Walt Disney World Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

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It was finally here. Disney race weekend; one of my very favorite weekends of the year. After an entire year of planning costumes, race day post- and pre-events, the time had finally arrived. To say I was excited would be an understatement.

This year we decided to tackle the Star Wars Marathon weekend. Sis wasn’t exactly happy with me since this forced us to miss the 10th anniversary weekend of the Princess Half Marathon, but I assured her this would be worth it…. at least I was hoping. We also had quite a group attending this year – nine of us to be exact. I was beyond thrilled that not only was hubby joining in me in every race this year, but my brother and sister-in-law would be there to cheer us on.

As we have in the past, we set off for Orlando on Thursday morning with plans to meet sis and her family at Chick-Fil-A. This particular Chick-Fil-A is only a couple hours from us and a good halfway point for them. However, in typical family chaos, we completely missed the exit, pushing lunch even further into the day and completely throwing sis off course. Not only we were all STARVING, but we had about fifteen people trying to find the best place to stop, giving directions all at once, and making me wonder for a split second what we were thinking by taking this road trip. However, we finally managed to settle on another Chick-Fil-A, have lunch, and were able to hit the road before too long. All in all, this worked out slightly better. We only had a couple hours and we would be at our condo. Normally, time wouldn’t be so much of an issue, but we were in a bit of a crunch since we had to check into the condo, unpack, go to packet pickup AND hit Publix.

When we finally made it to Disney, we were all ecstatic. However, unbeknownst to me, other grandma had failed to alert us we were in need of gas. After we quickly checked into the condo, unloaded our belongings, and headed back out towards packet pickup, she told us we had two miles before empty. WHAT?!! I just knew we were never, ever going to make it.

There was a gas station about one mile up the road. However, when we got there, it was a like pre-hurricane frenzy at the pumps. Utter chaos. I had this horrible picture of completely missing packet pickup, of having to call AAA, and waving bye-bye to the family 5K in the morning. No packet pickup today, no race bibs, no participation. No good. However, as I was beginning to lose hope, sis managed to finagle us a spot at the pump and off we took, heading back towards the ESPN’s World Wide of Sports with a full tank of gas.

Everything was smooth sailing now. Unlike last year, we had time to spare! We would be able to get our race packets, spend a little time at the expo, and even could hit Publix before our very early wake-up call. But…it’s never quite that simple for this family. There was a lot of construction going on around the ESPN Wide World of Sports area. Just a tad more chaos than normal. Traffic was insane, cars were all trying to merge at once. Somehow, we managed to get ahead of sis. When we turned, she kept going. All I can say is that one little missed turn delayed their arrival time by way, way too long. As panic and frustration was taking over their car, we made our way to the ESPN center and tried to wait as long as possible for them. When we realized their delay was going to be a while, we went ahead and got our packets and even had time to check out the expo. Hubby grabbed a beer, we split a plate of – yes – grapes, cheese and crackers – go Disney – and then finally, FINALLY, sis arrived.

After we all had our packets in hand, we spent a little bit of time exploring the expo where we found some awesome new gadgets and running toys. We bought some Caterpy Laces – these nifty little guys that I’m totally sold on! Hubby got some new running socks and we both purchased new Nathan running belts that fits our phones and is small enough to not be cumbersome during a run. Love them!

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Disney expo

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After the expo, we loaded up with a grocery list in hand and headed to Publix. Unlike last year, this trip to the grocery was a fast one. We were able to get everything we needed and managed to make it home in time to have dinner and make it to bed at a decent hour.

Fortunately, we were all pretty tired from the super busy day. We laid out our clothes, got ready for bed, and prepared for the excitement of our very first race day of the weekend.

 

5K RACE DAY

The wakeup call was early…Very early. Mom was up and atom, dressed and ready to go, acting as if she had already dipped into the coffee. Other grandma was another story. If we could have left her in the bed to sleep until about 8:00, I think she would have been happy. But instead, she put on a happy face, donned her racing gear, and we all headed towards Epcot for the 5K.

This year was a special year. P could finally race with us! The big race, as she called it. I could not have been a more-proud aunt when she donned on her Princess Leia themed tank top and matching tutu. She is the bravest kid I know. Nerves didn’t even seem to phase her. Instead, she was bursting at the seams with excitement.

Somehow, both grandmas ended up in the B corral and the five of us ended up in F, the last corral. Not sure how that happened, but we just went with it. And it kind of worked out this way. Both grandmas could take their time with the race, stop and take pictures if they wanted, and we could all likely finish around the same time.

When it was finally our turn, the guys took off, and sis and I ran with P. She did amazing! She ran as far as her tiny legs would take her, going at a great pace for the first quarter mile. I suggested then that we do a run/walk. This seemed to really work for her…. Almost. By the time we came into the back side of Epcot, she was tired. So we improvised. We kept up this run/walk/sis-carries-her-routine until we were near the finish line.

Both grandmas had slowed down quite a bit in order for all of us to finish together. As we met up with mom, somehow other grandma got lost in the mix in front of us. For those of you who have participated in Disney events, you can understand how this would happen. There is loud music and runners and spectators all narrowing toward the finish. It’s a great bit of organized chaos going on at that very moment.

Well, naturally, P was beyond excited to see both grandmas and to be near the finish. Without warning, she took off at a sprint and I suddenly realized sis was not going to cross the finish line with her. I looked over and sis was absolutely crushed. After trying to scream their names, which was a joke with the organized chaos happening around us, I did exactly what the best sister in the world would do. I took off at a sprint, stopping other grandma and P before they could finish. And to me, the picture below says it all. Sis was over the moon excited to cross the first 5K finish line with our little P.

After the race, we went back to the condo, quickly showered, ate breakfast and prepared for a fun afternoon at Disney Springs. Uncle J and sis-in-law were going to be joining us! I couldn’t be more excited. But first, coffee. We enjoyed an amazing and delicious treat from Starbucks while relaxing and enjoying a view by the water. We milled around for a bit, shopping and having a great time, and then FINALLY they arrived. Now the weekend could truly begin!

That evening, we had a great time hanging out and catching up for a bit. But, the morning wake-up call would be coming early and we had to get to bed. For hubby and I, it wasn’t that difficult. We headed to bed around 7:00-ish and were probably fast asleep by 8:00.

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Heading to the starting line

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See ya guys at the finish!
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I couldn’t imagine any better Yoda than these two

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Best finish line expression ever

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10K

The morning of this race is early…. So very, very early. My alarm went off at 2:30 a.m., but I felt like a rockstar. Both hubby and I were well rested, energetic, and ready for the race to begin. Honestly, this was a bit of a shocker. I didn’t think waking up at 2:30 in the morning would ever warrant anything other than complete and utter exhaustion.

This race, it was only hubby and I, sis and E that were tackling the 10K. We set off toward Epcot, a little bummed that hubby was in a different corral than we were. Not exactly sure how that happened, since we all put in our finish times at the exact same time, but nonetheless, it did. So we had a plan. We were simply going to sneak him into our corral.

As I sit here writing this, it makes me laugh. Sneaking someone into a coral, especially at Disney, is a big risk. What if we got caught? What if they demanded we return our bibs and we couldn’t compete in the race? Was it worth it? We were going to find out.

We got to the race pretty early and decided to make our dangerous trek into the corral. Since they are extremely careful about checking each and every bib as they pass in, we decided to make a semi-circle, showing each and every one of our bibs, except for hubby’s, and carefully ushering him in the middle of us, quickly passing by the bib-guard and making it into corral together. It was exciting and terrible all at once. Clearly, the guilt I felt for being so dishonest on something so silly reminded me that I must carry the conscience of a bowling ball around with me constantly.

As we sat there, enjoying watching the other participants start to file in, we realized we were so anxious on getting him into corral that we never hit the bathroom. Big mistake. So, continuing in our ridiculous semi-childish behavior, we had hubby and E switch bibs so they could make the bathroom before the race began one at a time. As I write these words, the guilt continues to flood over me and makes me wonder how I managed to come out of that race without any rolled ankles or knee injuries for being so deceptive.

As the fireworks commenced, we took off. Hubby and I left sis and E behind so they could take the race at their own pace and simply enjoy the scenery. Since this was one of E’s first big races at Disney, I know they wanted to absorb every second.

Hubby and I poured into the run like we did at home and it felt great. Once we were able to find a good pace, we managed to weave in and out of the fellow racers with ease. I was so excited to share this course with hubby. He missed last year’s amazing entrance into Epcot with the torches lit along the water, the countries full of life and the most amazing topiaries and flowers I have ever seen in my life. Thank you Flower and Garden Festival for the beauty of the festival!

As we wound our way through the countries, I tried to absorb every moment. This was truly one of my favorite parts of the course. It was only as we came somewhere between mile four and five did hubby suddenly start to fall back. My feet, he kept telling me. My feet hurt. His feet hurt? Since when? He told me he’d catch up with me, so I let him do a little bit of walking. He did speed up a bit and caught up with me not long after mile five where he trudged through until the end.

As we finished the race, we waited for sis and E where we met up with the rest of the family at the family reunion area. It was here that J and sis-in-law waved us goodbye for a fun day at Magic Kingdom. It was also here where a super-fun scavenger hunt for our sweet little princess went underway. Since it was around her birthday, sis had created an incredible surprise for her. She had left “clues” all along the way where she ultimately was led to the Grand Floridian Resort where a very special Princess Tea was waiting for her with none other than Aurora herself. Sis knocked it out of the park on this one.

As she and P enjoyed their tea with a few other select princesses, the rest of us grabbed much-needed coffee and a quick bite of breakfast at the Grand Floridian. We selected a table outside overlooking the water and enjoyed our delicious treats.

After we spent much of the morning here, we finally made our way back to the condo where we spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying the pool and the lazy river at the resort. This day was amazing.

We ate dinner at a ridiculously early hour, since we were planning to be in the bed by – say what – 6:00 p.m. That was somewhat of a chore, but we managed. I didn’t fall asleep right away, as I suspected, since my stomach was doing somersaults of excitement for the race to come, but finally…. FINALLY…. I found la-la land.

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Half-Marathon

The alarm went off at 1:00 a.m.. Yep, you read that correct. One A.M. It was the earliest we had ever, ever gotten up for a race thus far. But, we had no choice. We needed to get dressed, eat a quick bite for, uh, a midnight snack, and board a bus leaving the Epcot parking lot by 3:30 a.m. at the latest. We had a lot to do.

I rolled out of bed so incredibly excited. It was my birthday after all! I did feel a bit groggier than the previous day’s race, although perhaps I had no idea just HOW groggy I was.

I braided my hair and headed into the bathroom to spray it down with hairspray. As I dug through our toiletry bag, I grabbed what I thought was my travel size bottle of hairspray. As I sprayed and sprayed and sprayed, I thought to myself, man that hairspray smells unusual. Yep. I was dowsing my hair in hubby’s travel size Axe. In fact, I believe I had just emptied the entire bottle on my head. So I hit the floor, literally, in laughter that wouldn’t stop. I knew we were in trouble already.

In the meantime, hubby was working on his own problems in the bedroom. I walked in, spotted the state of his feet and continued in my ridiculous laughter. So, his feet had been hurting the day before. Well, he had managed to get a blister – probably from the new socks purchased at the expo and not previously worn yet – so not our best decision –so he had taken it upon himself to turn his feet into something that resembled mummy feet. That’s the only way I can describe it. Tape and mole skin and more tape adorned each of his toes to the point he could barely even walk. This was going to make for one fun race.

By the time we all were dressed, semi-fed, hydrated and ready to head out, we were giggly and silly and clearly all running on very little sleep and a whole lot of adrenaline. Fortunately, leaving as early as we did certainly ensured we completely missed the traffic we ran into last year. Perhaps we left a tad too early, but it’s okay. We were able to sit in sis’s car, listen to music for a while, irritate one of the workers with our headlights – oops – and relax before the big event. That’s never usually the case, so I’ll take it!

After riding the bus a short distance to our start at Magic Kingdom, I was overcome with excitement. It was finally here! The big race I had been dreaming about for months and months was finally happening. Our outfits felt right on par and the guys were troopers. Since it was my birthday, and I could see no other amazing way to spend it, we had adorned ourselves to resemble cupcakes and the guys had matching shirts. Yep, they are keepers.

After taking pictures and hydrating well, we got into corral. This time, we all got into the correct corral. No guilt here this day. Fortunately, we were all assigned the same corral this go ‘round. We were early and made it to the very front of our corral where we had a perfect view of the festivities going on while we waited for the race to begin. Since we were there with about 20,000 of our closest friends – literally – they have fantastic entertainment to keep you occupied for the couple hours before kick-off. We danced and sang and laughed in our sleep-deprived state and enjoyed every second of our pre-race fun.

But then, it was our turn. The fireworks went off, signaling it was our start of the race. Hubby and I fell into a good rhythm together and took off, waving a quick goodbye to sis and E. Since this was E’s very first half-marathon, they had plans to do their own unique run/walk/run and some picture time, so we agreed to meet at the finish line.

I will tell you already, this course rocked! It is now one of my all-time favorites. As you come out of the starting line, you are immediately taken down a back road where there is a Star Wars Ewok “war” going on before your very eyes. Fire in the bushes, laser shows, the works. It was fantastic! And I wasn’t even a full-fledged Star Wars fan at this point yet. After we ran the first few miles, we were taken into the back entrance of Animal Kingdom. I will warn you, it is a bit stinky here. I’m not exactly sure if it was from the animals, or perhaps the waste station we passed, but it doesn’t last too terribly long. As we tried to hold our breathe/run/run faster to get away from the stench, we made it into the much-anticipated Animal Kingdom. Amazing. Just freaking awesome. It was beautiful running through this already incredible park with the sun coming up. We passed Pandora, which was a huge attraction for those wanting pictures. I loved it.

As we left Animal Kingdom, we made our next destination towards Hollywood Studios. We had to run a bit along the interstate here, but it was nice because there was ample room for people to pass, to fill up on water and anything else you might need, without feeling like you’re running on top of each other. As we came into Hollywood Studios, I was just as equally enamored. It is so beautiful running along the streets, watching the park lit up just for you, and, God bless the workers, passing out tissues to wipe the sweat that is now covering every inch of your body. We passed by the infamous Tower of Tower, Rockin Rollercoaster, some of my all-time favorites, and made our way through the park.

Next, it was almost back into Epcot where I knew the finish line was just within reach. Hubby was most definitely struggling with his mummified toes at this point, but he muscled through. He is truly amazing. That is all I will say.

As we ran through the most beautiful Epcot and rounded the countries, I was amazed that the race was almost finished. Running through the parks and having very little interstate time made the miles fly by at the speed of light…. Or maybe that’s 12 parsecs. Okay, bad Star Wars joke.

As we came to the finish line, got our medals and goody box, hubby and I made it to the family reunion area where he collapsed, ready to strip his shoes off and release his feet from their mummified bandages. Sis and E were a good bit behind us, as they decided to take ample opportunity to take tons of great pictures and enjoy the scenery. Not a bad idea for E’s very first experience running an incredible Disney race!

After everyone had crossed the finished line, we took pictures and finally made our way back to the condo to shower. We spent the remainder of this pretty perfect day at Epcot, enjoying one too many adult beverages in celebration of our incredible feat.

As always, this weekend was one for the memory books. It was full of laughter and fun and unforgettable stories I will forever cherish. And, as in typical sis-and-I fashion, we were already planning the next race the day we watched this one come to a close.

Fantastic job, Disney. As usual, you put on one heck of a race.

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Pre-race nap
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It’s time!!

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Best feeling ever

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Race tips

This race proved to be a new challenge for those driving to the race. Unlike other Disney run courses, you have to park at Epcot where you will board special transportation bus that will take you to the starting line at Magic Kingdom. Although it’s a bit unconventional, it’s worth it. This course rocked!

 

Note-worthy restaurants in the area

Disney Springs offers some incredible eats at their newly expanded and renovated area. I, of course, find Ghiradelli one of my favorite post-race stops, but there are so many delicious and fun alternatives here that don’t include copious amounts of chocolate upon chocolate.

 

Hotels near the race site

Just as in the past, the Wyndham Resort is a fan favorite in our house. I love the ability to have a full kitchen, a living room, and all of the amenities of home. We usually can book this directly on VRBO or Travelocity, both of whom we’ve had great luck with. You have access to all of the amenities at the resort, like their lazy river and pool area, especially if you need to take it easy after a race day.

However, Disney hotels are also a fantastic choice because they offer so many great amenities, like race transportation, transport to all Disney parks, and easy to access dining. And, honestly, who doesn’t love having one less thing to worry about like where to park and who is willing to get up that early to drive you.

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