January 10, 2015: It was my first time being back at Disney in almost 2 years. Having just acquired an annual pass, I woke up early and got to Epcot as soon as it opened. Despite growing up visiting the parks every year or so, the sight of blocked off paths and runners flying past me was completely unfamiliar.
This was my first encounter with runDisney, and the sight of people racing through the parks was absolutely bizarre to me. In fact, I found the idea of running at all completely ridiculous. Good for these people, I thought. I mean, if you have to run, Disney would be a nice place to do it. Not that you’ll ever catch me in one of these.
April 16, 2016: I got off the bus at the ESPN Wide World of Sports and found the building to turn in my waiver and pick up my race bib. Next up was the Health and Fitness Expo in the building next door, where I found some runDisney merch and hoped I wasn’t jinxing myself by buying “13.1” car magnets before the actual race.
It was amazing to be surrounded by other runners and Star Wars enthusiasts for Walt Disney World’s inaugural Dark Side race weekend. Since first learning about runDisney, I had come to know a lot of people who had raced at the parks, and I was excited that I would soon be one of those people.
After the expo, I went to a nearby Chipotle to load up on protein–extra black beans and tofu on that burrito–and then I turned in early so that I would be ready for my early wake up call the next morning. I was simultaneously too excited and too nervous to fall asleep right away, but eventually I drifted off.
April 17, 2016: My alarm went off at 2:30. Even as a morning person, I felt ill being awake at such a ridiculous hour. I washed my face with cold water and soon started to feel alive. In a little over 30 minutes, I had donned my race outfit, put on my makeup, done my hair like Rey from Star Wars, and packed up my little running waist pack with energy gels.
I walked to the front of Disney’s All-Star Sports resort and didn’t have to wait long in a line of other sleepy racers until we were loaded onto a charter bus that took us to the Epcot parking lot. The race didn’t start until 5, so there was plenty of Star Wars-themed entertainment to last until it was time to load us into our corrals.
The scale of the event amazed me. I had seen runners whiz by during my trips to the parks on race weekends, but seeing all 10,000 runners gathered in one place was something completely different, and I am still so impressed at how well-organized the event was. A little after 4:00, runners were directed to check their bags and then start heading to the corrals.
The excitement built, and after what felt like hours, the first batch of fireworks was released as the runners in Corral A dashed across the starting line. Every few minutes, another corral was sent off to the tune of a dramatic Star Wars song and more fireworks. I waited patiently in Corral K for almost an hour until we had finally moved up to the starting line. It was almost time to unleash my Dark Side in the Star Wars half marathon!
Do you have any experiences with runDisney? Let me know in the comments!