Race Recap: runDisney Star Wars Half Marathon: The Light Side 2017

8:00 AM

"Do or do not. There is no try," a very wise Yoda once told us. On January 14th, I traveled to Anaheim, California for the runDisney Star Wars Half Marathon - The Light Side at Disneyland.

Though I've participated in a few runDisney events at Walt Disney World, this was my first Disneyland race. I was so excited to finally experience running through the original Disneyland park, as well as California Adventure! Overall, it was an amazing event. However, there were a few noticeable differences between WDW and Disneyland races. More on that later.

I was set to run the race with my friend Sam who lives in California. She was gracious enough to pick me and Brian up from the airport. From there, our first stop was to the hotel. There were a few factors in play that made our decision to stay at the Anaheim Plaza Hotel & Suites. Price was definitely one of the factors, and this hotel was very affordable... though if there had been rooms available on Disneyland property I may have splurged and stayed there (but I booked too late!). Next was proximity to the park. It was a quick walk to the Disneyland Esplanade, so we figured we'd be nice and close for race morning!

After checking in, we made our way to the Expo at the Disneyland Hotel. My first reaction was how much smaller and less crowded it was than the expos at WDW races. This, I figured, is to be expected. In general, Disneyland is much smaller that WDW. Also, the Florida races seem to sell out in an instant, where there were spots for this race for months after registration had opened. I loved how quickly lines for photos went, how quickly lines to get our bibs went... all of it! This seemed a theme for the weekend.

Except the security lines. Oh, the security lines. I've visited Disneyland a couple times in the past year, but it seems as though they have really beefed up their security detail. To get into Disneyland property, we waited in long, slow lines that included bag checks and metal detectors. Of course, I am always happy for strong security which increases safety. I do, however, feel lines could have been more organized. For instance, there was no separate line for people who had no bags. A separate stroller line could have been handy as well. This went on for the entire week, so I am unsure if these procedures were just around the busy race weekend or to be put into play full time.

The morning of the race arrived. As with all runDisney races, it is a super early morning. However, I think we made a few mistakes that I would definitely remember for the next time I ran a race in Disneyland.

  1. We were unprepared for travel to the start of the race. I stupidly didn't research where the starting line was, and we ended up being on the opposite side of the park. At 4AM, before running 13.1 miles, this is a big mistake to make. We ended up having to do a 20 minute walk to get to the starting village of the race because we were not properly prepared and didn't figure out how to get on the buses provided by Disneyland until it was too late. Oops!
  2. We got there WAY TOO EARLY. The night before, a fellow racer we did not know heard our convo about what time we'd wake up and she let us know we needed to get there super, super early. Like... SUPER early. With my experience from WDW races, this didn't seem too silly to me. Until it was race morning. And we were there waiting for over an hour for no reason. Now, we know better! I'll be sleeping in a warm bed much longer next time, thank you very much!
  3. It is COLD in the morning in California! Being from NJ, it felt like paradise to be in sunny, 70 degree California weather in the middle of January. Even so, I should have worn extra clothing I could toss before the race began. It was freeeezing in the pitch black morning and seeing as we'd gotten there so early, we had a long time to freeze our butts off. 

When it was finally time for us to begin our race, we set off through the Start line and into California Adventure, where we got to watch the sun come up. Incredible! We also met some fun characters and great photo ops where the lines were much shorter than at WDW races. 

Trying to do a nice jump picture - obviously it didn't work

Out and around, we made our way through a back lot and into Disneyland Park. Again we met up with some fun characters and photo ops. However, as we went to wait in the last line for a character picture near the entrance/exit of the park, a Disneyland employee let us know the dreaded balloon pacers were coming and we had better get a move on. At this point, only about 3 miles were completed of the half marathon. We'd taken our time to get our pics in, but now we needed to book it! 

The rest of the race was through the streets of Anaheim. There were many cosplayers, school marching bands, cheerleaders and general supporters out to help the next 10 miles pass. By this time, the sun was out in full force and we had warmed up nicely. Though the WDW races take you through the roads on Disney property, it was much different to be in the actual streets of the town surrounding Disneyland. 

When we finally made it to the finish, it was an amazing feeling! It had been Sam's first half marathon and I was proud of her determination to get to the finish line. This was my 10th half and I was so happy to have completed it in a runDisney race, especially my first in Disneyland! 

Overall, the Star Wars Half Marathon - The Light Side was a well organized and themed race. I loved the character picture spots and getting to run through the parks. I only wish the run through the parks was a bit longer, with less time on the streets of Anaheim. I would certainly run races in Disneyland again!