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 preview of the inaugural half marathon course, but for now we are focusing on the 5k and 10k courses.
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.
The 5k Course
We should tell you right off the bat that the 5k course looks to be the same course (though we allow for the possibility of some small changes) from Pluto’s 5k during the January Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. (You can check out our all-along the course video now as it will give you a really good sense for the course that you can expect).
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 Duck 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 where a water stop will greet you. Your first chance at an in-park bathroom stop will be at 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 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 stop on your right after you exit.
While you will appear to be heading toward the Boardwalk and the Epcot area resorts, you won’t actually go that far, as the course makes a sharp right turn to take you into the backstage area of Epcot, just as the course does during the WDW Marathon, except you will be coming from the opposite direction.
Once backstage you will find the second and final water stop before turning right and re-entering World Showcase on the far side of the UK pavilion, which appears to be the same entry point used during the WDW Marathon. There will be a bathroom immediately on your right before you reach the promenade.
Once back on the promenade you will make a left turn and proceed past the Canada Pavilion (There is a small bathroom on your left as you pass the quick service location just beyond Canada), then you will make a right turn the main entrance to World Showcase to make your way towards Future World. Race Icon. This will give you a direct-on view of Spaceship Earth, just as you get in the Princess Half Marathon and Donald Duck Half Marathon.
A unique twist to this course is, instead of passing by Spaceship Earth on the right, you will do so on the left (there will be bathrooms on your left as you make your way down a slight decline). You will then turn right on the far side of Spaceship Earth before you reach the turnstiles before exiting through a backstage door. You will quickly exit into the Epcot parking lots, where you will pass the mile 3 marker for the last .1 mile finish chute in the same Epcot parking lot where WDW runDisney races typically end.
The 10k Course
From our initial impressions, this course bears a striking resemblance to the lightning-shortened 2015 Wine and Dine Half Marathon, though there are some key differences.
The 10k course has the same start as the 5k, however it makes its turn towards Epcot a little bit sooner than the 5k course, as you will enter the park just after the 1 mile marker from a side entrance between the Odyssey and the Mexico Pavilion. While there are bathrooms in the Odyssey, they may be a little bit difficult to get to, but if you need them, turn right when you enter the park. You will then run along the World Showcase promenade on the side closest to World Showcase towards the Canada Pavilion. There will be a small bathroom on your right before you reach the first quick service location before Canada. After you pass Canada you will proceeding past the United Kingdom Pavilion (there are bathroom immediately on your right at the beginning of the UK pavilion). After the UK, where you will turn right to go down a slight decline and exit via the International Gateway park entrance. There will be a bathroom on your right as soon as you exit the park.
Unlike the 5k, you will proceed up the small incline and turn left towards the Boardwalk resort. Once over the bridge you will go down a small hill. The running surface at this point will be the boardwalk planks. You will pass mile marker 2 in front of the various Boardwalk restaurants and shops. 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 Jellyrolls (a Casual Runner favorite, hence it merits mentioning), you will turn left and go up a slight incline, before continuing on down the paved path along 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.
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. 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 the 3 mile marker and (Race Icon) a gorgeous view of the Tower of Terror awaits. 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. Two quick lefts will lead to a downhill section onto World Drive (this is the uphill that runners hate during the later miles of the WDW Marathon). Not only will runners enjoy the small downhill here, but they will also love passing mile marker 4.
Utilizing a vehicle on-ramp (again, in reverse of the Wine and Dine Half Marathon course), runners will turn left onto Osceola Parkway, but only for a short stretch, as they will make a sharp right turn onto a back pathway towards ESPN Wide World of Sports, where they will pass the marker for mile 5. 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 long straight section passed the various athletic fields (baseball, soccer, and the New Balance track). There will be 2-3 bathroom opportunities in this area, so keep an eye out for the signs. After passing 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 6 marker.
From there it is a straight shot further into the parking lot for the last .2 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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