by Disney Magic Diva and Matt
If you’ve participated in or read about runDisney races, you’ve probably heard about the Coast to Coast Challenge. It’s a special medal you receive if you complete a half marathon at both Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort in the same calendar year. (Here’s my story on earning it!) But did you know there was a special challenge medal available to Star Wars fans who complete both the Light Side Half Marathon in Disneyland and the Dark Side Half Marathon in Disney World? It’s called, appropriately, the Kessel Run Challenge, and my Star Wars obsessed son, Matt, knew he had to add it to his runDisney medal collection. So in January, our family traveled to Disneyland to chEAR him on in the Light Side race, and in April we will be traveling to Orlando to do the same as he completes the Dark Side Half Marathon and earns the Kessel Run Challenge medal.
Are you considering challenging yourself to see if you can complete the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs? Want to know what to expect? Here’s Matt’s review of the Light Side Half Marathon:
You know how Han Solo just seems to do everything by the seat of his pants? Take an old-timer and a farm boy on a trip halfway across the galaxy? No sweat. Hide from Imperial scanning crews? He’s got a place for that. Rescue a Princess? No way, he’s staying put. Wait, how much money? What are we waiting for?!
That philosophy might have worked for Han as he battled the Empire, but don’t do a half marathon like that. Even when you are dressing up as Han Solo. You can find great reviews from Run Diva and Military Diva on preparing for runDisney races. I highly recommend them. As I said, you and I are not Han Solo, so don’t think you can show up and Chewie’s bowcaster will save you. In January I took my first steps on the path to the Kessel Run Challenge Medal. And just like Han would be, I’m in it for the Medal.
What did I love about the race weekend?
The crowd! When dedicated runners have a race day coming up, they would run even if it was 10º F. They know and appreciate the importance of training, even when running conditions are less than ideal. But the crowd makes the difference between a race day and a training run. Whatever the weather, race day is fun! My personal favorite was my own ChEAR Squad, consisting of Disney Magic Diva, my dad, brother, brother’s girlfriend (also a runner, but she opted to sleep in!), sister, brother-in-law, two nieces, and nephew. (Read Disney Magic Diva’s article here.) Seeing smiles that are there just for you gives you that extra burst of speed. If you know a runner, yell out. But a ChEAR Squad isn’t required for runners, because everyone there is cheering for you as a group and individually.
High School bands, cheer squads, and dance teams lined the route to keep us going in seemingly never-ending straightaways. Lots of them love giving out high fives. Get close and stick-up your hand – odds are they will too.
The 501st Legion, Rebel Legion, and Mandalorian Mercs. These are the Star Wars cosplayers everyone is in awe of. They lined up right before mile marker 9 and are thrilled to take pictures with you, or just cheer you on. Give them a hoot, holler, or high five — they’ll pay it back tenfold. They are the elite of Star War fandom and my favorite non-family stop in this race.
Things I could take or leave were the lines, lines, and lines. There are up and downside to race weekends, and one of the downsides is waiting for everything. Want to buy exclusive race weekend merchandise? Be ready to wait an hour or more. Want to get started on your race? That’s an hour in the corral. Want some sweet New Balance runDisney shoes? That’s a virtual queue, or wait in standby.
Here’s the upside to lines: the fans. Just like any of the big rides at Disney Parks you need to bring your patience. But while you may feel uncomfortable talking to the people in front or behind you in the parks, at a Race Expo or corral most people are happy to talk with you. I made some great friends (“New York aka The Cutters,” “South Dakota aka The Winter Woman,” “SoCal aka The Pro Runners”) while waiting in a ballroom for the Expo Merchandise. I kept running into them in the parks too! It was great fun shouting out to each other on the course as well.
As fun as all that was, two moments stand out to me as the peak emotion of the weekend. First was standing in the corrals and having everyone corral G – J hold up their cell phones with lights on. While not officially mentioned as such, it felt like a great tribute to our departed Princess, Carrie Fisher. Second was running through Sleeping Beauty’s castle. Two years ago this wasn’t a part of the course, so approaching it this time was magical. I had to pull out my phone and get some selfies going through.
This is only half of my journey. I’m back to my home park, Walt Disney World, in April to run the Star Wars Dark Side Challenge. I’m looking forward to my first 5k with both my parents on Friday, and first weekend where I collect EVERY. SINGLE. MEDAL. 5k, 10k, Half, Challenge, and Kessel Run. I may even get lucky and pick-up Coast-to-Coast if they are giving them to those who did Kessel Run as well! So stay tuned for my review in a few months after I pick up all that bling.
Like I said, I’m in it for the medal.
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