Latest reviews by Crystal
The Inaugural Disney Star Wars Weekend 2015
I went to the Expo on the Friday morning (2nd day) before the race, which I thought would be a good time to go. For bib and shirt pick up it definitely was a good time because there weren’t that many people there yet. For merchandise, I was already too late. There was some official runDisney merchandise left, but all of the really good stuff was gone (which you can now see on ebay for extremely high prices). The Expo was a little smaller than I was expecting, but there was a good amount of vendors there (FlipBelt, Clif Bar, Pro Compression, Sparkle Athletic, Raw Threads, etc.).
While I was at the Expo, I made sure to get some information about the morning shuttle (Anaheim Resort Transit (ART)). My hotel was only about a 10 minute walk away, but I wanted to have the information handy in case I didn’t feel like walking in the EARLY hours. Also, there were presentations and interviews going on during the Expo, but I didn’t really partake in any of those because I wanted to get outside into the sunshine as fast as I could! (I was visiting from Toronto, Canada in the winter, so you get the idea)
After the Expo I went outside to wander around Downtown Disney, checking out shops and people watching. It was fun to see people still dressed up and wearing their medals from the morning’s 5K race. One thing I really noticed was how friendly and happy everyone was in this area. Ok, I know they are visiting Disney, but it was refreshing to experience good customer service and chat with strangers about running, Star Wars, etc. I grabbed a coffee at one of the nicest Starbucks I’ve ever been in and spent some time just taking it all in under the sun while watching the people go by. Seriously, if you have time, I recommend this as part of the experience. I also met Pluto by the Disneyland Hotel, which was a hilarious highlight of my trip!
For these Disney races you have to get up EARLY. The half marathon starts at 5:30 am, so depending on where you are staying you may have to get up between 2:30 – 3:30 am to make it on time. I stayed at the Motel 6 near Disneyland and took the shuttle to the race, so I was able to wake up at 3:30 am. I had plenty of time to eat, chill out, and get my gear/costume on. I was by myself, so it was pretty easy to get ready. But, if you have more people with you, I imagine that you would need more time to get everyone organized. The ART shuttle I hopped on only made 2 stops and then quickly zipped to Disneyland, so that was pleasantly painless.
Once at Disneyland, it was just a quick walk through Downtown Disney to find the area with the main stage, bag check, and porta potties. Bag check was a breeze and the porta potties were not very busy at all in this area. Of course, the area was a little bit chaotic with people running around late and such, but overall this process before the race was easy. Walking to the start line was a little unclear once I got closer (it was dark), but I figured out where they were holding extra Corral B people before the A’s ran off and then everything was fine from there. Once I was waiting in my corral, that’s when I started to get really pumped up. There was an electric buzz of excitement all around and everyone was in a great mood and ready to run. So many fun costumes, everyone encouraging each other and laughing – I took it all in since regular races are usually so serious before the start. It is dark, so taking pics can be a little challenging at this time - just a head's up if you're picture happy like me.
At the start line there were two fun, energetic announcers who were sending off the corrals. They were pretty funny and did a good job of pumping us up at 5:30 am. I was in Corral B, so I didn’t have to wait long to take off, which was nice since my adrenaline was really high by this point! Once they let us go everyone was cheering and waving and having fun, but then it got a little serious after the first turn. I’m sure everyone was planning who they were going to take pictures with or just trying to stay focused in the dark. Once we moved into Disneyland (DL) though, the mood got light and fun again. At almost every turn there were staff members or guides who were cheering people on or saying “Good morning”, which really made me smile. Everyone was so friendly (even that early) and I made sure to wave or say something back to as many people as I could.
We first ran through Disneyland, which has a lot of waves and turns but is totally worth it because there’s so much to see! I’ve never been to DL before, so I stopped to take a lot of pictures and of course a few selfies. I found that some characters were a little hidden and if it wasn’t for spotting the line ups, you would probably never know there was one there (for example, Chewbacca was behind a fence in the dark). I also realized that you really have to look out for other runners during a Disney race. The flow isn’t the same and people are always stopping and starting at the last minute and in the middle of the lane. Runners probably shouldn’t listen to music while running through the parks, because you really have to be alert (I did see 2 people crash into one another and it wasn’t pretty). As for characters, I only saw Luke & Leia, Chewbacca, and Darth Vader and I only stopped to line up (for 15 minutes!) for a pic with Chewie (Marathon Photo is at every stop too in case you’re interested in professional pics). There may have been more characters, but if that’s the case, I missed them.
After DL, we then transitioned into the California Adventure park. The sun was starting to come up by this point, so it was really nice to be able to see the park in a bit more daylight. The sunrise was actually spectacular and a lot of us stopped to take many pictures in different areas of the park. I can’t even describe how beautiful the sunrise was, such a nice experience to go along with the race. In California Adventure I only spotted a few characters and stopped to get my picture taken with some Stormtroopers because the line was short. I really enjoyed this park and was totally blown away by the area that looks like the Grand Canyon. Such an amazing sight and the sunrise really helped the experience!
Once through the parks, we then headed out on to the local streets in Anaheim. This did not take away from the experience and I was certainly not bored. There were so many high school marching bands, cheerleaders, people in costumes, and spectators along the way that you couldn’t help but continue to feel motivated. I was blown away by the local support and you just can’t thank these people enough for getting up so early to cheer us crazies on! Also worth noting is that runDisney provided tons of water/Gatorade stops along the route, so there was no need for me to carry water. Clif was also around mile 9 (I think) handing out gel shots, which is good if you already use this kind of fuel.
I will say that all of the starting and stopping when running through the parks did start to affect me. I got a little sluggish around mile 10 or 11 and I got really hungry for more than just race fuel.
So much excitement at the finish line! Tons of people and a few characters were around, and also the announcer was saying people’s names as they crossed the line. It was hard to grab any pics around the finish because staff/volunteers were trying to move you along, which I totally understand and they maintained a good flow despite the amount of people.
I can’t tell you how excited I was to see the nice people handing out the medals. A really nice lady hung my medal around my neck and congratulated me and I felt so elated and grateful for the opportunity.
After the medals I moved to the picture area because I wanted to grab a pic or a selfie in front of one of the branded back boards. This is where I felt a little rushed. The Marathon Photo staff weren’t allowed to take a pic for you with your own camera/phone and they also hinted that you kind of weren’t allowed to have someone else grab your pic in front of the boards. Once pics were done we were able to pick up the food kit, which had a nice mix of taco chips, nuts, dried fruit and a banana. Wheat free options actually made me happy in this case. Bag check pick up at this point was also a breeze and then I was set to go.
Of course, I didn’t leave right away because there was still a band playing on the main stage and there was tons of people watching to still do! I saw a few more people in their costumes, took some more pics, rocked out with the band, and then headed on my way to grab some delicious breakfast grub at nearby Denny’s.
Walking back to my hotel room, it was also nice to pass by people heading towards the part who yelled out congrats and costume compliments. Made me feel like I was really part of something… some kind of happy, Disney, silly runner community. And you can’t beat that. (I even went back for 2016!)
~ May the course be with you ~
- Star Wars & Disney!!!
- Great race shirts
- Good expo
- Character photos
- Running through the parks
- Good crowds
- Cool challenge with extra medals if you have the energy and money
- Great medals
- Race is a little expensive, especially after exchange rate for Canadians
- Lots of starting and stopping, even from Corral B (so, I can't imagine what the corrals further back experience)
- Wait times for character photos can be pretty long
- Not a lot of merchandise left after day 1 of expo