At first, I wasn’t going to write this because it has been harder for me lately. Then I thought about everyone out there who wants to get up or go out to exercise but doesn’t because it’s hard. I also thought about how I ran 13.1 miles despite my race being canceled and decided it may be helpful to some and to try and write about it anyway. Hence I’m going to tell the tale of the Stay at Home Star Wars Half Marathon.
For the Disney Star Wars races, you have to sign up almost a year ahead of time. Which I did without question after having a great time at my first half marathon last year. Then I developed an injury in December of 2019 and stopped running. I immediately started the healing process in hopes that I’d be back in time for the April 19 race. That was a journey of its own, but it ended up working out, mostly. I got back to being able to run without any issues for short distances and without really pushing myself. I felt pretty confident that I’d be able to walk/run the Disney half because, with the photo ops along the course, many people do that anyway.
Now for Kim and me, the Star Wars run weekend is like a mini-vacation. We don’t go anywhere and stay overnight, mostly because Disney is down the road; instead, we make a themed week of it and go all out on Star Wars. Kim has been doing the Star Wars half for 4 years now. I was with her for the first three years on the sidelines and ran the last one alongside her. Aside from watching Star Wars movies and playing Star Wars video games leading up to the run, we go out to the expo, which is run/Disney/Star Wars themed. The expo is at Disney’s Wide World of Sports and is a great time. It’s free and a lot of fun for fans of running or Star Wars. Then on Saturday beforehand, we go to sleep very early because we get up around 3 am to get ready for the run. Then after we complete the run and post races Star Wars festivities, we head into Hollywood Studios for a stroll and more Star Wars. All in all, it’s a great time and pretty convenient for us.
This year a little over a month before the race COVID19 hit, and the race was canceled. Disney advised we would be getting a refund, but that didn’t make up for the whole vacation being lost. At this point, I wasn’t sure we’d be running a half marathon, and I wasn’t sure what was happening in general, so my training nearly stopped. As we learned a little more about what was going on and lockdown went into effect, we decided that we would be making our own Star Wars-themed half marathon. We planned out a course that included a portion through Disney Springs. I immediately started training again and also trying to think of ideas to make the week and run special.
To make things fun, we got matching shirts from The Mandalorian to cut and wear as our team run tops. We went to a store and found Star Wars keychains to turn into medals for those of us that crossed the finished line. I scored some Millenium Falcon ice cream sandwiches and Space Dust IPA, which I thought would help simulate the Star Wars/ Disney afterparty. Kim made it all come together, though, by putting together a 3 hour-long Star Wars and Disney playlist for us to listen to as we ran. Usually, the run goes through Star Wars scenes and the Disney Parks, so having the music from all that playing would make any run a little unique. Everything was in place, and although we couldn’t go to Disney or see the Star Wars characters, we were excited.
Stupidly, I pushed it a little too much a little too quickly, trying to get back into racing shape. Then for some reason, I went on a bike ride about four days before the run that apparently somewhat re-aggravated my injury. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to run the full 13 miles, but I really wanted to participate and make it an event with Kim. I rested up and carb-loaded anyway to prepare for the race planned for that Sunday at 7am.
We set everything up and went to bed early on Saturday. Before going to bed, I secretly set up some Disney and Star Wars props and figures on the way to the front door to up the theming. I had race nerves/worry about my injury Friday, so I didn’t sleep much then, and I did the same on Saturday. When the alarm went off Sunday morning, I shut it off and laid back down. Then I saw Kim moving around getting ready. I realized that I didn’t want to miss out on this day. I could sleep in and not run, or I could get up and try to complete the half marathon despite being tired. So I got up, had some black coffee to get moving, and started to get ready.
Kim headed out(past the extra theming) to start the run as I began warming up. To try and put myself in the right mindset, I turned on the playlist for the run for the first time. The first song was Duel of the Fates(Darth Maul’s super intense fight theme song), and it kicked everything into high gear. I never had such an intense warm-up and pre-race focus. (I recommend trying Duel of the Fates the next time you want anything to feel more critical, like folding clothes) I did some foam rolling, some dynamic stretches, drank a carb and amino mixture, and headed out with a lot of excitement. By the time I got moving, the sun was starting to come up.
I could tell that I was fatigued, but it wasn’t enough to make me feel like I couldn’t run. I took a nice comfortable pace for about the first three miles to try to prevent any injuries. Between it being an early Sunday and the lockdown, there were no cars or people anywhere. It was just me and the Disney theme park music chugging along. Although we were running later than the race usually does, the weather wasn’t bad at all. I wasn’t catching up with Kim, which worried me a little because I really wanted to get our picture together in front of the Disney sign. Eventually, in the distance, I could see Kim nearing the intersection with the entrance to Disney. I kicked it into high gear so we could get the picture to make it that much more worthwhile. I did catch up, and we got a picture in front of the sign together. Then I headed into entirely unknown territory down Hotel Blvd and Disney Springs.
Just like everywhere else, Disney was empty, and there was hardly a car to be found. It was a bit eerie, but it kind of just felt like the way had been specially cleared for our race. I got a picture in front of the Disney Springs sign where the sidewalk essentially ends, and then I headed back towards home for the second half of the run. The rest of the run was pretty smooth and uneventful until just over the 11-mile mark. At this point, I really started to feel tired. Even though I was close to home, I didn’t wanna crash, so I ate some fast-digesting carb chews that I had packed. They may have been a little old as they were pretty tricky to actually chew.
Then I made my way into the neighborhood and the home stretch. It felt good to know I was going to finish. We had marked the finish line for a general area that should have covered the 13.1 miles plus a little extra to make up for any GPS lag. So I finished the run on the main road in the neighborhood right by the landmark building we had chosen. Truthfully it also was a relief to know we had mapped out the distance correctly. When I finally finished, I took a quick picture to mark the moment. Then I decided to turn back around and head towards Kim as she made her way to the finish line. On my way there, I couldn’t have planned it better as the Victory Celebration theme from the end of Return of the Jedi began playing. I took it in and felt really satisfied with what we had put together and accomplished. I saw Kim in the distance and got a couple pictures as she passed. Then I followed her in as she finished the race.
Afterward, we had a medal ceremony precisely like the one at the end of A New Hope except it was just the two of us with red faces and our homemade medals. We stretched a little and had some post-race snacks that Kim bought that were similar to the ones Disney usually provides. Then we went for a walk through the neighborhood to simulate walking around Epcot after the race ends, as it seems to help with recovery. Later we got our usual pasta heavy Italian lunch, although this time not from inside Hollywood Studios, great just the same. We even celebrated with a Space Dust IPA for good measure. Then lastly, that night for dessert, we had our Millenium Falcon ice cream sandwiches, which are actually pretty good.
All in all, the run was a success. For a while after, I was pretty sore due to being tired and fresh off of not running. I would say going forward, I would try to build more gradually to a run or competition of any kind. I’m taking more time now to re-recover, and then I will slowly get back to running longer distances. I felt good to set that goal and then to accomplish it. Even though I had run 13.1 before, it still boosted my confidence in doing it again.
I learned a lot from the whole experience. Although we lost out on the theme park aspect, I think we found that you can make something fun and exciting on your own. Spicing things up a little might be just what you need to motivate yourself to get out there and do it. I know now how important continuing to set goals completing them is for me personally. I will make sure in the future to make the smart choice and be confident I can achieve the goal eventually rather than force it and risk injury if the time isn’t right.
I will conclude by saying that the Disney Star Wars Half Marathon itself is an experience like no other. There’s something about getting up in the middle of the night surrounded by Star Wars fans and Star Wars props and characters then running it that can’t be matched. I will definitely be signing up for another when the time comes. I think the message I could share would be to set a goal no matter how vague and stick with it. See it through so you can look back and say, “I did that.” It’s not necessary, but it feels terrific, and it may help enhance other areas of your life as a consequence.