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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 DefyingObesity.org 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.

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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.

The Me vs Her Perspective

May 2013 336I have a lot of photos of myself from days long past.

Photos of myself at an extremely unhealthy weight.

Photos of myself at a time that I was eating as a way of dealing with my emotions.

These pictures represent a time in my life where I was constantly sad, constantly depressed. They represent a time when I felt completely unworthy. They are pictures of a woman who put on a fake smile to hide all the pain inside.

They capture a woman who felt like she was drowning in the co-morbid conditions that the disease of obesity had brought her too.

I was full-blown diabetic, I had high blood pressure, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, severe edema and severe depression. There were days that I was simply non-functional.

I knew that my weight was causing these medical issues and truthfully, I didn’t care. I had given up on life, love and the pursuit of happiness. I very consciously made the decision to not care about what my lifestyle behavior choices were doing to my health and to my body.

Pandora420lbI had a lot of days that I really wished I wasn’t even there. I was very aware that I was digging a grave with a fork and a spoon. In fact, if I am being completely honest, that was very much my intention.

These photos portray a woman who truthfully didn’t love herself. A woman who didn’t believe that she was worthy of being loved.

They portray a woman who was still very much caught in the survivor mentality of life. A woman who had grown up a survivor of physical, sexual and verbal abuse. A woman who was psychologically using her weight as a way to build walls and keep people out.

PandoraChildhoodObesitySometimes I post photos of my transformation, a before-and-after photo of myself and I look at it and I think “Oh my god, who is that girl?” or “I don’t recognize that woman anymore.”

Almost instantly someone will see my photo and tell me that I was just as beautiful then as I am now or that I have always been the same person.

I very rarely respond to these comments because I really don’t know how to explain. Really, that’s your interpretation, not mine. I don’t need you to qualify my beauty and I don’t need you to diminish the celebration of my transformation.

Pandora400PlusLet me pause here and clarify something – if you have ever been one of those people who came on to my post and made a comment like this, I am not spanking you. I realize that you’re trying to be a positive voice in a negative world. I realized that you are trying to be supportive and kind and I appreciate that. I try to do the same and there are far too many people out there that are willing to tear each other down rather than to build each other up.

What I am trying to do is maybe get you to see the situation through a different perspective. I’m trying bring light to the fact that sometimes what we think is positive and supportive, if contrary to how someone feels about themselves, really isn’t.

november11 009Sometimes I think we are so busy trying to make sure that those that are dealing with obesity do not feel shamed or stigmatized that we forget that obesity is a very complex disease and that it can be caused by many different things.

If I was a recovering drug addict and I posted a before and after photo of myself with a tourniquet around my arm and a needle in my vein would you tell me that I was just as beautiful then as I am now?

May 2013 335I am one of the first people to stand up against weight bias, weight stigma and weight discrimination. Nobody should ever have to experience those things and I spend a lot of my free time trying to help educate and raise awareness to fight these societal intolerances.

I am also the first person to stand up and say that obesity is not healthy. Obesity isn’t a pretty disease. It is as unkind and ugly as any other deadly disease. Just like you can’t look at a photo of someone and decide that the reason they struggle with their weight is because they make poor lifestyle choices and over consume food; you also can’t look at a photo and assume that it’s not.

NKOTBCropAs a recovering food addict, someone who used food to feed my feelings and someone who was purposely and systematically killing herself with food, when I look at a photo of myself and say “I don’t recognize that girl anymore.” — I don’t need someone to tell me that they do.

I’d much rather see my transformation acknowledged in a way that doesn’t focus on looks but rather on the accomplishment. “Way to go! What an amazing transformation.” “That’s awesome, congratulations on your health accomplishments!” “What a great job. Look how far you have come.” There are a ton of ways we can acknowledge before and after transformations without using beauty as our quantifier.

May 2013 339As someone who has very openly discussed body images issues after weight loss, I can honestly tell you that when someone tells me I am just as beautiful then as I am now I have to remind myself that they are talking about on the inside. Because just a couple of years ago a comment like that would have me standing in front of my mirror wondering what I needed to “fix” about my body to make it noticeably different.

When I look at those before photos and all they represent, I don’t think I was beautiful then. I think I was suffering. I think I was in a very dark place and I think my obesity was a very physical symptom of that ugliness. I’m relieved everyday that I was able to bounce back from it.

I look back at those photos and I am thankful that I have managed to find a way to maintain my recovery from obesity and food addictions in a world that is food centric. I look back at those photos and I am grateful that I wasn’t successful at trying to end my life via obesity.  

Some people look at those photos and think that I hated myself because I suffered from obesity. The truth is I suffered from obesity because I hated myself. The moment I learned to start loving myself and finding myself worthy, I started making healthier lifestyle decisions.

I am not the same person in those photos. Not on the outside. Not on the inside. I have successfully navigated a lifestyle transformation. If I was the girl you see in my before pictures, you likely wouldn’t have the pleasure of knowing me today, my friends would have been shopping for a casket by now.

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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 of Desperately Seeking Slender
Jaime "Pandora" Williams

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