chewy’s offer to be his best man.

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I was not ready to say goodbye, but we had to. The cutest part came when we turned to leave and Chewy reached out to play with my medals – he went right for the spinning BB-8 on the 10K medal and spun it. Mike tried to give him a high five but he didn’t quite get it, to which his handlers offered, “He’s new to earth, he’s working on it.” My heart. It bursts.

After that, I had to take a moment to collect myself, and realized just how hungry I was. Oh yeah, I had run 19.3 miles in the past 36 hours, maybe I should get something to eat! So off to the Galactic Grill we went, where I treated myself to a post-Rebel-Challenge victory lap of a Cheese-3PO Burger (I die), a Dark Side Lemonade (omg), and a Darth by Chocolate parfait for dessert (COME ON).

 

 

While we ate, the Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple show happened to start right behind us, so I wandered over and caught some of it just in time for you know who to show up:

My favorite part of that video is hearing the grown-ass man standing next to me shout “OH YEAH!!” when Kylo Ren comes out of the fog. Never gets old.

After the show I returned for my dessert – worth every Imperial calorie.

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At that point we’d only touched a part of the park, so we made quick work of the lines at Pirates of the Caribbean, It’s a Small World, and the Enchanted Tiki Room.

 

 

It was fun seeing the original attractions that I’d only ever heard about before – and the lines weren’t TOO long so that was a nice bonus. Throughout the day I kept checking the lines for Hyperspace Mountain because that was the ONLY other ride I wanted to hit before we called it a day, and unfortunately my legs were starting to feel the effects of all the running and standing. Finally before we were about to call it a day, the line opened up again (it had been closed on and off all day) so we jumped on it and waited for nearly 2 hours.

 

 

Now, neither Mike nor I knew what to expect going into this ride. Mike especially. I knew it was a coaster, but forgot just how long it’s been since I felt speed like that. Needless to say, I screamed pretty much the whole time, between laughing and shouting out “It’s a TRAP!” when Ackbar does during the ride. By the time they took our photo on the final drop, there was virtually nothing left of us but shocked skeletons clinging to the handles of the coaster cart. No, for real:

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WE WERE NOT PREPARED FOR HYPERSPACE MOUNTAIN.

After that, we called it a night at the park and hobbled our way to dinner at Catal in Downtown Disney for a final meal (and glass of wine).

 

 

We couldn’t have timed it better, either: the nightly park fireworks went off just as our meals arrived so we were able to watch them from the comfort of our table!

The walk back to the buses was a painful one – my legs had basically called it a weekend and decided to stop working, but we made it back to the hotel and crashed before leaving the next day.

Overall, it was an incredible weekend that lived up to all of my expectations and then some. I never thought things would go as well as they did. And I was so impressed with the whole experience that I got home and immediately upgraded my plans for the next race: instead of just doing the half in April, I decided to do the whole Dark Side Challenge instead, and earn another set of 3 medals for those races in addition to the Kessel Run medal for doing both Star Wars Halves in one year!

I can’t wait to tell you all about what happened next when I took on another 19.3 mile challenge for the Dark Side in Disney World! Stay tuned. 

 

2017 Star Wars Rebel Challenge – Half Marathon

Don’t forget to read about the runDisney expo experience and my recap of the Star Wars 10K

After running the 10K – and all-out racing about half of it to beat the time cutoff after nearly 45 minutes of character photo stops – I woke up at about 3AM Sunday with sore legs. But I geared up in my deconstructed BB-8 costume and we headed back out to the starting line for the half marathon, taking our time now that we knew what to expect.

After milling around and watching the pre-show (most of the same patter as the day before, but with a Vader appearance instead of a Jedi show), I kissed Mike goodbye and headed into the Corral G where I met up with a Twitter/IG friend Alex (who I’d met in person for the first time the day before at the We Run Social meetup)!

Just like the 10K the day before, the half started on almost the same course through California Adventure then Disneyland for the first 4.5-ish miles, and had character stops along the way. I had decided to not stop for any long lines, so I ran past the long line for BB-8 and skipped Chewy because I knew he’d be in the park. There were a few other stops for Rebels and I think an R2D2 stop again, but I DID stop for a few fun little things that took only about 2-5 minutes each, with almost no lines:

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Had to stop for just one of the Mile signs

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Stormtroopers found me!!

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I found a speeder! Wish I could have stolen it to finish the race.

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Alliance Starbird sighting on the roller coaster!

I also had to stop at around Mile 2 when I noticed the words scrolling along the marquee of a theater in California Adventure:

Yes, it says “May the force be with you, Princess Leia Organa”, and yes, I openly sobbed and had to catch my breath before I started running again. I was wondering if there would be a tribute to Carrie Fisher, and this was a very sweet, subtle way that still took my breath away. Well done, Disney.

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After we left the park at around Mile 4.5, the rest of the miles were out on the streets of Anaheim. I was prepared for this with my headphones, and also knew from previous runner’s race recaps that there would be a lot of on-course entertainment. BOY they weren’t kidding! Local marching bands, color guards, spectators, cosplayers – TONS of cosplayers! – at basically every step of the way there was something to dance to, smile at, take a selfie with, and generally enjoy.

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Like a random “halfway-ish point” sign that someone made and took our pictures with!

When we got to the cosplayers around Mile 7, I had a blast.

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Kylo Ren was the first person I ran into, and after taking a selfie and telling him to smile, he punched himself in the stomach to summon that anger in response. The Leia a few feet away from him was laughing as I got to her next. I asked her, “He’s your son, can’t you get him in line??” to which she replied, “I just can’t do a damn thing with him.” We had a good giggle at that:

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Beyond that, I stopped at SO many points for a few seconds to selfie with these folks – they were TRULY happy to be out there giving out high fives and taking photos. Some people even tricked out their cars!!

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The energy on the course was like nothing I’d ever felt. Everyone was laughing and cheering and calling out character names, having a blast, and I swear when I passed the first section of cosplayers, my cheeks hurt from smiling so hard.

And just when I thought it was over, another wave of folks had lined up around mile 8! Han, Lando, a pack of hysterical Rebel pilots, Jyn Erso – even Finn came out to cheer us on!

These people gave me just the boost I needed to get through the double digit mark. Around Mile 10 I ducked off course for my third port-a-potty stop of the race and finally decided to stop at the medical tent nearby for some Imodium. My nerves were wreaking havoc on my belly (as they tend to do during big races) and while I ate light that morning, the cramps I was experiencing when I started to run again after every walk stop were getting to be very painful. Hey – running isn’t all glamorous selfies and happy fun time! But luckily the pill worked and within minutes I felt much better in time for the final 2 miles.

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I was feeling tired by this point, and I’ll admit I walked a little bit every half mile. The pain of re-starting my run though was a bit much so I decided to shuffle along without stopping once I hit the final mile. All the bathroom and photo stops had brought my average pace to around 13:40/mile so while I knew I wasn’t in danger of being swept, I also wanted to give it my all.

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Once we hit the Mile 13 marker, I took off. The crowds lining the finish chute were SO excited, and the energy was contagious. A few kids even yelled out “BB-8!!” when I passed and made me laugh.

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With the finish line in sight, I started to well up again (god I’m a huge softy), and crossed with a huge smile.

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And just seconds after I crossed, the confetti canons went off!

I was handed my half marathon medal and started crying for real now – I had done it! 19.3 miles in two days, plus extra from walking around the park too. It was a huge scary goal that I’d set for myself months ago with a slight bit of fear that I wouldn’t be able to accomplish it. But I had done it, and I was still standing and smiling!

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The runDisney staff made it super easy for me to get my Rebel Challenge medal, calling out that challenge runners were to take a right to have our photos checked (they photographed us at bib pickup) and to receive our medals. I didn’t have to wait at all, just walked over and was handed my medal and wished congratulations. Then we had the option to take Rebel Challenge photos (yes please!) and walked out of the finisher’s area with my second runDisney snack box of the weekend to meet up with Mike.

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It was a beautiful morning, and after shuffling back through Downtown Disney to get to the bus, we made it back to the hotel for a quick shower and got back out to Disneyland for our first day in the actual park – and to show off my new bling!

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Overall, it was an incredible experience, from start to finish. I was so impressed with the way the race was managed that I upgraded from the Dark Side Half Marathon to the challenge as soon as I got home!

Stay tuned for my final post about my Disney trip, in which I eat all the Star Wars themed things and get the best hug of my life from a real Wookiee!

2017 Star Wars Rebel Challenge – Light Side 10K

After Day 1 of the Star Wars Half Marathon weekend, it was time to finally get to the RUNNING part of the show! On Saturday morning our alarm went off at 2:45 and we were dressed and out the door by 3:30.

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By staying at a hotel so close to Disneyland, we had access to the free shuttle that came right to our hotel door every 20 minutes and dropped us off at the entrance to the park. So convenient! Also, the start was at the far end of Downtown Disney, where all the bakeries and coffee shops had opened early especially for the races. Which meant we got to take our time and sip some tea (and I got my pre-race fuel on!) at a nice warm Starbucks at 4am.

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The pre-race staging area was… I’m just going to say it… awesome. It was relatively empty by the time we got there at 4:15, and with the start more than an hour away we had time to wait in short lines for fun photo ops like the Wampa Cave on Hoth, and the Trash Compactor scene!

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Listen to them, R2 – they’re dying down there!

In addition to some warmup dancing, the race announcers did their little patter and I was all in.

They played trailers for the movies and had cast members as Jedi do a little lightsaber show that I know is meant for children but I still cheered for and shed a tear or two because I am a huge baby. Come on, they’re JEDI!

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Soon it was 5am and we had to herd ourselves into the corrals. I said goodbye to Mike and easily found my way (after a little bit of people traffic) to Corral D. Huge balloons with our letters on them were stationed all along the road and cast members directed us by reading our assignments on our bibs and pointing us in the right direction. Easy-peasy.

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Easy-peasy, times a MILLION

I made a new friend in the corral (what’s up, Ali!?) and we chatted to pass the time before the prompt 5:30am start time. By 5:45 we toed the start, and finally the horn went off!

We started on a slight uphill, and immediately I noticed: it was COLD! I had expected California to be warm, dammit, but it was in the 40’s at the start. But we charged through the first half mile in the dark, along a service road and into California Adventure where we were treated to cute Star Wars mentions (logos projected on the sides of buildings, the theme music playing throughout the whole park, etc).

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At one point right before Mile 1, they played the audio of the scene where Rey and Finn steal the Millenium Falcon, and I had a good laugh when me and another Rey on the course both decided to yell out, “The garbage will do!” together.

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At Mile 1 I stopped for a quick photo op with my namesake and was pleased to discover runDisney perk #4,281: photographers that use YOUR camera! At every stop the Disney folks were true pros, taking TONS of photos for free and handing your camera back so you can take off running. I was so excited to learn this – but also sad to see the next photo stop was R2-D2 and C3PO, and the line was LONG.

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It was ok, I reasoned with myself, I only planned on stopping for the one character I knew would be there: BB8. Knowing it’s the Light Side, I expected R2 and 3PO but I’m not SUPER crazy about them. I also figured Chewy and probably Vader would be on the course, but knew I could get pics with them in the park, so didn’t want to waste time there either. BB was the only must-do I knew of. Until a certain Master of the Knights of Ren showed up and threw a monkeywrench into my plans. But more on that later.

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From Mile 1 we continued on past Paradise Pier and backstage – because it was the first time I’d seen any of this, I could feel myself welling up at some of the really amazing sights:

From there we continued backstage to the 5k point where I found the line for BB-8 and made my first stop. A 25-minute long stop!

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I even made friends with line mates like this woman who wanted a picture for her granddaughter because “Rey is her favorite!”

We chatted with each other as the line crept up, and after about 15 minutes I realized catching up to my old pace after this stop was going to be brutal. My legs had gone cold. My knees started to lock up. It was OK, though, I told myself. This was my only stop. Right before I got up to take my photo, a woman behind us announced that her friend ahead of her just spotted Kylo Ren on the course at mile 3.7.

::cue record scratch and breaking glass::

Say WHAT? I had no idea he’d be out there! I HAD to get a photo. Would I be able to make it? I looked out at the course, where folks were still moving at a moderate pace, but a lot of walkers were in there too. I could do it, I reasoned. I HAD to. I asked the cast member as we prepared for my BB8 pic: Kylo is the next stop, isn’t he? He nodded. How fast am I going to have to run to catch him? This cast member, bless his heart, merely took my phone from me, closed his eyes and said solemnly, “Really fast.

Well that settles that. Take my pic and let me RUN!

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And run I did! No, really: I glanced at my watch as I sprinted the next .6 miles and saw an 8:12 pace at one point. I wasn’t messing around. And sure enough, right at 3.7, there he was: Kylo Ren. Along with a line that looked to be about 34 miles long.

But I didn’t care. I jumped into the line and it turns out the line wasn’t THAT long – after standing for about 5 minutes, we’d moved almost halfway through the line. I even had time to snap a photo of another runner dressed as Kylo Ren, complete with his flowing raven locks (a hysterical wig):

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Another 5 minutes later, a cast member announced that the sweepers were only 10 minutes behind us. 10 MINUTES?! Panicked, I counted 5 people ahead of me. I could do it. I had to chance it. If I jumped out and sprinted and missed my photo op, I’d hate myself. So I stuck it out. And I am SO glad I did. Because Mr. Ren seriously enjoyed sassing me. And judging by how I reacted in the photos, I enjoyed it too! Observe:

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Stage 1: You aren’t so tough.

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Stage 2: Oh my god you’re actually kind of tough and getting all up in my personal space with your face and your finger, please stop, or maybe don’t, also is that Dolce & Gabanna cologne?

Stage 3: this is where I actually started asking the cast members what to do, because Kylo was still monologuing about how he could teach me the ways of the Force and blah blah blah and I had to get running because the sweepers were on their way.

The funniest part of this whole interaction was that the cast members just rolled with it. No one was like “OK, great! You’re done!” They just let me flounder helplessly as they snapped pictures of me looking right at them, begging them for help. That’s commitment!

Finally, I was able to grab my camera and I  TOOK OFF. Knowing the sweepers weren’t too far behind, I wasn’t about to stick to my leisurely 12:xx pace for the last 2 miles. I knew it would shred my legs before the half, but I had no choice now. But that didn’t stop me from having fun:

 

Yes, I did airplane arms through Tomorrowland.

I couldn’t help it, I was riding the high of nailing both character stops and the unexpected excitement of getting to hang with Kylo Ren! But by now we were now in Disneyland proper, and it was CROWDED. I fought my way through crowds and weaved where I could, wanting to make up some lost time but still managing to snap pics of some Stormtroopers and Captain Phasma as she stood on a bridge and watched us all go by.

With less than a half mile to go, I slowed down; my legs were TIRED from all the sprinting, and I knew the half the next day wouldn’t feel so easy if I pushed straight through. So I walked and jogged to keep my pace, and had a huge laugh when I ran into a crew of Matt the Radar Technicians:

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Bonus: I think I now have my costume for the Dark Side 10K in April!

As I neared the finish I got a burst of energy: all the folks lining the finish area and cheering for us were SO excited, calling out our character names and even finding our names on our bibs to cheer us on that way. It was truly incredible to cross the finish line and finally get my BB-8 spinner medal!

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After getting my medal, the finisher’s chute led us through a tent where I picked up a bottle of water, snack box and banana, and then I found Mike easily near the stage. I breathlessly told him all about the race, we all wandered through Downtown Disney back to the buses, surrounded by the ::clink clink clink:: of everyone’s medals as they walked, and we made it back to the hotel for a quick shower before the We Run Social meetup at Trader Sam’s later that afternoon (and a churro).

It was SO incredible to finally meet all the folks I’d only ever chatted with online – the running community is the best. Once the excitement settled down, we headed to Tortilla Jo’s for a victory lap of guacamole and wine, and some yummy fuel before the half marathon the next day!

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Stay tuned for my half marathon recap!

2017 Star Wars Rebel Challenge – Expo and Bib Pickup

It’s no secret that in addition to being a Star Wars fan, I’m an avid runner. Back in 2017, I ran both of Disney’s Light and Dark Side Challenges on either coast to complete the Kessel Run Challenge. While you may not be into running, you’re sure to get a kick out of the costumes and Disney fun I had, so get ready to dive into the 2017 Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend in Disneyland with Day One: Expo & Bib Pickup!

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This was my first runDisney weekend, and while I was a newbie, I still had high expectations. The race fees for these things are borderline obscene at $330 for the Rebel Challenge (10K and Half Marathon), and I expected to get my money’s worth. I’ll ruin the surprise for you: I did. The runDisney folks nailed every aspect of the weekend and then some. Crowd management, security, entertainment, course support; everything was impeccable. And with more than 12,000 participants in the half marathon, that’s quite a feat.

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We flew out Thursday, thinking our 4pm arrival time would give us plenty of room to get to the expo before it closed at 8pm. Unfortunately the weather had other plans and with all the rain-related and rush hour LA traffic, we didn’t end up getting to our HOTEL until 8pm, famished and exhausted. So we scrapped our perfectly planned day 1 and instead stuffed our faces with burgers from the Carl’s Jr. around the corner and passed out by 9:30.

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WORTH IT. SO WORTH IT.

On Friday we woke early and headed into Downtown Disney to get breakfast and kill time before the expo opened at 12, and I might have gone into Disneyland overload.

See, I’ve never been to Disneyland before, and while I’m not usually one to go ga-ga over the whole Mouse and pony show (see what I did there?), it’s hard not to get swept up into the Happiest-Place-on-Earth mania when you’re in the middle of it.

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Especially when they’ve got BB-8 Mickey ears.

We wandered through shops and grabbed some sandwiches, then headed over to the expo at about 11:30 where I was treated to my first glimpse into the runDisney machine: the LINES.

When we walked down the ramp, we were directed to go “left for bib pickup, right for merchandise”. Thanks to my diligent research (reading 1,482 blog recaps from other runners), I knew that merch would be my best bet as they frequently sell out of hot-ticket items, and I didn’t want to miss out on scoring a fun jacket or whatever else struck my fancy. So we were herded into the right side of the basement with what soon felt like about three thousand other people. I was ready to be disappointed by a 2+ hour wait after hearing about other people’s experiences, but was surprised when they opened exactly at 12 and we were moved back up the ramp and into the hotel for a short line around the merch tent itself.

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We only had to wait about another 20 or so minutes as people filtered in and out, and soon we were in the hallowed hall of gear where I snagged a Rebel Challenge jacket, hat, headband, magnet and tank. The jacket was my favorite thing, as I had seen previous year’s versions and got super jealous when I saw folks wearing them around.

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While I scoffed at the prices on some things ($36 for a thin cotton t-shirt?), the semi-outrageous prices made it easier for me to pick and choose the things I really wanted instead of going overboard. After leaving the merch tent and being herded to another quick line to pay, we were released into the wild again. And while I thought I’d have to go back on that crazy basement line for my bib, I walked RIGHT up to the counter for my bib and was told to go pick up my shirts in the expo!

The expo was a little crowded, and I was relieved to find that my Women’s Large shirts fit just perfectly. Knowing I had a long two days ahead of me, we opted to skip wandering through the whole expo and grabbed a quick bowl of soup then headed back to the hotel. But not before I serenaded Mike and everyone who watched my IG stories that day with my rendition of the Star Wars theme song that played as we left the park:

I also managed to snap a pic of a bus that matched my BB-8 mickey ears too perfectly:

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Clearly I needed a nap. So after relaxing a bit at the hotel, we walked across the street to Roscoe’s House of Chicken n Waffles for an early dinner.

It was there, halfway through my Carol C. Special of a breast and a waffle, that I decided to move to Anaheim and become a professional Disney runner. Not really, but you know what I mean. I was pretty blissed out on a day filled with Star Wars and running fun and was ready to do anything it took to make it last.

Fun story to end Day 1: When we got back to our hotel, we stopped at the gift shop to pick up some snacks and water, and I discovered an impossible treasure trove of Star Wars toys that I promptly took off the shelves, blew the dust off, and went insane over.

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I’m not talking original trilogy holy grail type stuff, but Episode 1, late 90’s things that I’m pretty sure Liam Neeson wishes would disappear:

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Look at our matching faces!!

After Mike pried me away from the gift shop, no toys in hand, I laid out my gear for the 10K the next morning, set my alarm for the impossibly early hour of 2:45AM (what the HELL), and we were asleep by about 9.

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Stay tuned for my recap of the 10K, where I cried in happiness twice, had my personal space invaded by Kylo Ren and nearly got swept off a race course for the first time in my running career!

Star Wars Running: Dark Side Challenge Costumes

After going into detail about the snazzy costumes I ran the Star Wars Light Side Challenge in, let’s take a look at the costumes I ran in this time (and how I had to modify my plans to account for the heat)!

Originally I wanted to run as Phasma for the half and possibly do Greedo or Han Solo for the 10K. I even went as far as spending an entire evening looking at hip holsters on Amazon (an activity I don’t recommend unless you want your Amazon suggestions to be VERY WEIRD for the next few weeks).

But because this was a Dark Side themed weekend, I decided on Phasma and Vader pretty early on. And here’s how I made them happen!

Captain Phasma

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My search for a Phasma outfit started off rocky: I couldn’t find the right shiny silver top and skirt in matching tones AND performance fabric in my budget. But, as fate would have it, at the same time, my friend Tiffanie (aka Star_Wars_Runnah), announced that she’d be running the NYC Marathon in support of the March of Dimes and would thank donors by making them skirts or full outfits depending on their level of support. The chance to support a good friend, a great cause, AND check my costume off the list while getting something one of a kind?? Thank you, universe!

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To top it all off I added some personal finishing touches, including a DIY cape I made the weekend before and the outfit was complete!

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This one was easy and functional, especially in the Florida heat:

And as a bonus: I can wear almost all of this costume again, even when I’m not running! Except for the silver gloves. Those things were so soaked through with sweat you could see through them and went right in the trash after the race.

Darth Vader

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For Vader, my costume was even more simple, and thank goodness: that heat was BRUTAL, and even though I was only in one layer, the sweat had pooled at the bottom of this dress and needed to be wrung out from miles 8-13 (bleh)!

The end product was something super-easy to run in that still got the Star Wars love out there. Plus – as an added bonus – it looked super cute, if I do say so myself!

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Have you ever run a race in costume? What’s the craziest costume you’ve ever seen at a race? Share in the comments!

Star Wars Running: Rebel Challenge Costumes

Before I signed up for the runDisney 19.3 Mile Star Wars Rebel Challenge in 2017 in Disneyland, I never considered running in a costume. And if we go even further back on that logic train, before Disney owned Star Wars, I never thought I’d do a Disney race, but that’s another post.

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But when I started researching Disney races – especially the Star Wars themed races – I realized a costume would be pretty much mandatory. Also, if I was being completely honest, I wanted to dress up in Star Wars costumes! How fun would it be to run a race surrounded by other people dressed up in the characters I loved? But how was I going to pull it off? I’ve never run in costume before, let alone TWO races in two days!

Here’s how I pulled it all together for 19.3 miles of costumed fun:

Rey

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I knew I wanted to run as Rey because this was a Light Side themed race and frankly, I love the character. Plus, I can really pull off a 3-bun hairstyle:

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Halloween at the office. I promise there were other folks dressed up.

For the actual costume, I flip flopped between searching for actual performance gear and creating my own costume, but after doing that once for my real Rey cosplay outfit, I learned that I’m way too picky and could easily waste loads of time and money and still have it be turn out “meh”.

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So I opted for the actual Rey Halloween costume. I read recaps of other girls running in it and they reported that it worked just fine, and figured for a 10K I could tough it out.

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The funniest part of this whole thing was having to “test-run” in the costume the day before we left for California. I wasn’t crazy enough to wing it and run in the costume for the first time on race morning, so I brought it into work and waited for everyone to leave before changing in the locker room and sneaking into the office gym for a quick mile. No one saw me (expect for the 15K+ people I shared it with on IG), and it’s a good thing I tested it: the top was WAY too short and I needed to add a tank underneath it, which worked perfectly!

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I had to add a little of my own sass, though.

The store-bought costume came with almost everything I needed except for the goggles (that I turned into a headband) which I bought separately from a Halloween store on clearance for like $4. To top it all off, I safety-pinned a little stuffed BB-8 to my race belt – he turned out to be the crowning achievement, as it was the first thing people commented on when they saw me bounce past with him on my hip!

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The result was great: I ran comfortably for the 1+ hours I was on the course, and the character photos I got worked perfectly with the costume too! Bonus: the arm warmers *actually worked* in the chilly corral before we started – who knew a Halloween costume could be functional running gear too?

BB-8

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My BB-8-inspired costume was less “costume” and more running gear with a theme. With 13.1 miles to run, I wasn’t about to stray too far from what I  normally run long in: wicking tank, Nike pro shorts and compression socks.

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That said, it was easy enough to create this outfit thanks to Etsy and some creative thinking (and sales on bright orange running shoes, thanks Altra!):

The final outcome was the perfect mix of running and costume: comfortable, functional, and super cute.

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I didn’t chafe, I got tons of compliments, I felt good, and I’ll admit: I liked the way the swishy little sparkly skirt made me feel! I’m definitely looking at ways to add a skirt to my Dark Side Challenge races, that’s for sure.

Ready to Run?

All in all, running in these costumes was SO fun. If you’re on the fence about doing a costume run, I highly recommend it. The key is to find a theme that you’re into and roll with it. In my case, it was all worth it to hear people – especially kids! – on the sidelines yelling out as I passed, “Go, Rey!!” or “Keep rolling, BB-8!!” Even though it was just a costume, it gave me that extra boost I needed to pick up my shoulders, run stronger and smile.

And when it comes down to it, isn’t that what this running thing is all about? 🙂

What do you think: have you ever run in a costume? Do you have any tips I didn’t mention here? Share in the comments!