In one week, I’ll be standing in a corral (most likely the last one) in a parking lot at Epcot Center getting ready to race 3.1 miles. I will have been awake for three or more hours and probably walked at least a mile already. And then I’m going to do it again (but earlier and 6.2 miles) on Saturday and Sunday (even earlier and 13.1 miles) for a total of 22.4 miles of racing.
This is for the inaugural race of the Dark Side Challenge. I’ve loved Star Wars since I was 9, when I saw the first episode in the movie theater in Pittsburgh, while visiting my mom’s sister. I always say it was thanks to my mom’s lack of parenting judgement and love of shopping that enabled me to have a lifelong obsession with Star Wars.
My mom was quite over protective of what we watched growing up. I often felt like an outcast among my friends because they were allowed to watch TV shows like “Speed Racer” and “The Mod Squad” that I wasn’t. While visiting in Pittsburgh, my mom and aunt wanted to ditch us older kids while they shopped (Brian and I were both 9, and Eric was 12). They decided that leaving us to watch a movie for a few hours would be a good idea. After a 2-1 vote (the boys for Star Wars, me for whatever Disney flick was out at the time) I was stuck having to see this horrible boy’s movie I’d never even heard of before.
And I’ve loved Star Wars ever since. So much so that when the Dark Side Challenge came up, I wanted to be part of it. Especially since it is the FIRST one.
I’ve missed out on all the other runDisney firsts to date. I’ve only known about Disney races since late 2014. When I did my first half marathon at Disney World’s marathon weekend in January 2015, I couldn’t believe this had been around for twenty years.
So I was determined that I would participate in the first Star Wars Dark Side Challenge, combining two of my biggest loves: Star Wars and Disney. (My third is the Muppets. When is the Disney Muppets half marathon?)
The “Challenge” for those of you who don’t know, is running a 10K Saturday and a half marathon on Sunday. All Disney races have this challenge (which is slightly modified during the marathon weekend).
It’s amazing how short lived memories are when cool finisher medals are on the line. I did the Disneyland half marathon weekend Dumbo Challenge last September. My friend and handler (as I like to call her during races), Leslie, helped me through the half marathon with her too-chipper attitude and bounciness. I started off the half marathon with two huge blisters I’d developed the day before during the 10K. I was determined to finish though, even if it meant losing some toes or even a foot in the process.
Fast forward two months to November 2015, and I’m not only itching to sign up for the Dark Side Challenge, I decide “Why not sign up for the 5K on Friday too. It’s only 3.1 miles.” Seriously – what was I thinking? Oh, right, it was all about the cool medals, and having six months to train.
To say I’m concerned about the races next week is an understatement. I’ve never felt adequately prepared for any race, especially half marathons. Disney is very generous with their 16-minute-per-mile pace requirement. And, as much as I think I can do that, by the time the race comes around my training hasn’t gone as well as I’d hoped.
And then there’s this morning, well, actually, all this week. I haven’t wanted to get out of bed at 5am to sit in front of a computer all day. And in a week, for three days in a row, I’m going to get up maybe as early as 2:00am to make it to the starting line so I can cover 3.1 – 13.1 miles as fast as I can before most sane people are having their first cup of coffee.
If this was Disneyland, I might get to sleep in as much as an extra hour. In September, it was about a mile walk from the hotel door to the corral.
At Disney World though, it is easier (I think) to take the buses everywhere if you are staying at the resort. So that means queuing up for a bus at an ungodly hour. The suggestion is to be on a bus by 3:30am for the half marathon to make it to the start on time. The race itself starts at 5am.
My plan for after each race is simple. Go back to the hotel, stretch, and then crawl into bed. I may be in Orlando and at a Disney World hotel, but I won’t be seeing the inside of any of the parks except for when I “fly” through them during the races.
Despite my concern that I won’t be able to finish these races without being “swept up” — if you fall too far behind the 16-minute pace, you risk being taken off the course and not allowed to finish — I’m already thinking of registering for another Disney race. This time in Disneyland and since Ed is retiring in June, he’d be available to go with me. How can I be considering another half marathon when I have doubts about finishing the one next weekend? Does it speak to my sanity that I’m OK with JUST doing the half and not any of the other races? I’m not so sure.
At the very least, please wish me luck. I’m really going to need it–-just to get out of bed on time.