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In my previous post, I recapped our first few days at Disney World earlier this year — doing some neighborhood hunting as part of our second research trip to the area, completing our first ever runDisney race on property, and visiting Magic Kingdom. Today we’ll look back at the rest of that trip.

FRIDAY

Another early wakeup call. While the wife stayed at the hotel to get some more sleep, I again headed to the Epcot parking lot for the runDisney Marathon Weekend 10K — a distance I had not yet attempted to do!

I had planned to, of course! Last September we finally ran a complete 5K after months of working up to it. I started adding distance to my runs in October. My plan was to build up to a 10K by race day. But life happened. November was crazy busy and I didn’t get out as often as I wanted. December started with an illness. And mid-month I had an injury that put me in physical therapy for a few weeks.

So with no previous experience with a 10K, my plan going in was to run as much as I could then walk as much as I needed to. Race policy requires runners to maintain a 16-minute-per-mile pace. So even if I walked half the distance I would be fine.

I made it to Epcot, though I arrived later than the previous day since I had seen that getting there so early wasn’t necessary. I also learned my lesson from the wait for the 5K, and spent as much time as possible sitting in the corral leaned up against the railings to save my back and legs from being too tired before even hitting the course. Because of this, even though I was there with plenty of time to spare, I ended up in the next to the last group to start the race.

The course started off with a two mile run around the streets surrounding Epcot, then followed the three mile 5K route, but with the addition of a extra mile tacked on in the middle consisting of a run through the International Gateway and around the Boardwalk loop.

This longer race had even more fun stuff along the route than the 5K. Besides character meet-and-greets, music, and video screens, there were local marching bands playing and even an overpass decked out with Frozen projections and a set on top with Elsa and Anna offering encouragement. With a lot of the course being on publicly accessible parts of the property, there was also family and other well-wishers cheering and holding signs. I even got a glimpse of my favorite podcaster, Lou Mongello of WDW Radio, at his running team HQ outside Boardwalk Bakery.

I made it through most of the race with no problems. At mile marker 5, I had run three miles and walked two. My goal ever since signing up for this race was to not only finish, but cross the finish line having run the final mile plus change. So I started running again… and I did not think I was going to make it! I could’ve walked it, but doing so would’ve felt a little like failure. We’ve all heard stories of sports heroes reaching deep inside themselves to achieve things they didn’t think they could. I did not do that! But I got a small taste of that mindset — near the end I had to, quite literally, mentally force my body to not stop when my legs really wanted to. It seemed like so much longer than a mile! But I made it. And it felt really good knowing I didn’t give up on what I wanted to do.

After a year of training, we’d achieved our goals. While it’s something we could (and should!) have started any time, there’s no denying the motivator was Disney. Is there a lesson there? No, but let’s shoehorn one in! After years of not really having a plan for our future other than keep on keeping on, Disney has got us thinking about what we want to do with the rest of our lives. We’re now training planning. As we get near the finish line our moving date, it’s going to require even more work. We might get tempted to take the easy way out, but in order to achieve our goals the way we’ve been dreaming about, we need to push past the hard parts and keep moving forward.

After the race, my wife and I went to the airport to pick up our kids who had flown down that day so we could all visit Hollywood Studios together without them having to miss more than one day of school. That evening we went back to the runDisney Expo to get a few more souvenirs, visited the Character Warehouse, took our first ride on the new Skyliner (wow!), then headed to Disney Springs for some dinner, shopping, and (my favorite thing to do there) hanging out.

SATURDAY

When Disney announced Rise of the Resistance would be open in the new Star Wars themed land while we were there for Marathon Weekend, it didn’t take much discussion for us to agree we had to visit. My son has been a fan of the franchise since he was little so we also knew we couldn’t go without the kids!

So the day after the 10K, while other runners were getting ready to start the half-marathon, we got up early to ensure our place in line at Hollywood Studios. No fast passes are available for Rise of the Resistance — the only way to get on is to have your ticket scanned by the time the park opens at 7am, then login to the Disney parks app on your phone to secure one of the limited numbers of boarding passes. We were very worried about missing the chance to ride since who knew when we’d be back for another chance. So we were at the park gates at 6am. There was already a huge crowd, but they started letting people into the front section the park at 6:30. Thirty minutes later the mass of people around us all at once started up the app and began clicking the boarding pass button. Cheers started echoing around us, but for some reason I had been logged out of the app, even though I had been using it earlier while in line. I furiously logged back in while carefully ensuring I didn’t misspell my username or password — a delicate balance! Once in I slammed my finger against the glass of my phone where the boarding pass button was, waited what felt like forever while everyone around us was already happily on their way, and saw the screen change — we were in!

Whew! It would definitely not have been a wasted trip without Rise of the Resistance, since there was a whole new land to explore. But it would have been a bit of a letdown not to get to fully see what Galaxy’s Edge had to offer.

We immediately joined the line for Smuggler’s Run (the Millennium Falcon ride) which seemed to initially stretch all the way to Muppet Vision. The good news for us was that since we got there so early the line actually was not that long and moved very quickly. The bad news was that our introduction to Galaxy’s Edge was extremely rushed. We really didn’t get a chance to soak in and enjoy our first look at the land as we hastily made our way past everything to keep up with the fast moving queue. This continued into the ride itself. As soon as we made it to the waiting area inside the Falcon with the holographic chess board, we were immediately sent to the cockpit — so unfortunately no cool photos of our Star Wars loving son on the iconic ship. (Yes, I know it sounds like the ultimate first world problem: not having to wait very long to ride a popular Disney attraction!) The ride itself was a lot of fun — but very disorienting your first time, with so much going on and your actions influencing the outcome. This feels like the kind of thing that you might enjoy even more the more often you get to do it.

With the first major attraction down, and a boarding pass already secured for the second, we finally were able to start exploring Batuu at our own pace. Disney did an outstanding job with the theming of the land. There was so much to look at, and you never knew what you were going to find around the next corner.

My son had been looking forward to getting a First Order uniform jacket and hat to wear around the park so that was our next stop. It was a bit pricey, but they were high quality and it looked great — these were no cheap halloween costumes.

One of the differences between Galaxy’s Edge and other areas of the parks is that the characters are actually out and about — not just to take photos with guests as if they’re celebrities, but doing what they would do as if they really lived in this land. We saw Chewbacca doing some work on a ship, Rey trying to avoid some Stormtroopers, and Kylo Ren prowling the area. The characters occasionally interact with visitors too, so I was hoping Kylo Ren might notice my son decked out in his uniform as he passed by. I had my camera at the ready but he started to pass us and I lowered it. And that’s of course when he turned around and said to my son, “Your support for the First Order is noted.” My son replied without hesitation, “Of course, I’m a big fan.” I was able get the camera back up in time to catch the reaction of the Stormtrooper escorting Kylo Ren:

When our boarding pass was called, we made our way to Rise of the Resistance. When the ride first opened to the public, we already knew we would be coming to visit. So I scrupulously avoided any and all many spoilers about it. I knew very little going in other than it was one of the most advanced attractions Imagineering had ever created, and that it included multiple ride elements. I’m not going to spoil it for anyone reading — there are plenty of places you can go to hear about and watch it all. But it was absolutely incredible. More than any other ride Disney has done, this one feels like you are actually part of what is happening — especially if you allow yourself to get carried away with the role-playing. The only downside is how boring this makes other rides look now!

The rest of the day was filled with leisurely exploring of this beautiful area occasionally punctuated with doing the other three extremely cool things Batuu has for guests to do: creating your own lightsabers, building your own droids, and visiting the cantina. All three experiences were top-notch! Disney has really gone all out in Galaxy’s Edge… and they’re not even done yet. Still to come is the fully immersive Star Wars hotel.

I’m really excited to see where the company is going from here with the rest of Walt Disney World. The immersiveness and new technologies here have to eventually make their way through the other parks, because Galaxy’s Edge is a game changer.

This new land is yet another reason I can’t wait to be a local!


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