When Darth Vader and his legion of Storm Troopers invite you to run the Dark Side with then, that's an offer I really can't refuse. This week Star Wars: Dark Side Half Marathon Weekend is happening at Walt Disney World and I'm VERY excited! This is my 11th and 12th runDisney races and I am so thankful for each race that I get to compete in. I'm especially excited for this one because I'm going to have a VIP guest with me, my dad. The Star Wars 5K is going to be my dad's first runDisney race and first 5K! And I'll be running the 5K and the 10K.
So what can we expect at this race? I think the first thing we all have to go in knowing is that the race courses are different from last year. With all of the construction going around at the Walt Disney World Resort, I think this was to be expected. This is especially true going into the 10K race. After looking at the courses for each race, and running other runDisney events, I'm a little disappointed, and slightly nervous, about the 10K course. As always you can view the course for yourself through runDisney's digital race guide, but if you want a quick overview runners will start in the Magic Kingdom "Heroes" parking lot, down Floridian Way and World Drive, over an overpass to enter Hollywood Studios, out of the main entrance of the park, and over the walking path to The Boardwalk Resort. Continuing on past Yacht and Beach Club, into Epcot through the UK and Canada, and the finish is just beyond Future World at the front of the park. The main problem here is the walking path between Hollywood Studios and the Epcot Resorts, which is only about four people across and not well lit. If you are running the 10 K, please be careful and patient through this area as it does widen at the mouth of Yacht and Beach Club.
With the 10K and Half Marathon, do note unlike other runDisney races that start and finish at the same area, Star Wars Dark Side does NOT. So consider not taking any bags to check-in, and consider riding the complementary buses runDisney provides from your Disney races. This will definitely make the race morning a lot smoother than driving yourself. If you've never run a runDisney race at WDW, they have complimentary buses that will take you to and from each race, and to and from the race expo to your resort. This is a great feature of staying on property for a runDisney event.
Speaking of the Expo, like races past, it's being held at ESPN Wide World of Sports. Which if you are coming in from I-4 has it's own labeled exit and is very easy to find. There is a lot of construction going on in this area so be patient when trying to get in if you are driving yourself. The expo will open on Thursday, April 20, at 10:00 AM, and be open each day of race weekend. This is where you are going to pick up your bib, race merchandise, and anything from vendors you might want to get. The race merchandise was released last Thursday at the Star Wars Celebration in Orlando, and it looks awesome!
runDisney usually does a really great job of creating merch for races, and all of this looks great, and this is just a sample! So I'm really excited to see what else is going to be available. I'm hoping when I get there those coffee mugs aren't gone.
One of my favorite things about a runDisney race, besides having a good reason to eat everything in sight for "carb loading" is the medals! The finishers medals for runDisney events are always so good, and really detailed. The ones for Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon Weekend are no exception!
While on the race course you're going to run into some characters, who may or may not align themselves with the Dark Side. My number one tip going into any runDisney event is about character stops. Don't stop for characters you can see in the parks unless you are dressed like them. For example, you can meet Kylo Ren at the Star Wars Launch Bay at Hollywood Studios, so don't waste time standing in his line on the race course unless you are dressed like Kylo Ren. Why? It adds time to your run, which means you could get swept. The lines can get very long, and sometimes don't move quickly. This rule is one I use for the 10K and half marathons only because 5K's while they are timed, do not sweep people unless they are taking a VERY LONG time. The 5K is considered a family fun-run and runDisney does not take people off the course for being over the allotted 16 minute per mile pace.
As always, runDisney encourages runners to dress up in costume, as long as they comply with the costume guidelines, which can be found on runDisney's website. You will see some people with very ornate costumes, and other people who are almost Disney Bounding in a costume. What I like to do is pack all of my costumes for the weekend, along with any accessories, and my running shoes in a separate bag from my park clothes. This ensures I have everything I need, and keeps my hotel room a little more organized.
Friends, I hoped this helped you out as some of us get ready to run the Dark Side this weekend! Let me know in the comments if you're going to be running, and if you're dressing up.
May the force be with you!