On Friday, April 5th, I was awake at 2:50 am, a bit earlier before my alarm that was set for 3:00 am. Historically, I always seem to wake up early before an event—I think I have subconscious anxiety where I’m afraid that I won’t get up in time.
This was a big day for us to be sure: my son, my brother, and I were all set to race in our first 5K at Disney’s Star Wars Rival Run Weekend. None of us had entered a race of any kind before. Since we all love Star Wars, we figured what better race to get started?
At 3:30 am we were on our way to the Epcot parking lot, where we were told we had to be at by 4:30. With light traffic, we ended up arriving by 4:00, where we were greeted by throngs of people, not to mention several lines to take photos with characters. We picked one of the shorter lines (about 20 minutes), which happened to be for BB8.
We made a quick pit-stop at the bathrooms (the event had several porta-potties in good shape), then headed to our designated corral. There were three corrals total, marked A-C, with the assignment on our racing bibs we picked up the day before. My son and I were supposed to take off from Corral A, but my brother was assigned to C. I didn’t realize this ahead of time, but your assigned corral is all based off what your estimated timing would be when you initially signed up for the race. Still, we all wanted to go together—the staff told us we could all go to a lower corral, but my brother couldn’t go with us to Corral A. So, we all happily made our way over to Corral C and waited for the race to get started.
As we waited for the race to get started, there was a mixture of anxiety and excitement in the air. The in-house DJ played music while the event staff went over some of the rules. We would start the race nine people at a time, starting with Corral A.
Or so that was the plan, anyway.
Just a few minutes before the race, the announcer stated that there was a thunderstorm headed our way, and we needed to follow event staff to a designated “evacuation area” immediately. In turns out that in the middle of all the excitement, throngs of tour buses had shown up to the race area to be on stand-by just in case the weather went bad. The result was a confused and disappointed dash to the buses, many of which filled up right away. It was all reminiscent of the bus scene from 1998’s Deep Impact movie.
We made the best of our evacuation to the buses, where people grew increasingly agitated about the weather. Sure, I understood some of the concerns, including “now I won’t be warmed up properly,” “I’m going to fall asleep,” or “I have to get to work after this.” But, it’s also important to understand that, as ubiquitous as the Disney brand is, they cannot control the weather. Thus, if there is lightning in the area, it would be greatly irresponsible to put everyone in harm’s way.
As the storm went through, we were told around 7:00 that the race was set to begin at 7:15. Instead of the original plan of letting us go in waves, we were told we had to all go at once for time’s sake. Though this made for a crowded playing field so to speak, we were excited to get going.
Once the race officially started, it was still raining steadily. While it made some of the ground conditions a bit challenging, such as puddles and such, the constant drizzle was admittedly refreshing. Due to a recent foot injury, I was skeptical about running the whole thing, but my fast-paced walk still made the time (even though the late start prevented us from getting official times anyway).
As an added bonus, it was fun seeing Epcot in this way for the first time. The Festival of Flowers was also going on, which I’d never been to before. In a way, this was like a 2-in-1 event. We passed by a few characters we decided not to stop for. One of our favorite parts of the race was the Star Wars film music playing throughout the park, as it added to the drama of the moment. In the end, this was my first time participating in an official race. Though things didn’t go quite as expected with the weather, this was out of our control and I don’t knock the event staff one bit. Also, to compensate for the lack of time, every participant earned the finisher medal.
Would I do the race again? You bet! We may even sign up for the 10K next time around. As Disney is just a short drive for us in Georgia, I definitely recommend area runners make the trip to participate in the Star Wars Rival Weekend, especially if you’re a fan of Star Wars.
The signups are going to be a bit earlier this year, starting on July 16th. And, if you can’t make the journey to Florida, you can always participate in a virtual race. 2020’s Star Wars racing weekend schedule is as follows:
- 5K: April 17th, 2020
- 10K: April 18th, 2020
- Half Marathon: April 19th, 2020
If you’re interested in doing all three, check out information about the Rival Run Challenge here.
Happy running in Georgia and beyond, my friends! (And may the force be with you!)