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Star Wars Rebel Challenge Race Recap

Hands down, the Star Wars Rebel Challenge event was one of the best things I have ever done. Every moment felt like a magical vacation and I may have had to choke back tears when I returned to reality Sunday night.

My running buddy and I left bright and early on Thursday morning to check in to the Grand Californian before the expo started. This hotel is breathtaking – if you’ve never peeked inside, do yourself a favor and do just that the next time you walk by. Although I didn’t mind the 20 minute walk to Downtown Disney when we stayed off property for Avengers, it was probably because I wasn’t able to compare it to the experience of stepping out of your hotel and being right there. Amazing.


The Grand Californin lobby is stunning

On the drive up I started reading posts from friends who had been standing in line for the expo as early as 6 am! We walked over just as it was starting at 10. I was very happy with the organization and speed of packet and pre-order merchandise pickup. We collected our haul, had our pictures taken for the Rebel Challenge verification, and headed upstairs. The wait for the official runDisney merchandise area at this point was an hour and a half, but here is where I was most impressed. We were immediately given a wristband and brought upstairs to a ballroom to wait. There were organized lines mapped out on the floor with masking tape so we were able to sit and rest our legs. Between watching Star Wars movies on the big projection screen, talking to other runners around us, and pouring over our packets and pre-registration goodies, the time passed quickly. When it was our turn we were walked to the official merchandise area and had our wristbands removed. Inside was crowded but not unmanageable. There was plenty of merchandise at that point (although it went quickly that day) and we only waited a minute to pay at one of the 30 or so cash registers that I counted. I am a very patient person, as long as the wait is calm and organized. Cheers to runDisney and everyone who helped make this a great experience as opposed to some of the horror stories I have heard about past expo chaos! Of course the other side of the expo didn’t disappoint and we spent another hour or so shopping and talking to vendors.

runDisney Star Wars Wookie Welcome Party | HelloRunShine.com

I forgot to take an expo photo, so here’s my favorite from Star Tours!

We had the rest of the afternoon to leisurely take in the sights and eat before getting ready for the Wookie Welcome party. For some reason I started to doubt my Darth Vader bounding outfit at the last minute and changed, but I wish I hadn’t because there were people of all ages in full costume waiting in line. The welcome party went from 10-12, and with no prior experience with a pasta in the park or a similar after hours party I didn’t know what to expect at all. What shocked me the most was that immediately upon entering the lines were very long – not for the food (a small but delicious selection of desserts and non-alcoholic beverages) or the rides (the party took place in Tomorrowland and just about everything there was open), but for character pictures! My running buddy and I must be in a minority here, because pictures with characters just aren’t high on our priority list. Instead we took full advantage of literally no wait times and alternated between Space Mountain, Star Tours, and Astro Blasters. After the third round on Space Mountain we stopped for food and to watch the almost empty dance party. Over the course of the weekend I heard a lot of complaints about the Wookie Welcome Party, primarily that people waited two hours in line to get one character picture. Well, I guess it all comes down to preferences and priorities because we had an absolute blast.

Star Wars Weekend Wookie Welcome Party | HelloRunShine.com

Darth Vader Cupcakes – mmmm

Friday morning was the 5K which we did not participate in. Originally I thought I would regret this decision, but it ended up being just perfect since we were able to stay up late at the welcome party, have a nightcap on the balcony, sleep in, and enjoy a very lazy day. I’m guessing I will stick to this plan of skipping the 5K for future runDisney races (with the exception of Dopey someday, of course). If I had an Annual Pass I probably would have dropped in to the parks for a ride or two but I am waiting until next year to purchase one.

The 10K on Saturday was my first race of that distance. I know many people love races at Disneyland for the ability to sleep in and walk to the corrals late, but I have no problem getting up early and I wanted to be up towards the front. I really went all out with my Padme costume and I was thrilled with how it turned out. I know that I spent more time beading the headpiece than most runners spend picking out their entire outfit, but it was so worth it. Originally the plan was to meet up with a few other Padmes from my running costume group for a picture but we were all thrown off by the location of the start. After completing two Disneyland races I now know my way around pretty well and would not make that mistake again.

Star Wars Half Marathon Race Recap | HelloRunShine.com

Magical early morning Castle picture

If running through the parks is your top reason for running Disney the Star War 10K is the perfect race for you. Just over four miles are inside Disneyland and California adventure. I didn’t take headphones because I wanted to soak up every sight and sound (I especially loved the purple lights and Darth Vader soundtrack in the underpass and the morning sun hitting the “cliffs” in Cars Land). Unfortunately my only bad moment of the entire weekend did happen during the 10K. I had made the decision that I would try and stop for one character photo after feeling confident from Avengers that they would cut off the lines if they felt the wait would put you too close to the 16 min pacers. When I saw Darth Vader I knew that was my one stop. The Cast Members told us that the wait was about 30 minutes (crazy, right?), and although we wouldn’t be able to stop for additional pictures we should be fine. As I waited I watched dozens of other people get in line behind me and figured they would all be safe too. Thirty some minutes and a few people left until Darth Vader bike pacers appeared and warned us that we were behind pace! I was stunned for a second and distinctly remember thinking I was capable of a sub-two half yet here I was about to be swept at a Disney race. I didn’t think twice. I booked it out of there so fast, practically sprinting out of the park and past the fabled balloon ladies (hopefully the only time I’ll ever see them) until I was safe. This experience on its own wouldn’t have been too bad, except that while I was waiting in line I realized that the woman behind me was a corral cheater with an A bib. I won’t go in to details here about that or how I figured that out (please feel free to message me if you would like to know more), but for someone like me who can’t cut a line to join a friend without feeling terrible it really put a bad taste in my mouth. Between all that craziness and walking out of the finish area only to realize that my medal was badly damaged I needed a moment to regroup and regain some Disney magic.

Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend Costume Idea | HelloRunShine.com

Just keep smiling, you’re in Disney!

I let myself be annoyed for exactly one minute before letting it all go. I was so incredibly lucky and grateful to be there in the first place and I wasn’t about to let anything change that. I wish more people would take that approach before immediately broadcasting their displeasure on social media. Oh, and runner relations replaced my medal later that afternoon without any issue. If you ever have problems during a race weekend do not hesitate to seek them out. Saturday afternoon was a mix of activity (switching our room back to the off-property Castle Inn & Suites since we couldn’t get a reservation for the last night at the Grand Californian) and relaxation (beer flight tastings at the UVA Bar in Downtown Disney, my favorite). We decided to keep our pre-half dinner tradition at Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen and go to bed early at 8:00.

Beer Tasting Downtown Disney | HelloRunShine.com

So far the only place we’ve found in Downtown Disney with a decent beer selection

Contrary to Avengers the weather for the Star Wars half was cloudy, cool, and calm. Like the 10K the day before there was an increased amount of time inside the parks. Highlights included multiple Storm Trooper sightings, stopping by the big waterfall in California Adventure for pictures, and getting to run down Main Street in Disneyland while it was still somewhat dark outside. By the time we hit the streets of Anaheim around mile six the crowds were out in full force. Marching bands, cheerleaders, people sitting outside their houses in bathrobes, and the incredible 501st Legion lined most of the course. Here’s a great tip if you are running Star Wars from a lower corral and are worried about your time: save your “character pics” for outside the park and the outstanding cosplayers  who are more than happy to pose with you. I actually didn’t stop for any pictures at this point because I was hurting a little bit and ready to be done. I was all smiles at the finish line though and happy to be able to experience the full post-race party (it was cut short at Avengers due to high winds).

Star Wars Rebel Challenge Half Marathon Weekend Race Recap | HelloRunShine.com

I’m a dark side kind of girl

Star Wars Weekend Rebel Challenge Race Recap | HelloRunShine.com

Beautiful Paradise Pier Sunrise

The race fell on President’s Day weekend, so between the increased volume of visitors, runners, and volunteers the parks were packed on Sunday afternoon. We had just enough energy and patience to ride a few favorites in California Adventure and watch the parade in Disneyland before heading out. All in all, it was a perfect weekend. Other than getting our hotel reservation early so we don’t have to switch rooms mid-stay I wouldn’t change a thing for Star Wars 2016. Well, maybe one thing… #EMPIRECHALLENGE

runDisney Star Wars Weekend Race Recap | HelloRunShine.com❤ Jessica

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San Diego Holiday Half Race Recap

Hello lovlies! It’s been a long time since I posted an update of any kind. The last few months have been filled to the brim with holidays, races, and orders. I have a lot to share and I’m so excited where RunShine is headed! Before I get ahead of myself though I’d like to recap my last two races, starting with the San Diego Holiday Half. I know someday I will be happy I spent the time to record some of these awesome memories.

San Diego Holiday Half Race Recap | RunShine

Serious Christmas Spirit


I had all intentions of treating this race as a light training run in preparation for the upcoming Star Wars Half Marathon. So I came dressed in my holiday racing best, including a tech gear ugly Christmas sweater that ironically got me a lot of “how cute!” compliments. Good thing I wore the sweater because the morning was chilly, super chilly. I think it was 29 degrees outside at the starting line (I know, I know, if you’re from just about anywhere else you are probably rolling your eyes, but for here that was freezing). As I lined up I found myself standing next to the 2:00 pacer. Here’s my confession: between my last half (Avengers in November) and this race, I had barely trained. Just a few sporadic short runs. Overindulging in holiday food and drink had taken a toll on my overall fitness, and I was generally exhausted from three months of nonstop activity. I had no business of even thinking about it, but as I looked at that pace sign, I thought, “why not”?

The course was FAST. We started 13.1 miles inland and ended at the coast, with a straight, slightly downhill path almost the entire way. I honestly don’t remember much about the race because I was so focused on that 2:00 pacer. Around mile six, just when I thought I was done for, the 1:50 pacer and a small group blew past! No wonder it felt like we were sprinting for the first half. After that I was able to slow my pace considerably and for the first time I pictured myself crossing the finish line with a sub-two PR. I admit I was hurting pretty bad by the end with a leg pain I had never experienced before, and I spent the last mile pleading with myself “just make it to that lamppost, just make it to that tree”. Pain gave way to pure joy when I crossed that line at 1:57:31. I could not believe it! I thought that a sub-two half would be a goal I’d work towards over the next few years.

San Diego Holiday Half Race Recap | RunShine

PR Smiles!


The elation carried me through the long wait for post-race refreshments, the long wait for my race t-shirt and goodie bag (I opted to have my bib mailed to me, and these things did not accompany it), and the loooong wait to be bussed back to the start. By the time I got off the bus and walked the half mile back to my car, I was limping and had a visible bruise at the site of my leg pain(I still have no idea what that was all about). It didn’t matter though, I’ve never been happier. Not only did I have a proof of time that would place me in the front corrals at Disney races for the next two years, I finally realized that with proper training I have the potential to be even faster.

With dream conditions to set PRs, great race medals and race shirts, and a perfect amount of runners (approximately 2,500), I highly recommend the San Diego Holiday Half to anybody. I can’t wait to sign up for this one again!

❤ Jessica


Avengers Half Marathon Weekend Recap

It was awesome. It was windy. It was awesomely windy! I can’t believe I’m back from my first runDisney race. While the memories are still fresh, I though I’d share a recap of this first-timer’s experience.


There’s not much to share in terms of the expo. Since I was only running the half and not the 5K, I chose to go on Saturday afternoon. There were no lines at all, and very little merchandise left. I was completely expecting this and was not disappointed in the least. I really didn’t have a personal connection to the Avenger’s theme (confession: had I not watched the “Avengers” movie last week I would have had no idea who most of the characters were), so it wasn’t too important to take home any of the official goodies. I heard that most of the items, like the large themed Dooney & Bourke purses, the half marathon pins, and the desirable “I Did It” t-shirts were gone within hours of the expo opening on Friday. It remains to be seen if I will brave the first day expo madness for Star Wars. I did enjoy walking around the non-crowded “unofficial” side of the expo and talking with many of the vendors. The only thing that came home with me was new Sparkle Skirt.

Avengers Half Marathon Race Recap

No picture lines at the expo!


After the expo and a large late lunch in Downtown Disney (at Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen, mmmmm) my running buddy and I were able to leisurely walk back to our hotel in about 25 minutes. By the time we got back to our room, unpacked/prepared for Sunday, and took a quick trip to the convenience store, it was just about time for a quick snack and then bedtime. I think I would recreate this schedule exactly for future races, instead of scheduling dinner reservation and then worrying about being out too late. We stayed off property at the Castle Inn and Suites. This hotel is older, but the rooms have been remodeled fairly recently and they were clean. My only complaint was that the outdoor corridors were very loud at night as kids went running down them to their rooms. This wouldn’t be a big deal if you weren’t trying to go to bed at 8:30!

Race Day

3:30 in the morning came quickly, but there was only a minute to register sleepiness before total excitement kicked in. After getting dressed, eating (Cliff Bar and spoonful of peanut butter for me) and making a cup of coffee to go (we brought along our own mini Keurig machine. Best. Idea. Ever.) we were off. For anyone who is worried about traveling by yourself to a runDisney race and finding your way, you can squash those fears. As soon as we stepped outside we joined a large group of runners making their way down to the start. First you walk through the open space that becomes the “family reunion area” after the race, where there’s a stage with an emcee and a few spots for pictures. After a few minutes of walking around we heard the announcement to start making your way towards the corrals.

runDisney Avengers Half Marthon

“H” is for how many people are going to take off at one time?

Oh man, the corrals. They seem to be an ongoing hotbed of discussion and controversy in social media groups. Since we had not completed a race in time to submit a proof of time, we were automatically placed in the last corral (H). Even though we were early (at the starting area by 4:30), there were a few hundred people in front of us. This ended up being no big deal as THOUSANDS of people arrived later than we did and lined up behind. This picture does not do the view justice. The mass of people went back as far as you could see, then doubled back on the sidewalk past where we were standing at the front. We settled in and prepared to wait for the 5:30 start. Time passed quickly with the help of the emcees and fellow runner enthusiasm. There were about six minutes between corral starts (give or take, with A/B and C/D going outtogether) and we were off at 6:00.

Almost our turn! Notice the sun is almost up.

Almost our turn! Notice the sun is almost up.

The first standout memory from the race was the intense wall of wind we met head-on. I remember thinking “my Minnie ears are never going to survive”. At the beginning the crowds were very thick but not unnamable. There were narrow spots inside the parks were you were forced to come to a complete walk, but this ended up being a good thing for me. It forced me to slow down and take it all in. I was running through DISNEYLAND! I noticed Christmas decorations and cast members and characters. The lines for character stops already looked gnarly, and as I was worried about how much time I’d really have starting from the back I chose to skip those and take a few selfies instead. In the future, with an earlier corral start I would love to get at least a few.

Avengers Half Marathon

Castle Selfie (probably should work on taking non-blurry shots)

Once out on the streets things opened up and I had no problem moving at my own pace (well, except when the wind felt like it was pushing me backwards at times). I got a kick out of the spectators lining the way, from cheerleaders to Cosplay groups to grandmas in lawn chairs. Lots of cheering and high-fiveing kept things fun. Now, after the race I heard lots, and I mean lots, of complaints about the two-mile stretch through the dry river bed trail. While it wasn’t the most exciting part of the course, I certainly didn’t hate it. I ducked behind an extremely tall Captain America who blocked the wind and paced me to Angels Stadium. It had never occurred to me that we would be running INSIDE the stadium on the warning track. That was a very cool surprise and gave me a huge boost for those last few miles. Despite the wind, I felt like I was running a very fast race and at this point decided to give it my all for a good time. I’ve only glanced at my Marathonphoto finisher pictures so far, but it looks like I’m flying down the home stretch, giant smile on my face (I will update this post with a photo once I purchase my pictures). Final time: 2:11:45. Not bad for running in winds strong enough to blow over port-o-potties and every mile marker sign, not to mention stopping for about a dozen selfies along the way. After receiving my medal the photographer told me “you look way too happy for someone who just ran a half marathon”. Damn straight – I was thrilled!

Avengers Half Marathon Costume Idea

Captain America Minnie Mouse

After a snack and a shower I got to experience the second best part of a runDisney race. It’s hard to describe how amazing it was to wear my medal in the park afterwards. You see dozens of other runners doing the same thing, and you can’t help but smile at the not-so-secret club you belong to. Of course there’s the celebratory reward meal (lunch at Blue Bayou) and snack indulgences (I didn’t get a chance to try a Doll Whip, which might be my only regret from the weekend). I hadn’t been to Disneyland since I was a kid so seeing it dressed up in all its Christmastime glory was a real treat. This is a very busy time of year for the parks, so while we didn’t go on tons of rides we picked the very best. My favorite ride hands-down was the Haunted Mansion with a Nightmare Before Christmas twist. The original plan was to stay for fireworks, but since it was starting to get difficult to walk as the day went on, we called it a night around 7:30.

I’m sure there are experienced runDisney veterans who could tell you a laundry list of minor gripes, from the way the expo was run to the course layout. Partially because I have nothing to compare it to, and partially because I had such a blast I am choosing to remember this weekend as perfect. Zero complains from me. Well, maybe just one. I have to wait two months before I get to do it again!

❤ Jessica


Spooktacular Half Marathon – Race Recap

Success! I finished my first race last Sunday and I can now call myself a half-marathoner. It feels amazing, let me tell you. Here is a little recap of the Spooktacular Half Marathon at Bonelli Park.

I woke up that day a bundle of nerves, not really knowing what to expect. As soon as we (my husband, my daughter, and myself) pulled up to the park, all of that melted away. It was a perfect choice for my first race. Small, with a local feel to it that reminded me of my cross country days. There were only a few hundred runners in each of the 5K, 10K, and half marathon races. It seemed like most of us were checking in and getting our bibs that morning, so the lines were long but moved fairly quickly. We passed the time by checking out all the costumes, which might be the very best thing about running a Halloween race! I was absolutely thrilled with how my first shot at a running costume turned out. I love Dia De Los Muertos, and since that was the theme of the event I thought it was just perfect.

Race Recap Spooktacular Half Marathon

I applied the temporary tattoos to my face and arms the night before, which was a smart move because it was a time consuming. But so worth it! They didn’t smear or rub off the entire race. The skirt is from SparkleSkirts and the headband and Shimmerbands are from RunShine. It was a little chilly right when we got there but it warmed up quickly. One minor gripe – because of the long check-in lines the race started at least 10 minutes late, and with an already late-morning scheduled start time of 8:10 I started worrying about the heat. Usually I start long morning runs by 6:30!

Fortunately the course was beautiful and mostly shaded. We had great views of the reservoir for a good portion of it, and there was a nice mix of asphalt paths, roads, and trails. The “stream crossing” that I had been dreading (I HATE getting getting my shoes wet) was nothing more than a trickle of water with a temporary metal bridge set over it. There were two hills that we climbed twice, and even though I saw many people slow to a walk I had no problem keeping my pace over them.

There were a couple of major problems with the course, which I hope the race directors/organizers take to heart for future events. In one spot there was  a crazy intersection where people were coming from all directions and varying stages of out-and-backs. I really had to pay attention to where I was going because the signage was sparse and there were cones everywhere. The second time I came to this area I had to come to a dead stop and ask a volunteer which way to go. After the race I heard that some of the front runners were actually told the wrong direction and ended up running almost an extra mile! The other major issue was the lack of marked hazards. At one point I ran over an unmarked horizontal pipe that stood a few inches off the ground and thought “someone is really going to get hurt here”. Unfortunately, I was talking to the ladies in my MRTT group afterwards, and one of them DID trip on this spot and got pretty banged up.

That being said, It was easy to overlook the the issues with the course. I was having so much fun! Perfect weather, beautiful scenery, pleasant volunteers, and plenty of crazy costumes to look at made the time fly by. I started getting excited at mile 12 because I knew that I was going to beat my goal time by almost ten minutes. I crossed the finish line with a time of 2:06:53, collected my medal and was almost immediately able to find my husband and daughter. They had had an amazing 5K race themselves. My husband placed first in his age group – while pushing her in the stroller! He is a rock star. My daughter was absolutely enthralled with “her” medal, to the point of shedding some tears when we had to take it out of her bed before saying goodnight.

Spooktacular 10K Half Marathon | HelloRunShine

The medals for this race are outstanding (as were the tech shirts you received for registering for the half). I will cherish mine forever, a reminder of a “Spooktacular” start to my racing life. I’m so glad I was able to share this awesome day with my little family. We might have to add a few more family runs to the race day schedule!

Spooktacular Half Marathon | HelloRunShine

Race Recap: Spooktacular Half Marathon | HelloRunShine


❤ Jessica

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Throwback Thursday: Glory Days

Like many runners, I ran cross-country in high school. Freshman year was the first time the brand-new school had a team, and there were eight of us. Practices were simple, neither us nor the coaches had any idea what we were doing. “Run to this point and back” were the only instructions. We ran without water or watches, in cotton t-shirts, and fueling usually involved a candy bar from the vending machine. The size of team grew over the next three years, but nothing else really changed. The irony of it all? I was fast back then! This picture is from my sophomore year, when I placed second at the league meet with a time of 21 minutes and some seconds (way too long to remember anymore).

Cross Country #TBT

It’s been fourteen years since I raced. I tried channeling 16-year old Jessica in this morning’s 5K run and pushed myself for a faster time. I think teenage me laughed a little bit, but hopefully still feels proud! I’m certainly a lot healthier than I used to be, and the vending machine snacks and poor training are distant memories. 28 minutes and some seconds is quite a bit slower, but all things considered still feels pretty awesome.

❤ Jessica


Hello, RunShine!

Morning sunshine!

That is often my first text of the day, sent bright and early from my running buddy. I know that this is partly because I am a bonafide morning person. I’m often up before the rest of the house starts to stir, lacing up my shoes for a run, finishing up orders, or getting a jump start on a project-in-progress. But I also like to think it’s because I wake up with energy, a positive feeling that today is going to SHINE.

The energy I’ve felt since I launched RunShine a few short weeks ago has been electrifying. The running community (the small portion of it that I have found through social media) is one of the most supportive and creative groups of people I have ever seen. My small goal of getting back in shape after having my daughter has sparked a passion with serious staying power. I’m beyond excited to see how this seedling of an idea grows in the upcoming weeks, months, and years.

Enough of that! There are plenty of bloggers out there who wax poetic about life and dreams and goals. You won’t hear that from me unless I’m discussing my PR for a half marathon. This blog will be about race recaps and bling and beer, because well, you know…

Will Run For Beer

So check out the new site, let me know what you think, and join the community!

❤ Jessica