Star Wars Darkside Half Marathon 2018

Star Wars Darkside Half Marathon 2018

This race is one of the few “one-ways” that Disney does throughout the year. The majority of them are loops for the most part. basically beginning and ending in the same general area. On these, if you are driving, you’ll park at Epcot and bus over to the start near Magic Kingdom. Remember to build in some extra time when you attend of these races.

It’s always nice to see the WDW Radio Running Team to start your morning out right!


I was looking forward to this race mainly because Jeff and Barb were going to run with me and it had been so long since we got a race in together. They are truly a joy to hang out with and I was going to appreciate the company on this very hot run.



There were not many photographers out all on the first half of the course and to make matters worse, the sewage treatment plant was in rare form that morning. I stand in awe of the volunteers that help out in that area. Getting to run through Pandora for the first time was fun though and then it was off to race the sun up.


Once we hit Hollywood Studios it was a different story. There were photographers everywhere! We try so hard to get group pics but they rarely come out. I can’t really blame the photographers. They are taking a million pictures and its hard to tell who is solo and who is together most of the time. We did get a few group ones in Studios.



We tried again in Epcot was another good group of photographers.


Barb and I started calling out that we were together to get a good group shot. He took perfect shots of Jeff and I…… poor Barb in the middle was left out!

The next guy got us though!


It was a very hot and humid run that day. Even still, it went by too fast with these great people. Afterward, we got our medals, took our finisher shot and headed back to get cleaned up.


I celebrated the run by visiting Animal Kingdom for its 20th Anniversary. It was great to see some friends, take some pics and enjoy some food before flying out that day.



Next Up: Peachtree Roadrace!




Star Wars Half Marathon Expo & 10K 2018

Star Wars Half Marathon Expo & 10K 2018

I love Star Wars. I would do movie marathons as a kid and watch all three of the originals back to back during summer days. I wanted to be Luke Skywalker. I don’t know if I had unrealistic expectations for this series, with all of its potential, but after doing it for the last three years, I’m not as disappointed anymore. I really don’t expect much from there series.


I think there are a few key things to manage on your expectations when doing this series.

  • You won’t get to meet a ton of Disney owned characters. Typically the race will bring in different characters for each race. With Star Wars Weekends being previously held at Hollywood Studios, you’d think they’d take advantage of their depth of options. You’ll see the exact same characters regardless if you do the 5K, 10K or Half marathon. They do let the 501st come out for the 10K and the Half. While neat, it’s not quite the same.
  • The medals for some reason aren’t as inspired and certainly not as original as other series. Case in point, I found the medal design from last year’s Half taken from the logo on my son’s coloring book. No joke!
  • It’s always been the hottest race of all the WDW races. Its seems to be much more brutal on the Half.

The Expo

I will say after three the last three series fo transitioning to the new building, they’ve got the expo figured out and it so much better. You no longer wait out in the elements for hours on end. There is plenty of room to shop, the checkout line moves quicker and the whole experience is better. They took the success at Disneyland and scaled it up. The room also has given them the space to really showcase some displays and show off the exclusive merch. Ive throughly enjoyed the changes that Run Disney have made.



At this point the statues have become a thing. It was first introduced for the 25th anniversary of the Marathon in January. Then a 10th anniversary statue came out for the Princess weekend in February. These were pretty cool, but I had to pass so I wouldn’t turn into a collector of them.


As always, it was great to see Jeff and Barb. We talked about Boston and planned to getting together to run the Half together.

In the past the Photopass people had an exclusive booth set up to do a nice shot of you. They recently moved away from this and have replaced it with either characters or special backdrops. Be sure to get your pic. Its the only time that you will see it!




The 10K

I was excited to run with Nick, who was completing his first 10K. Its fun and rewarding to see the younger members of our team grow and do more and longer races. They are certainly braver than I was at that age!  It was also great to see Frank out running again. He had been recovering from a knee injury and this was the first one where he was fully back to running.


I’m not sure why i’m the only one soaking wet. It was out hot out there!

Congrats to Nick on his first 10K and to Frank for getting back healthy!


Next Up: Star Wars Half Marathon





Star Wars Darkside Half Marathon 2017 Recap

Star Wars Darkside Half Marathon 2017 Recap


Pre Race

The hip was holding somewhat steady from the 10K yesterday, but I was still a little anxious. It was also back to team running. If you’ve never done a Disney Race with a team, I would highly suggest it. It’s a totally different experience than running solo.  Here are my two highest recommended options:

  • WDW RADIO RUNNING TEAM This team has over 500 members from all over the world. All skill levels, ages and experience are welcome. You’ll likely find, and can run with, someone that is exactly like you. This group is highly social with a facebook page, meet-ups and park time gatherings.


  • JEFF GALLOWAY PACE GROUP  These are more loosely affiliated in that you run with people that have the same time goal as you. They don’t have the social aspect, but it’s a good way to meet others on the course. This is a run walk group and the benefits of doing a race this way are plentiful. You can sign up for these groups for free by signing up at Jeff’s table at the expo. You can also jump in to a group if you see them out on the course.


Race Morning

I got there super early again. They were busing people from the end to the start so you just never know if there is going to be a logistical glitch. Transportation went off without a hitch and we got some more characters.

Rub Jabbas belly for good luck!

We still had quite a bit of time left so many of us sprawled out on the parking lot as the time passed. You had to get up earlier than usual for these races because of the shuttle situation.


It was finally race time and everyone parted ways. It’s always a bittersweet moment. I’m ready to go to the corral, but I know I’m going to miss my team in the months between races.

They did a great job getting everyone out in a timely manner and went all out on the fireworks for each start. I link up with Jeff and Barb and we start doing our thing. A lot of people normally stop us for pics with Jeff, but we did a 5K without being stopped once. I realized later that it was because the course was so dark and they couldn’t see him. It definitely paid off to bring a lightsaber with you on the front part of the course.

RunDisney did use the darkness to their advantage. On one of the stretches they set up a simulated battle on Endor with lasers, sound effects, fire plumes and smoke.  It was really impressive use of the environment. At the end of the battle were the Ewoks, alive and well, for photos.

They did miss out on another environment opportunity. They had a trash compacter photo op on the course. It would have worked perfectly right in the middle of the water treatment plant. I mean you might as well embrace it!

Animal Kingdom was beautiful as the sun came up, although I forgot to get pictures until the end.

The London Marathon was also this day, so we took a moment to send some encouraging words over to them. I thought it was really neat that we are connected through our team and can run races (And encourage each other) at the same time across the world.

This is what your photos look like when your phone is covered in sweat.

It was really hot….like really  really hot. My sweat was sweating kind of hot. At this point the sun was out good and we were running right at it. I had to stop at the medical station just to get some paper towels to wipe ourselves down.  People were now recognizing Jeff so he was having fun letting us get ahead and then catching back up to us. We were also cheering on the Galloway pacers as they came through. I believe two groups caught us before we made it to Hollywood Studios.


What do you do when Jeff is making a pit stop? Do a character stop, of course!

Kudos to Disney for having a ton of water stops out there on the hot course. You didn’t go very far without a chance to refuel.

We had unofficial roles in our run. Jeff kept up with our intervals, Barb set our speed and I was the lookout for the photopass people. It worked beautifully once we hit the second park.


We remembered from previous races and seeing the photographers today that it was going to be tough getting a picture with all three of us in it. I can’t totally blame the photographers. Imagine yourself in a little green tent looking through a view finder for three hours as thousands of people run right at you.  You are just going to shoot as many pictures as you can get and it would be hard to discern who was with who unless it was blatantly obvious.

We started trying to make it obvious. We talked about locking arms at one point to make sure we got at least one photo of us together!


We really do have a a great time when we run together. We laugh, joke, I get to hear so many crazy and funny stories about the Galloway’s past running adventures, and I’ll usually be the hype man when we are going through a group of people cheering. We also have a great time cheering on those on the course.

Speaking of cheering, we had hit the boardwalk. It’s the golden standard in my team’s cheer group. I think the bakery and ample seating here might have something to do with it! We stopped and snagged a picture with both groups together. I absolutely love this picture. It represents so many friendships that I hold very dear. The coolest part? I didn’t know any of these people before running with Disney. It really does bring people together.

We made the turn in to Epcot and several cast members from the different countries were out cheering. It was so fun to see them out! There were also photographers galore, so we squeezed and hit as many pockets as we could.

Got one!


It wasn’t long before we were crossing the finish line. It was another great race that went by quick because of the company I was honored to run with. I love the picture below. It was another bittersweet moment. Since I’m not doing any other West Coast Races this year, the next time we will connect on the course will be their race weekend back home in Atlanta.

Other thoughts

  • The course was much better this year over last year.
  • Bummed I missed Carissa both races.
  • To the little boy who smoked us at mile 9…you are awesome sir.
  • To the very hairy man in only a speedo. I salute your bravery.


A runner told me afterwards that they were disappointed about the lack of character changes between races. I was disappointed last year as well because I was expecting more. Here are the races that rarely change out or add additional characters over the weekend.

  • Star Wars Lightside
  • Star Wars Darkside
  • Tinkerbell
  • Avengers


See you out on the course.


Star Wars Darkside 10k Recap 2017

Star Wars Darkside 10k Recap 2017

Star Wars Darkside 10K Recap 2017


Decisions, Decisions

I was looking forward to this race for quite a while. I knew there was a very low likelihood that I needed any of the characters on the course, so that opened up a new option. Start dead last and see how many people you can pass.

The Dead Last Challenge is played in several running circuits. The idea is to see how many “roadkills” you can rack up during the race. The term roadkill came from ultra distance relay races, where runners would clock their “kills” against each other as a friendly team competition. The term made it’s way in to the main stream running community and even elite runners will get in on the act from time to time.

I was still teetering on doing it or not because I was recovering from running a 24HR race two weeks before with very little training and a messed up hip. Not exactly conditions you want to be dealing with when taking on a speed challenge!

I decided the day of the expo and told Barb about it as a way to keep me accountable to actually doing it. She was very encouraging and told me that her and Jeff had actually done that a couple of times at their past races.  I was officially committed to it now!


Race Morning

I got there super early and was actually a little bit anxious about a race for the first time in a long time. Usually it’s the excited feeling after the wake up. After completing 34 other Disney races, I found something that I had lost at these races: the fear of the unknown.

I link up with my team, we do some of the characters and then it’s off to the corrals. The volunteer checking bibs in F really didn’t want to let me in and thought I was wasting my bib. I assured her that I knew I was in the “incorrect” coral, and that it was going to be a fun race this morning.

The empty space is my corral. All those people are the edge of E coral.

It was spacious and quiet which was real nice. I was still trying to get mentally prepared for the run and I was seriously concerned for my hip. I knew it would make it through this race, but I also had the half marathon to run the next day.

Soon the ballon ladies showed up. We immediately hit it off. They were so much fun! I became the impromptu photopass guy and hype man for people wanting to get a picture with them. It was fun to encourage the ones that were worried and others that were excited for their first Disney race.

I also learned some things about the ladies. I didn’t know if it was a volunteer thing, runDisney picked, or cast members that get to be the balloon people. It turns out these ladies have been doing it consistently for many years on the east coast and are involved in training with the organization that helps put on the event for runDisney.  Mystery solved!

I was also surprised by how many people showed up at the last minute. Dozens of people were literally running down the corral to make it out as the back of the last group was getting going. Now that would be stressful!

Before we parted, the ladies asked what my goal was for the day.


“You’ll get that easy.” One said. I wasn’t as confident.

I let the ladies go out and I got shout outs from the podium…..that no one heard.


Deep Breath.

Time to do this.

I plug in the music and start getting after it. I had no real plan as far as pacing, I thought I would go faster at the beginning to buy me some time when the course tightens later on.

The first half was almost all in the grass on the side of the road. There were a couple of points where I was forced up on the road by a guardrail or other obstacle but it was pretty much like a trail 5k for the most part.  You would think that there would be a high amount of running into people, but it was actually pretty calm. I only ran into two people. One where a guy dead stopped in a water stop and another where someone went to a sudden walk break without signaling. Both were likely new, so I don’t blame them for the run-in.

I was pretty determined, but I still hit some good pockets for some pictures. Want to make sure you get some great shots at your Disney race? Check out this Proven Strategy on how to get some. I love how pocketing is becoming a thing at these races now.

This is the look on your face when you realize you now have to dodge planters, benches and trees in addition to people……

It got tough after Hollywood Studios. You travel through a very small paved trail from the park to the Boardwalk area. It squeezes and rails replace the margin on the side of the course. I know I hit my slowest time through this area. I could tell I was running into people that were tiring out, so I turned up the encouraging factor to those around me.

Once on the other side, and on to the boardwalk, I see a bunch of people with different bibs running right at me! Turns out one of the hotels put on a 5K and did’t communicate it with runDisney. Communication issues happen to the best of us.

I was glad to be on the boardwalk. It was a little cooler and I knew my cheer team was up ahead. I was wearing down quickly at this point. I connect with the group and see some of my team members up ahead….and a photographer. If I hustle I can pull a photobomb…..

Nailed it. They didn’t realize I was right beside them although they look great and I’m covered in skin tears.

We are finally in Epcot proper and it’s time to turn out what energy I have left. The course is nice and wide here so it was real easy to maneuver around.  I was able to find a couple of other small pockets and grab some more shots.

On the Outside: This is a great race! On the Inside: Release all the sweat. Hip: I hate you. I want a new owner.

I slowed down at the end to get the announcers attention that I had made it. They were super excited and supportive!


Well I ended up doing much better than I expected:

Goal 2,000


  • 6,929 Roadkill Count.  (Physically passed on the course. Thanks David!)
  • 2912 Virtual Passes. (I beat their time, but they started too far ahead to catch)
  • 9,841 total

There were 10,892 total runners. 

I added almost half a mile in distance from all the weaving.


Myths Busted:

  • You can’t run in the back.
  • You can’t have fun in the back.
  • The experience is not as good the further back you go. (F is actually no different in experience than C)


It turned out to be a really fun run and challenged me in a new way. I was thankful to have met so many great people before and after the event who wanted to connect about the challenge. In the end we were all out there doing the same thing; experiencing a race together and enjoying those around us.

For those interested in doing this at a Disney race, you can join the runDisneyrun group on facebook where David keeps track of your score. Search for the dead last start game. He does a great job!

If you are slower be encouraged. You are not missing out on anything from C coral and back. The only advantage in A & B is that there is more space and the character lines are shorter. Keep doing what you are doing. It’s more than most Americans are doing and we all hold the same medal in the end.


NEXT UP: The Darkside Half Recap (back with friends)





Tips on how to get great pictures at Run Disney events

Tips on how to get great pictures at Run Disney events

Tips on how to get great pictures at Run Disney events


Have you ever been to a Disney race hoping to get at least a couple of good pictures only to find later that none of them turned out like you hoped? Here’s a chance to learn from my mistakes and failures in getting that perfect shot. Follow these steps and you should get just what you are hoping for.

Tip 0.5

Do The Expo Pic

99% of the runners zip right past the photo booth at the expos. Each one gives you a fun interactive experience with a green screen. The one in Disney World is near the entrance to bib pickup. (It’s right by the stairs that you go down to sign the waivers.) It’s a regular exhibit at the Disneyland Expo. It’s usually near the edge that faces the DJ.  Both coasts experimented with video on the last races of 2016. The video is from Wine and Dine.


The Decision

Decide ahead of time what kind of pictures that you want and know your options.

  1. The Determined Runner
    1. Be focused, don’t look at camera
    2. Trust that they got you.
    3. You’ll look cooler than you actually are.
  2. The smile (and wave)
    1. It’s the classic.
    2. Higher success rate.
    3. Makes it look like you are having fun even if you are about to die. 
  3. The jump
    1. Lower success rate, especially if a bunch of runners are around you.
    2. If you are in the pocket (see tip 2) you may be able to pull it off easier.
  4. Funny
    1. Zero expectations
    2. If it turns out bad, it actually might be better.
    3. Great for character stops.

If I’m solo, I’ll usually do the front half determined and then switch it up the smile on the back half. If I’m running with friends, it’s either smile or funny.




The Pocket

Pocketing as I like to call it, is when you find pockets with little or no runners. Picture most often get ruined because there are a ton of people on top of each other with 25% of them jumping, 25% acting crazy/holding hands, 25% trying to get a normal picture  and 25% that don’t care.  Often times you’ll see the photographer up ahead before they snap your picture.  Look ahead and behind to find that pocket if possible. Sometimes you need to speed up and sometimes you actually need to slow down to get that perfect spot.


Here is a good example of seeing the pocket and speeding up just a bit to get a better shot. 

Here’s one where we actually slowed down. It looks like we are running the race by ourselves. 


Not pocketing gets you this….

It doesn’t have to be a big pocket either. It just needs to be enough so that the photographer is taking a couple of individual shots and not just group shots of the packs of people coming through. Here is an example of how even a small pocket can work in your favor.


The Dos

  1. Adjust and have great posture.
    1. Arched back, shoulders wide. Suck that gut in.
  2. Wear a costume if that is your thing.
    1. Much more likely to get attention from Run Disney
    2. Make sure you are comfortable running in it before hand.
  3. Stop for a character stop if it’s someone you’ve never seen before.
    1.  There may be a line, but that’s OK. You’ll do some pocketing later and still get great pics.
    2.  Very few people remember their race time, but all remember the experience.
    3. There are many rare characters that only come out for the races. You’ll never find some of these in the parks….ever. 
    4. Do the post race pic.
      1. They always will give you two pictures. One plain and one with the race logo.



The Don’ts

  1. If you are doing more than the 5k and get really sweaty, only wear black shorts. I’ve got too many pictures where it looks like I peed my pants. 
  2. If you are in a group, call out the cameras but don’t point them out. I cant seem to learn this lesson.  
  3.  Don’t carry your phone.

The majority of my pics have me carrying my phone. It’s because I usually try to get every character stop and some do not have Disney photographers at them. Some come out weird too so it’s a good backup. If you are in a group, have one person take the course pics and share them with everyone.


Follow these tips (and learn from my mistakes) and you’ll get some great shots out there.  If you’ve got any other tips of dos or don’ts for Disney race pics be sure to comment below. Now excuse me while I go and verify I have enough black shorts for my upcoming races.


Star Wars Half Marathon Recap 2016

Star Wars Half Marathon Recap 2016

Star Wars Half Marathon Recap 2016


The WDW Radio Running Team is genuinely one of the best things that I’ve encountered during my years of running. It’s a great group to be a part of because not only do you build relationships with people all over the country, but the team also raises money to send families dealing health issues to Disney World.

We have a philosophy of togetherness and support each other in our different running styles. Some of the team runs for time. (And have placed in the top spots before) Others like myself run fast so that we can get a bunch of pictures and character stops. Others run in groups for the social aspect and to support their friends on the course. In the end we all wear the Lou blue.


Today I was nearly certain that there were not going to be any characters that I needed, so I decided that I would enjoy the race with a group of my friends. I’d never run with a group before and was actually a little nervous that I would somehow slow them down. I ended up learning that there was a whole different experience that you can have at these races.

Off we went to conquer three parks and ESPN before breakfast. There wasn’t anything going on differently in Epcot and they had very few photographers out here for some reason. R2 and Chewbacca were still manning their spots on either end of the park. Most of the cheer squad from yesterday was either running or had other obligations, so it was up to Valerie to hold down the fort. She was awesome out there cheering the group on!

Next, it was on to Hollywood Studios where there were none of the 501st greeting us today.  They did have Kylo Ren talking on the stage and some good photographers out. I love the picture below. We were all in the zone evidently.  (I’m also a big Frank Hart fan!)



They did have the 501st tucked back in toward the exit of the park. This would be one of two areas that they were at.


By now, I had realized that I wasn’t going to sabotage the team on time and I was really enjoying being with the group. I had conversations that would have never of happened off the course about things only said on the course. I’ve never laughed so much at a race before for sure!

The sun was starting to break as we entered the backside of Animal Kingdom. I will say I have a genuine dislike for that parking lot. It’s brutal during the marathon and today there was even more of the course covered in this lot. It’s not hilly or extremely bad, but it always seems never-ending.


There were several good photo spots in the park this time.

PhotoPass_Visiting_runDisney_Walt_Disney_World_383063001151 (1)PhotoPass_Visiting_runDisney_Walt_Disney_World_383062682298



I did stop for one of the 501st groups. How could you not stop for an 8ft tall wookie?



One the way back to ESPN, I saw James on the other side. We yelled at each other and then he bolted over to do one this trademark selfies. I think he took 40 pictures and they illustrated the train wreck that happened when we all plowed in to each trying to stop for the picture. This is the best one right before some of us go down.



From here it was really just to push on to the finish. We did make one stop on the dirt road for a picture with the speeder bikes.


The crowds were back out along the course at the end cheering on our group. It was very encouraging and I think we all picked the pace up a bit towards the end. The crowds definitely help in the final push to the finish.




I was going to say that if you had an opportunity to run with a group to take advantage of it.  You can just join our group instead! You can get information about the team here:   I had a fantastic time enjoying the company and it totally changed the race for me.  It’s obvious that I enjoy hauling tail and picking up a bunch of characters, but I’ve got to say that I enjoyed this group just as much. I’m looking forward to running with them again in the future!


Next stop: Tinkerbell series in California!