Heading into hyperspace at the Star Wars 10K
Welcome (or welcome back) to another installment of the Virtual Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend Blog Hop. If you missed my thrilling account of taking mile marker photos, you can find it here.
My first runDisney race was the inaugural Tinker Bell 10K (also my first 10K, period), and coincidentally, one year later, I was doing the inaugural Star Wars 10K. The Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend had taken over the January runDisney slot in Anaheim, with Tink moving to Mother’s Day Weekend. After signing up for the Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon, I foolishly decided I could try to step it up a notch (or a billion) by attempting my first runDisney challenge, the inaugural Rebel Challenge. Keep in mind I had to register for all this months before I knew if it was remotely possible (spoiler alert: it was).
The 10K events are some of the most popular runDisney events. They usually feature a lot of time in the parks, but also just enough street time to allow people a little more serious run experience. It’s also easier to maintain the minimum pace and still have a chance to stop for photos.
Like all runDisney races, the Star Wars 10K starts with a “preshow” in the staging area set up in the Lilo parking lot next to the Disneyland Hotel. This is where you’ll find gEAR check, the ocean of porta-potties and the fancy stage area they use for the preshow and medal ceremonies. Note that Disney has added a security checkpoint before you can enter the zone where both the staging area and the corrals are located, so be prepared for that. For both the Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend and Avengers Weekend, the security checkpoint was a breeze and did NOT require arriving by 4 freaking a.m. like the event guide claims. According to my photo timestamps, the preshow usually starts around 4:30 a.m., though.
It’s also the area you end up in after you finish, dubbed the family reunion area, where you will find the massage tent, medal engraving and bodies strewn everywhere, many buried under runDisney food boxes and banana peels.
The corrals are the next block over, and I’ve learned to check my gEAR bag just before the preshow starts, then the moment it’s about to end, head quickly toward the staging area exit to head for the corrals. It’s not hard to get to the corrals, but there’s only one small exit gate out of the staging area, so the crowd backs up a lot at that point.
I like to work my way toward the front of the corral so I can see the race announcers and their guests.
Each corral gets it own start, complete with videoboard graphics and fireworks. It’s hard to take a photo in the dark while running, by the way.
Comparing the course map from last year to this year’s, it appears we may be getting a bit more park time, likely due to stretches of the backstage being closed for the start of constructing the Star Wars land, ironically enough. Parts of every runDisney race include going “backstage” to areas with offices, warehouses, storage, etc., and I consider that park time, since it’s more interesting to me than a city street. They usually bring out some of the parade floats and other special things for photo ops, though we fear there may be no more horse selfies since the stables are being relocated offsite.
The Star Wars 10K starts the opposite direction of the Disneyland 10K and the Avengers 10K, heading north on Disneyland Drive instead of south. After meandering around the surrounding streets for a little over a mile, runners cross the esplanade — the area between the entry gates for Disneyland and Disney California Adventure — for the first of two times. The esplanade is a lot of fun because it’s one of the areas where spectators line the course and cheer like crazy.
Running around Disneyland includes some character photo op stops available if you’re not overly concerned with finish time, and the iconic run through Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. I have tragically never gotten a running-through-the-castle shot from the official race photos, so I’ve had to settle for a posed shot after running through it.
After Disneyland, runners cross back through the esplanade and into DCA. Depending on what corral you start in and how slow you are, the sun may be starting to rise by now, so there are chances for some great photos at Paradise Bay and in Cars Land. These are from other races, since I didn’t take enough time to appreciate the scenery at the Star Wars 10K.
Keep your eyes open for the official race photographers (or pick up the map of the photo locations at the MarathonFoto booth at the expo, where you can also purchase discounted gift certificates for race photos). You too can have cheesy shots like this by paying attention.
One of my favorite backstage areas is running past the rear of Cars Land, by the way. It’s trippy to see the construction that creates such a realistic setting.
Unlike last year when runners exited DCA behind Cars Land and then ran behind Paradise Pier Hotel before turning down the finish straightaway, this year, runners will head north from Paradise Bay and turn for the homestretch through Downtown Disney, running the length of it with lots of spectators and Starbucks patrons milling about. Disney does a great job with crowd control here, using ropes to merge runners from one side to the other and allowing spectators to cross the path without risk of being stampeded.
One more turn right before the sorcerer’s hat at the Disneyland Hotel, and runners make the short sprint(?) across the finish line. Characters are often on a platform just to the side of the finish or at the finish line itself, and daring folks can try to get photos or, ahem, hugs.
Cross the finish line strong, then meander through the finish area (it’s one way, so once you pass one area, you usually can’t go back) to get your medal, a heat sheet, water/Powerade, ice/biofreeze/other self-treatment items and the famous runDisney snackbox (will it include Almond Roca? the addicting white cheese dip? Skittles? gross hummus?).
Then it’s choose your own adventure time, with one corridor for those who want to take a photo with the official backdrop and one for those who don’t. (There are also photographers immediately after you get your medal as well, just without the backdrop.)
Finally, you have the option to head through gEAR check to pick up your bag or turn directly into the family reunion area, where you can also get a massage ($1 per minute in 5-minute increments up to 20 minutes, which I have now made a personal staple) or have your medal engraved (usually $20, cash only, or you can prepay at the expo and get express service).
Speaking of that medal, the 10K medal last year was a HUGE shiny Stormtrooper medal, one of my favorite medals I’ve ever gotten. This year’s is also going to be amazing — a big ol’ X-Wing.
I like to head for Starbucks to watch and cheer for the final finishers, which are often truly inspiring. For the Disneyland 10K, it was a pair of military amputees. There are also plenty of great breakfast options in Downtown Disney if that snackbox didn’t do it for you.
May the course be with you!