Star Wars – The Dark Side Weekend 2018

Star Wars Dark Side Weekend 2018 Medals

As most of you know, I opted not to do the Dark Side Weekend this year. It just didn’t work in to my race/travel schedule, but both Star Wars race weekends are still on my list. Hopefully they will bring races back to Disneyland, and I’ll be able to do the Kessel Run challenge (without part of it being virtual). A big thanks to fellow Disney-nut (and runDisney veteran!) Michelle Malchaski, for filling in for me on this one. Take it away, Michelle!

This is my 10th RunDisney race so I feel I am pretty familiar with how everything should go. Let’s start with packet pickup, which is located at ESPN Sports. Like always, you go in one building for bib picture (if you do the challenge runs) and packet pick-up. Then walk to another building which has the other fun running stuff such as clothing, shoes, socks, and other running gear. This is the same building where you get your race shirts. Then, one last building for the official Run Disney merchandise. This is the same set up they used at Princess this year, and it seriously is the best thing ever!! So much more room, and more stuff! I think Disney finally received enough complaints about stuff being sold out on the first day of the expo when people would purchase 20 of everything and re-sell it on eBay. Plus it’s a much bigger space so no need to wait in mile-long lines to check out or even be able to get in to look around. I went to the official runDisney area around 3 pm on the first day of the expo and had no lines to wait in! It was great! I was able to purchase everything I wanted, such as a Tervis cup and BB8 figurine. This set up is Disney’s best idea yet!

Race days: My husband Michael and I signed up for the 5k and the First Order Challenge. First up was the 5k. We proceeded to the bus stop at Carribean Beach resort around 3-3:30 am. Luckily we didn’t have to wait too long. We arrived at the runner’s area, and it was Epcot like always. This time where the stage is, Disney set up character picture stops. There were characters such as BB8, Darth Vader, Kylo Ren, Captain Phasma and Jabba the Hut. Since it was 5k day we stood in line to take a few pictures.

Michelle and Michael Malchaski with Jabba the Hut
Michelle and Michael with the infamous “Jabba”!

As many people do, we walked the 5k because it’s not timed, and we planned to run the next two days. On this course, I felt like there where way more picture/character stops and just more opportunities for pictures in general! It was great! It was a very fun race!

On 10k day a friend of mine joined my husband and I on her first runDisney race! She did not stay on property, but at a nearby hotel. She had a car come pick us up to take us to the start so we would find each other more easily. Once we arrived at the Epcot parking lot, aka “the start of every Disney race for the past few years”, it was kind of empty. Not as crowded as usual. I’m thinking, “dang we must be real early!” We keep walking towards where the characters were the day before, and well, they aren’t there. Now we aren’t the only ones there, but seriously not that many people. My husband notices people getting on buses. At this point, I am trying to keep my cool because everything I told my friend about a Disney race and how we start is not true. So we proceed to the bus and sure enough, it’s buses for runners to go to the start line! I am just so confused at this point. My friend then tells me the reason why she kept asking me are you sure we go to Epcot was because she saw somewhere that the race started at Magic Kingdom! I was like, “i had no idea” (obviously, I didn’t pay attention to the race guide or course map). So 20’ish minutes later we get to the Magic Kingdom parking lot where there are tons of people. We get through security and bam, there’s the characters and potties, etc! I was still confused as to why Disney did this and also worried about the course itself, because at this point it could have changed as well. We proceeded to the line up of corrals, to find our spots in corral E. The corrals are set up differently now, we are all side by side each corral. The metal gates divide us, volunteers check our bibs. Disney has now come up with mini waves. So you may be in corral C, but you may also have 4 mini waves inside that corral. I think there was about 2 minutes between waves for the 10k. Honestly, I’m not sure because I was still in panic mode. The course for the 10k went through Epcot and Hollywood studios. It had a ton of character stops, even stops where you could take a selfie with some of them. It was the usual ending… medal, drinks, picture, and food box. It was a good race with nice weather!

For the half, once again I just didn’t know what to expect. I again didn’t read the race guide but did look at the course map, and yup we start at the Magic Kingdom parking lot again! I still am not sure why runDisney did this! The set up is the same as the 10k. Character pictures, gear check, potties, and line up. Corrals were also the same, they had it to where no one could jump from one corral to another. This has been an issue in the past. People from the back jumped across to a closer corral. With this setup and not so big an opening to go into,  it would have been hard to move up if someone tried.

I was nervous about the course again because I had no idea exactly where it was leading to. The half went through Hollywood studios, Epcot, and Animal Kingdom. It was a lot like the full marathon course, minus Magic Kindgom. Again there was a good amount of characters, the same as from the 10k. All in all the course, for the most part, was good minus the little bottleneck spots heading towards Swan and Dolphin resorts but as a runDisney vet, I was used to it.

Pros: when we ran through Animal Kingdom we went through Pandora! That was short but so cool since I haven’t seen that part of AK yet. I did like the corral set up because it would make me so mad to see people from the last corral jump ahead to where they are not supposed to be.

Cons: it really did put me in a panic that the entire set up had changed and I saw no one talk about it on Facebook!! I guess I was living in a dream world!? Gear check was a little worrisome. Since we started at MK and ended at Epcot they would take your gear and put it in carts and take it from MK to Epcot. I did not check my stuff in because I was worried about something being damaged (eg, previous race medals) or my stuff getting lost or put in the wrong place. Still no port-a-potties in the corrals (they really should do that). The line for the potty was 30 mins plus! They did have volunteers help guide us to open ones to help speed the process but the lines were still long! We did not run through Magic Kingdom at all… period…  no Castle… nada. That wasn’t cool, but at the same time, it probably needed to be cut out because people would stop at the entrance of the castle causing major congestion and safety issues (people falling).

All in all, runDisney has improved and I feel like they are listening to us runners. The course was nice even without MK, and I still enjoyed it!

Thanks again for the great recap, Michelle! As for another Disney race… I know I speak for both of us when I say, “See you real soon!”