Ultimate Guide to Star Wars: The Dark Side Race Weekend
Force sensitive, you are. Destined for greatness, your force-sensitivity makes you. Nurture the light side, you know you should….yet you feel the pull to the Dark Side. You long to physically release the frustrations of your training. You yearn to unleash this pent-up anger, but the Jedi forbid it. More than once, you have questioned the decision you made to follow the path of the light. Yet again, you’re feeling this pull, and this time you can’t resist. So what do you do now? Head over to the runDisney website and register for Star Wars: The Dark Side race weekend at Walt Disney World, you must!
It is no secret that I love Disney (and it’s no secret you love Disney since you’re reading this article!). It is no secret that I love Star Wars. It is no secret that I love running. So it should come as no surprise that I just had to check out the Dark Side Half Marathon weekend at Walt Disney World this year!
Before we begin your Sith- I mean running- training, there are a few general things you should know about runDisney events:
1) The race times are early
And I mean EARLY. The start of each race is 5:30am sharp. The reason for the insanely early start time is simple: the draw of the runDisney races is the fact that you get to run through the parks! So the only way to make this huge task feasible is to start the races well before rope drop.
2) Dress to impress
Each runDisney race is set to a theme, (Princesses, Food and Wine Festival, Star Wars) and everyone dresses up in their own interpretation of said theme. If you decide to runDisney, make sure to plan your costume ahead of time.
3) Arrive earlier than early
Yes, the start time is an early one, and if you’re staying at a WDW resort hotel, you can catch a free bus to the start line. However, these busses fill up quickly and you must allow yourself ample time to make it to the start, because there is nothing worse than stressing about being late when you should be excited for your big run!
The Health and Fitness Expo
Now that you’re acquainted with the basics of runDisney, it’s time to feel the power of the Dark Side race weekend details!
The Health and Fitness Expo took place at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex. In order to run the race you signed up for, you must be present at the expo during its operating hours to pick up your packet that includes your race bib. Without the bib, you will not be allowed on the race course, even if you signed up! The expo is also the place to pick up your shirt and bag containing important information about the race. You can also find tons of cool runDisney merchandise and running gear for sale at the expo.
The Path to the Dark Side
This year, I ran the Half Marathon course. The race started in Magic Kingdom parking lot before hitting the roads of WDW. At the start line, fireworks and explosives lit up the night sky to celebrate the start of the race!
The course hit some major landmarks, like running past Expedition Everest at dawn (the most breathtaking sight of the run!), down Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood Studios, and around World Showcase in EPCOT. Here is a look at the course maps from each of this past year’s races:
The half marathon, like all runDisney races, offers several stops along the course to meet with characters and pose with props! Chewbacca, R2D2, and Palpatine’s chair were a few of the highlights.
At each mile marker, the music from the films could be heard, encouraging you to dig deep and find the strength to continue on. Giant screens were strategically placed along the course, playing iconic scenes from each of the 6 films. I caught Han being frozen in Carbonite and the big Jabba/Luke/Han/Lando fight sequence from Return of the Jedi, so cool!
Last Chance to Turn Back to the Light
Overall, the course was relatively flat, but watch out for the exit ramps, as they are double pitched to facilitate water run-off, but they are not made for runners ankles or knees. The on-course entertainment was good, and the stops to meet characters were well-done. Photopass photographers were on hand at each to capture the moment, but the lines to meet the characters were very long which deterred me from stopping at any of them. The giveaway for this race was a shirt and finisher medal featuring Kylo Ren, At the end of the race, I was given a finisher medal emblazoned with the face of Kylo Ren, celebrating my completed journey to the dark side!
Will you be running any of the Dark Side races next year, or any other runDisney events? Tell me about your experiences in the comments; I’d love to hear from you!
Special thanks to Maria Salerno for writing this article: Hiya pal! I am a NYC-based writer/musician thrilled to be bringing you all things Disney! I’m a WDW Annual Passholder, so you can find me in the parks regularly throughout the year. In addition to being a Disney Parks loving girl, I’m also a Disney toy and merchandise collector, a runDisney enthusiast, and Disney music and movie aficionado. You can follow me on Instagram: NYCtoAP and find me on YouTube: NYCtoAP. Thanks for reading, hope to see ya real soon!