Race Recap: 2016 Star Wars Half Marathon—Disneyland, CA

Special event Disney Half Marathon sign

You bet it’s a special event! (This was taken somewhere around mile 9, I’m guessing?)

Wow. If nervousness and caution were the hallmark of the 10K for me, elation and joy filled me during the Star Wars Half Marathon. After running more than expected during the 10K, I was overjoyed to wake up with very little fatigue or pain. I did my stretches in the morning and was pleased to note no unpleasant twinges from my problematic leg.

We woke up bright and early again and donned our costumes. For the Half Marathon, I revisted my Star Tours droid costume from last year’s 10K and made Jason a similar costume (although I based his costume on the pilot, Ace rather than on the Aly San-San spokesbot).

Star Tours Droids reporting for duty! Our running costumes were based on Aly San-San (top right) and Ace (bottom right).

Star Tours Droids reporting for duty! Our running costumes were based on Aly San-San (top right) and Ace (bottom right).

Running in a costume is a ton of fun, as long as it’s race-friendly, which these were. Shortly after we got our picture taken together, Jason and I split up as he headed for A corral.

I was certainly nervous at the beginning of my race, but despite running more of the 10K than planned, felt pretty good. Originally, I didn’t plan on stopping at all because I wanted to make sure I would finish the race, but once in the park, my plans of course changed. I just felt great!

The lights, the energy, the magic— It carries you forward!

The lights, the energy, the magic— It carries you forward!

After a month of pain, I was running pain-free in the happiest place on earth and it was glorious. I was filled with inescapable joy just to be able to be here and be running. I still played it smart and set an interval timer for 30 seconds running, 50 seconds of walking. Rather a slow interval, with much more walking, but despite the injury and subsequent lack of training, I knew that if I followed my timer, I would finish the race.

Stopped for a photo with the stars of Star Wars Rebels, Ezra and Sabine.

Stopped for a photo with the stars of Star Wars Rebels, Ezra and Sabine.

The lines for photo stops were much shorter during the half marathon than they were the previous day during the 10K, so I actually did end up stopping (although I avoided the absolutely enormous line for BB-8 this time). The longest line I stood for was the speeder bikes, but once again, my favorite pictures ended up being quick snapshots or selfies.

Dad snapped this photo as I was leaving Disneyland on my way to California Adventure.

Dad snapped this photo as I was leaving Disneyland on my way to California Adventure.

Both Dad and Taylor were in the entry plaza to cheer me on and tell me I was looking good. “Help me Star Tours, you’re my only hope,” Dad said, causing others to chuckle. I told them I felt amazing!

In fact, I was just so happy to be moving forward and still feeling good. I’ve run enough half marathons now that I have more confidence about the distance than I used to.

The way I felt, I was already sure I could finish, even though I would continue to play it safe for the rest of the race.

I usually look tired or annoyed while running, but I was grinning the entire race this time, just thankful to be at the race and on my way to finishing.

Mile 3 already? Last year I took a picture at mile 10, but the markers look way cooler in the dark.

Mile 3 already? Last year I took a picture at mile 10, but the markers look way cooler in the dark.

Daylight slowly crept over the runners as I was weaving my way through California Adventure after losing a bit of time after a few photo stops. Unlike the narrower pathways of Disneyland, running through California Adventure feels incredibly spacious.

After being closed for maintainence during last year's Star Wars Half, the World of Color Fountains were on this year. Had it still been a bit darker, they would be even more spectacular.

After being closed for maintenance during last year’s Star Wars Half, the World of Color Fountains were on this year. Had it still been a bit darker, they would be even more spectacular.

Disneyland may be my favorite park, but I think California Adventure may just provide a more satisfying running experience.

Without the daytime crowds, it has an expansive glory. I love rounding the broad corner around Grizzly Peak area in the cool morning hours, the quiet making it really feel like a wilderness escape.

Paradise pier is, of course, gorgeous, and the lighted stone archway entrance to CarsLand is breaktaking.

Jennifer and I both had similar Star Tours outfits on (a rare sight in the race), so we stopped to say hi and snap a photo.

Jennifer and I both had similar Star Tours outfits on (a rare sight in the race), so we stopped to say hi and snap a photo.

Finally, although not notable during the day, seeing the wide pathway near Pacific Wharf and Golden Vine Winery filled with runners gives me a thrill.

In fact, I ran into a fellow Star Tours droid near there, which made us both laugh.

After exiting the park, I turned on my Star Wars Rebel Challenge playlist for the first time. I was pretty excited about it, but I wanted to save it for after I left the park so I could truly enjoy the park experience.

I took a deep breath, listened to my intervals,  focused on my running plan and headed out into the streets of Anaheim to conquer the rest of the race with a smile.

On Harbor Blvd, runners were actually going in both directions. Normally I don’t like running back on the same road, but during a disney race it was fun to see the faster runners (between mile 11 and 12) while I was running out (between mile 5 and 6).

This was especially cool because Jason and I spotted each other! A quick hug, photo, and kiss goodbye and Jason sped his way to the finish.

Jason and I found each other for a meeting on the median!

Jason and I found each other for a meeting on the median!

Needless to say, I was excited to see him and it was one of the highlights of the whole race.

I always keep my music down low during runDisney races so I only hear it when I really need to. Otherwise, the cheering crowds, the bands and the other runners fill my ears. By 7:25, Jason crossed the finish line and I was over halfway.

X-Wing styled car, complete with pilot.

X-Wing styled car, complete with pilot.

Just like last year, the cosplayers and member of the 501st were a highlight of the course, but I cheered everyone on the course.

By the time I reached Garden Grove, I was completely enjoying myself. The neighborhood was beautiful and spectators full of energy. Better yet, I was confident and just happy to be running on such a beautiful day.

Okay, so it was foggy and much cooler than it was for the 10K, but for someone from Portland, where it had been raining for weeks straight, the temperature and weather was glorious.

By mile 10, I realized that the faces of runners around me were showing pain and fatigue while I was still grinning. I started chatting with runners each time I hit a walking interval, trying to pass on some of my joy, at least… just enough to distract and help people towards the finish.

I hit up the MousePlanet tent for my free candy from strangers— I seriously think that redvines are my #1 favorite thing to eat during a race. I nearly jumped for joy to see them on the course again and ran with my fistful for about half a mile.

Wearing my bling proudly!

Wearing my bling proudly!

Before too long I was back on Harbor Blvd myself and although it was much later in the race, there were still tons of crowds cheering. I was following my intervals and completely happy with my pace. I knew that before long, I would be back in the park. For the last mile, the cheering crowds thickly lined to course and helped to carry every last one of us to the finish line.

Never before have I been so grateful and happy just to be able to run. How did I celebrate successfully completing the Rebel Challenge for the second year?

I went to Disneyland for some breakfast at the Jolly Holiday!

Straight from the finish line to the park!

Straight from the finish line to the park!

Time: 3:15:49 (Not a bad time for a RunDisney race!)
Ran With: Just me and my music
Best Spectator: The Star Trek TNG guy around mile 12. He went nuts when I threw up a Vulcan salute.

Related: Race Recap: 2016 Star Wars 10K
2016 Star Wars Half Marathon Expo & Packet Pick Up
2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Recap: Rebel Challenge Part 2

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