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Star Wars The Dark Side Half Marathon Recap

Star Wars The Dark Side Half Marathon…

13043727_10154044665041788_450721686740233485_nThe name alone should tell you why I originally signed up for this race. I’m a geek girl at heart and almost every man I have ever dated was a Star Wars geek. This half marathon was sure to help me get my nerd on and really who could resist running in an event that allows you to dress up in a Star Wars running costume.

I’m not going to call myself a RunDisney veteran, but I have run quite a few RunDisney races in the last two years of my post weight loss journey. My first RunDisney event was the Tinker Bell Half Marathon in 2014, I ran the Wine and Dine Half Marathon in 2014 as well. In 2015 I repeated both of those events to achieve another Coast to Coast Medal. This year, I participated in the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend and completed the Dopey Challenge running a total of 48.6 miles in four days.

12994472_10154044665071788_9019052707649389380_nI had very high expectations of the Star Wars The Dark Side Half Marathon. I expected it to be one of the best half marathons I have ever participated in. I expected it to be even more amazing than any RunDisney event I had done so far and regretfully I have to say that I was a little disappointed.

Things seemed really unorganized to me this time around which is not something I am used to feeling at a RunDisney event. With as much as we pay to participate in these events I just expect them to seem almost flawlessly organized. When I am dropping nearly $400 in registration fees for the privilege of running for two days in a challenge event I have a few set expectations.

I expect the characters that are available for photos to be there for photo ops both at the before and after gatherings. Many people were upset about how quickly the characters had gone inside the morning of the 10K and the morning of the Half. We were able to get quite a few photos after the half on Sunday morning. But I really felt like we got lucky. We got everything in RIGHT before the lines closed. There was a lot of pressure to try to get those photo ops and that’s not a good feeling when you are at an event that is supposed to be fun.

I expect the opportunity to run by all the characters that are on the route and take a picture of them. I’m not saying I expect the lines to stay open and that I expect the ability to stop and pose with each character. If I am not a fast enough runner that I can afford to spend the time on stopping and standing in line to take a photo with a character without jeopardizing making the required pace time I understand that. Close the lines once it is too late to take photos. But I do expect that the characters are out there and I am able to take a photo as I run by. Pulling the characters off of the route early seemed awful unfair to me.

I was running with a friend that was an absolute Star Wars nerd. This wasn’t his first RunDisney event, he ran the 10K part of the Dopey Challenge with me back in January. But it was his first RunDisney half marathon and he was very excited about the photos of characters. We were counting on the fact that even though he might be very close to pace time, I had the ability to run ahead, snap a photo and then fall back into the crowd with him. But by the time the latter corrals got there, lots of the characters had already been removed from the route.

I ran the 10k that was held on Saturday by myself. My very dear friend Carrie Zavitz was running it as well but she wanted to run solo. So we started together and then planned to meet at the finish line. For me  this meant running at my pace rather than that of whoever I am running with. I had an overall time of 1:23:00 and managed to get a photo of every character that was there and stop in several places to snap a quick selfie with a few of the characters that were standing around.

I expect to be able to get a beer at the finish line. — Lot’s of runners feel the same way. I promise, there was a lot of complaining at the finish line when there was no beer available. Apparently we were suddenly in county where we were not allowed alcohol before 11:30am on a Sunday. — I’m not sure when this rule suddenly changed because I know that when running the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend just a few months ago there was plenty of beer available after the morning runs. The only thing I can guess is that somehow finishing the race at ESPN Wide World of Sports instead of at Epcot changed the rules somehow?

The Dark Side Half Marathon race route was different to say the least. There were some things that I really didn’t love about it. The slanted road was hard for a lot of people to deal with. Luckily I had experienced this part of the road during other races and knew to stay to the left where it was a little more flat. The dirt road leading us back into EPSN wasn’t great either.

I think the most disappointing thing to me though was the lack of energy that I felt at this event. RunDisney events are usually packed with people dressing up in cool costumes to run and have this amazing energy to them that just makes you want to keep coming back for more. I really didn’t see THAT many people dressed up this year and the overall energy to the crowd was a bit dismal.

13007136_10154044623781788_6617418167074683873_nWhether everyone else was dressed in a themed outfit or not, I was. I love dressing up for runs. I rocked a cut little Storm Trooper costume for the 10k and a cute little R2D2 outfit for the half marathon. I have to give a big shout out to my sole-sister, running buddy and dear friend Ronda Rhodes for making sure that our costumes were amazing. If it had not been for her and her amazing last-minute sewing and alteration skills I wouldn’t have looked nearly as cute as I did out there.

My best friend, partner in crime and the first guy I have ever coached and taken to run a half marathon beside me, Jeff Newell, of matched my R2D2 costume with a Storm Trooper outfit that required he stay on my right hand side the entire time we were running with “I’ve found the droid I’ve been looking for” written on the back with an arrow pointing to the left. We got lots of compliments on our outfits along the route that day.

IMG_5538I think Jeff will be telling a story for years to come about how I had gotten a little ahead of him and suddenly there was another girl running next to him. She was dressed as C3P0 and she had run up  beside him so that her friend could take a picture of her running next to him and said “It looks like I am your new droid.” Her and her friends that were dressed as BB8 and R2D2 took turns getting their photos with his shirt and then ran off.

This is my third time now taking someone through an online and long distance 20 week training program that leads them to a RunDisney Half Marathon – I learn something new as a coach every time I do this. This time I had the ability to make sure that the person I was training had some opportunities to run with me during the 20 week training leading up to the event. Jeff ran his first 10k with me back in October when he was visiting Raleigh NC for the Obesity Help Convention and then he was able to run with me in December, January, February and March during my trips to Boston and when he ran the 10k next to me during the Disney World Marathon Weekend.

As a coach this was a big advantage to me. I knew his patterns, I had run with him a couple of times so I knew the difference between him losing steam and him truly needing to slow down. It was easier for me to tell the difference between a mental struggle and a physical struggle and to know when I could push him and when I couldn’t.

IMG_5869Jeff was dressed as a Storm Trooper when we crossed the finish line and I have to give this man a lot of credit because he had been quite a Trooper through his training. Our training schedule ran from the end of November through April and in January he had experienced a major set back when he had to have emergency surgery to fix an intestinal blockage. It is not easy to get benched in the middle of a training program, spend weeks recovering before you can exercise again and then rebuild your cardio stamina back in time to complete an endurance event like a half marathon.  I give him a lot of credit for coming off the bench and running not one but two half marathons within three months.

I may have ran the Star Wars The Dark Side Half Marathon at his pace instead of mine, but I have no doubt that someday he’ll be running a pace slower than his next to me. Of course that’s only because those long legs of his are going to give him a much bigger stride than mine.

I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do come October when it’s time to run the Jazz Half in New Orleans where I’m leading a group of my friends in the WLS community in to their first half marathon. But I have a few half marathons to run before then so I am sure I’ll be seeing you for another race re-cap soon. Plus I have another blog to write to tell you all about the milestone I hit in my weight loss journey during the Star Wars The Dark Side Half Marathon. I’m going to save that for another day though. But until we talk again… get out there, get moving and find your happy pace slender seekers.


Pandora Williams author of Desperately Seeking Slender is a  Cooper Approved Wellness Coach Trained in Weight Management Strategies and Motivational Speaker studying to become a Certified Personal Trainer.

A PR at the #BIGASSMEDALS Series : Race Recap


Last Saturday I had the privilege of running in the Run Oak Island event, the first of four events in the Big Ass Medal series that I wrote about last week.

Let me first clarify why I say privilege. The ability to run is not something that is granted to everyone. There are many out there that for whatever reason are limited in the activity that they can participate in. As someone who has the disease of obesity, there was a time that my disease prevented me from being able to run.

Now, as someone who is in recovery from obesity every time I am out there running at event I remember a day when my body was physically incapable of doing so and for that reason alone any running event I participate in is a privilege to me.

So let’s talk about this event. The most important thing first…I broke a personal record and ran my fastest half marathon ever by completing the 13.1 miles in 2 hours 24 minutes and 18 seconds. As a runner, achieving a new personal record is always an accomplishment and the best part is that to achieve one the only person you ever have to compete with is yourself.

I attribute this personal record to a few things. First of all the race route itself was extremely flat. There were not a lot of hills to deal with and that always makes for a much faster time. The one or two hills we did have were not monumental. The only time I saw my time coming down due to a hill was when we were coming up and over a bridge just in time to come down, turn around and go up and over the bridge again between mile nine and mile ten. Those two inclines did cause me to pull one of the slowest split times I got that day with an 11 minute and 59 second mile.

The overall environment of the route was pretty. It was a gorgeous beach town run through Oak Island and I definitely want to go back and see more of the town in the summer. The mile markers were consistent and visible and that’s always a big plus because you want to know each mile that you accomplish.

As scenic and beautiful as it was it was, nothing was going to distract from the fact that it was 29 degrees outside and one of the coldest races I have ever ran. I was wearing a top and bottom base layer, my favorite RawThreads bamboo hoodie, a long sports jacket over that and I had on a pair of gloves and three, yes three, layers on my head: a base layer, a knit hoodie and a ball cap. Until mile 5 I carried 2 hand warmers in each of my hands trying to keep my fingers from hurting and feeling numb.

BigAssMedalMoral of the story: I am not really a cold weather runner but there is little I won’t do for a really bad ass big ass medal.

The medal by far made the event worth it. It is one of the coolest and biggest medals I have added to my collection and I really hope that I will be able to collect all four of them.

When I stopped by to see Johnna Terragna with Coast Race Productions after the race and introduce myself she told me that they had also decided that since there might have been some people who couldn’t make it to this event that would regret missing the first medal they were going to open up the option of doing a virtual run to get it.

This is a great opportunity! Whether you hadn’t heard about the series or you are someone like me who really wasn’t made to run in temperatures below 50 and opted to stay in bed that day instead, you can still get the first medal in the series by running 13.1 miles on your own another day and submitting your time. That means it’s not too late to start your #BigAssMedal collection! You can do this first race virtually if you missed it and then run the other three later this year.

Because my dear running friend Ronda Rhodes owns a construction company and is familiar with the costs involved in dumping the porta-potties that they have to put on job sites, it was a little disheartening to see all of the runners using job site porta-potties that day. I’ll say two things about that – first, as runners we are not entitled to just use whatever we run across. If it’s not intended for us to use we shouldn’t use it. Second, I think that for a 13.1 mile distance the race event needs to make sure that a couple of the water stations have porta-potties for those that need to use them.

Ronda and I made it through the entire race without having to stop to use a porta-john, which is a first for me. I am confident that is one of the reasons that I was able to shave so much time off my personal record.

I can’t really say much about the after party other than I was grateful for a cold beer and a piece of warm pizza to pick the cheese and pepperoni off when I got there because and both tasted better than words can describe. The first thing I eat after running a long distance always tastes like the most amazing thing I have ever had. “Oh my gosh this is the best pizza EVER.” 

I didn’t stay at the after party long because it was still cold enough that more than anything I wanted to get in the car and turn the heated seats on.

I’m really grateful for a nice flat terrain run that allowed me to push for a personal record, for the beautiful scenery that I got to take in and for the exposure to a town I never would have known I wanted to spend more time in.  


But if I had to thank Coast Race Production for just one thing it would definitely be the medal. The medal alone inspires me to want to run the other three races and knowing that it will be a lot warmer in June has me really excited about participating in Run Sunset Beach on May 21!


Pandora Williams author of Desperately Seeking Slender is a  Cooper Approved Wellness Coach Trained in Weight Management Strategies and Motivational Speaker studying to become a Certified Personal Trainer.
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Author: Pandora Williams

Author of Desperately Seeking Slender

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