Did you feel that? Was it a disturbance in the Force? Should you never underestimate the power of the Dark Side?
Well folks, the runDisney community is abuzz with news of the release of the courses for the inaugural Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon Weekend events in Walt Disney World. We wanted to give you some detailed details (what other kind of details would there be?) so you know what to expect coming into this inaugural event. You can also check out our previews of the 5k and 10k courses, but for now we are focusing on the half marathon course.
You will notice that these courses have a LOT of overlap with sections of previous runDisney courses. We will reference those where applicable for your benefit. Here we go.
HALF MARATHON COURSE PREVIEW
On first look, the first 5 miles and the last mile plus of this course look to be a combination of the the 5k and 10k courses. This means that, if you are running multiple events (including the challenge) during the event weekend, you should be prepared to run some of the same stretches of race course. However, runDisney in the past, when doing this, has done a pretty good job of swapping out the character meet and greets during these sections.
Like the 5k course, you will start off in the Epcot parking lot and make your way along the service road that runners typically follow to the starting corrals of the Donald Half Marathon, the WDW Marathon, and the Princess Half Marathon.
You will take a right turn and enter a security entrance to the backstage area of EPCOT past the backside of Test Track and the Odyssey, around the 1 mile mark. you will then enter World Showcase via a side entrance between the Mexico and Norway pavilions, and turn left towards Norway and China, The first water stop will be located in this first stretch of the World Showcase Promenade. Your first in-park bathroom stop will be in the back left of the Norway pavilion.
Continuing along World Showcase you will go up a small hill to cross the drawbridge (where they move the barges for Illuminations) and into the African Outpost. You will find in-park bathroom stops at the following pavilions as you make your way around World Showcase: Germany (on the far right before you get to the miniature train display), United States (on both the left and right sides), and Morocco (on the far right).
There will be another small climb as you pass through France and head over a bridge that leads toward the United Kingdom. Once over the bridge you will turn left and exit through the International Gateway park entrance. There will be a bathroom on your right after you exit the park gates.
From here you will pick up the 10k course. You will proceed up the small incline around mile 2, however, instead of turning left towards the Boardwalk resort, you will continue straight past the Yacht Club and Beach Club Resorts (the reverse of the Wine and Dine and Marathon courses). The running surface at this point will be the boardwalk planks. You should note that, in past WDW races, this has been a good location for both character meets and spectator viewing as it does not require park admission.
Once past the resorts you will go up an incline to cross the bridge over the canal (that the Friendship Boats pass under to get to the Swan and Dolphin hotels), and then down the incline on the other side where you will proceed along the paved path next to the canal towards Hollywood Studios. This is the reverse of both the Wine and Dine Half Marathon course and the end of the WDW Marathon course. We are not sure how runDisney plans on handling the coral releases, but if they do not put a large delay between corals (as in, longer than normal), expect this to be a VERY crowded portion of the course and pack your patience, as this is a narrow and congested portion of the course.
Like the 10k course, it is still a little unclear exactly where runners will enter Hollywood Studios (we will update this information as it becomes available, but it looks like it may be a backstage entrance to the right of the main gate, where runners exit the park during Marathon), but it will be in the area of the main entrance. Prior to doing so, runners will pass the mile 3 marker.
Once inside they will proceed down Hollywood Boulevard in the direction of the Chinese Theater, but this is a very short section as the road is not very long (it is the same length as Main Street USA in Disneyland – there’s your trivia for the day!) and runners will make a small clockwise loop before making their way onto Sunset Boulevard, where (Race Icon) a gorgeous view of the Tower of Terror awaits. Just beyond the Tower, in the backstage area, will be the second water stop. There are bathrooms available when you enter the park (across from Oswald’s), and twice on your right side as you make your way down Sunset Boulevard.
Runners will exit Hollywood Studios from a cast road behind Tower of Terror, which is most likely the same one used to enter the park during the Wine and Dine Half Marathon. A quick left will take runners past the mile 4 marker, and then a second left will lead to a downhill section onto World Drive (this is the uphill that runners hate during the later miles of the WDW Marathon).
Utilizing a vehicle on-ramp (again, in reverse of the Wine and Dine Half Marathon course), runners will turn right onto Osceola Parkway just after the 5 mile mark. From here it is a straight shot down Osceola Parkway towards Animal Kingdom (but not before you pass another water stop in the latter stages of mile 5, and the mile 6 marker).
The mile 7 mark will be in the area of the Animal Kingdom toll booth, which promises to be a fun part of the course as you will be able to see the park in the near distance (the description makes sense in my mind!). Also keep an eye out for character meets in this area. As you make the sweeping right turn into the parking lot you will find another water stop before proceeding to make your way on a long counterclockwise sweeping arc on the outside of the parking lot. How long? Well, it is over a mile as you will pass the mile 8 marker before you enter the park.
You will enter a backstage area to the right of the main entrance, where another water stop will greet you. Side note: water stops will be crucial as, given the time of year, race conditions will most likely be warmer than to what many Casual Runners are accustomed.
You will make your way into and through Dinoland, USA and turn right towards Asia, the home of Expedition Everest. Bathroom stops will be available on your left as soon as you enter Dinoland, on your right immediately before you reach the Theater in the Wild (home of the Finding Nemo Stage show), and on your right after you pass Expedition Everest and the bar and food stands.
Continuing along towards Africa, you will turn left just past the entrance to Kali River Rapids and the Yak and Yeti to cross over onto Discovery Island, home to the Tree of Life (Race Icon!). Passing along to the left of the Tree of Life, you will make more or less direct path to the park entrance, passing by Flametree BBQ on your left (bathrooms are immediately across from the entrance to Flametree), Its Tough to Be a Bug, and the Oasis. If you have not spent much time in Animal Kingdom, you should know that these stretches, including the Oasis, have some subtle inclines and declines, so watch you footing and pacing in this stretch. Your final chance at permanent bathrooms will be on your right immediately before you exit the park.
You will exit the park near the main entrance and head towards the resort buses along the path utilized in the WDW Marathon course, which is also where you will pass the marker for mile 9. Once back in the parking lot you will follow some contours (there really is no other way to describe it as they will snake you through the parking lot using cones). Keep an eye out for parade units and character meet and greets in this area. You will encounter a water stop before turning left onto Osceola Parkway as you would if you were driving away from the park. This is where you will pass mile 10.
At this point, just dig in because you have a long, straight stretch on Osceola Parkway, just like the WDW Marathon. If you are a speed runner, you will love this section. If you aren’t, well, just hold on, its almost over! You will have to climb a couple of overpasses on this stretch, so make sure you keep your energy reserve and don’t forget to hydrate and fuel up. Between the two overpasses you will pass mile 11 and another water stop.
You will rejoin the 10k course just before you hit the mile 12 marker, which will require runners to make a sharp right turn onto a back pathway towards ESPN Wide World of Sports. One Casual Runner suggested this may be the same off-road trail used in prior runDisney races, but we do not have confirmation of this at this time. There is a final water stop located in this long straight section that passes the various athletic fields (baseball, soccer, and the New Balance track). There should be 2-3 small bathrooms located in this section if you need them, keep an eye out as they are well-marked. Once past these fields, runners will make a 90 degree left turn towards the outfield section of the Atlanta Braves spring training stadium (Champions Stadium), beyond which runners will exit into the parking lot and the mile 13 marker.
From there it is a straight shot further into the parking lot for the last .1 miles to the finish. However, in looking at the course map, it is not too early to provide you with this world of caution: the finish line is in the same parking lot utilized by runners when they go to packet pickup (both those who drive themselves and those who utilize runDisney event transportation). This means that there will be different traffic patters and reduced parking for this year’s event expo. So, make sure you consult the official runDisney event guide.
We hope this preview helps you. Have a great race, and of course, May the Force Be With You!
… Or not, as, after all, this is the Star Wars DARK SIDE Weekend.
We have more coverage of this event coming soon, so please check back for updates! In the meantime, you can check out the official runDisney event guide
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