The Casual Runner

Inaugural runDisney Dark Side Weekend PREVIEW

I find your lack of faith disturbing. 

There is a great disturbance in the Force.

Well, we don’t know about that, but we do know you will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy than you will in Walt Disney World this April. That is because that is when runners from all of the galaxy will gather to run the Inaugural runDisney Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon Weekend!

We know you are excited and want to know all about this event, so we have everything you need to know to get yourself ready to take on the Dark Side…or to join the Dark Side…its OK, we don’t judge.

We already shared with you our detailed 5k course preview10k course preview, and the half marathon course preview, so you can check them out now for turn by turn directions and even hints about course features, race icons, water stops, and the all-important bathroom stops! You can also check out the official runDisney event guide, which is available now for download.


Event Weekend Schedule Overview:

Thursday April 14: Expo opens

Friday April 15: INAUGURAL 5k race, race expo, & kids races

Saturday April 16: INAUGURAL 10k race, race expo, & kids races

Sunday April 17: INAUGURAL half marathon


Join the Dark Side! We have puppies.

Expo Strategies & Information

The first thing you need to keep in mind is that this is not like any other race weekend. While other race weekends are marked with crazy rushes to grab event merchandise, this one promises to be even more hard core. Why? Well, it IS Star Wars. Let me lay it out for you. runDisney Race merch is hot. Star Wars merch is hot. Put the two together and it is going to be crazy.

We learned from both the 2015 inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon and the 2016 SW Light Side Half Marathon in Disneyland that lines of merch-seekers will form early and they will form fast. In fact, at Disneyland, runDisney played Star Wars movies for those who gathered several hours before the expo opened to entertain them. There is no reason not to expect huge crowds at this expo, but we have no idea where they will be forming the lines given the size of Wide World of Sports (or even what time they will let people onto the grounds).


So, if there is some merch that you absolutely have to have, we advise you to get there early and to pack your patience. However, if merch is not your thing, you may want to avoid the expo altogether when it opens on Thursday morning (and perhaps for several hours after that). As is true for all expos, lines will die down as the weekend goes on.

Aside from the merch and perhaps some seriously awesome cosplaying during the expo itself, this looks like it will be like your typical runDisney race expo in Walt Disney World. Given this, be sure to check out our tips for surviving a runDisney race expo for hints, tips, and information to get you in and get your out of the expo with all of the swag you want so you can get back out to the parks!

If you want to gauge how busy the expo will be in order to avoid crowds, keep the following in mind. All of the merch seekers will be there when the expo opens on Thursday morning, which is when the lines and crowds will most likely be the heaviest. Anyone running the 5k on Friday will have to pick up their bibs on Thursday, so Thursday will draw the heavier crowds throughout the day. Those running the 10k and the Dark Side Challenge will have to pick up their bibs before it closes on Friday. Thus, if you are running the half marathon and are looking for the lightest crowds, plan on going on Saturday.

On-Course Photos – NOW on Disney PhotoPass

One of the most exciting changes to this event is that, for the first time, race photos will be made a part of Disney PhotoPass. This means that if you purchase PhotoPass for your trip, OR if you have it included as a part of your WDW Annual Pass, you will have access to all of your event photos at no extra charge. Here is how it will work:

– As in past runDisney events, photographers will be at the events and on the course to take pictures. Except, this time they will be PhotoPass Photographers.
– Make sure your race bib is visible on the front of your shirt.
– After the event go (and select Walt Disney World as the photo location) to view, edit, and save/download your pictures.
– One little wrinkle, you will need to LINK your photos to your PhotoPass account. To do this, you need to enter an 11 digit “RaceID” for each runner whose photos you want to link to your account. To get this number, add your 5 digit bib number into the following codes in place of the x’s in the following codes:

Kids Races: 2016-DARK-KIDx-xxxx
5K Race:  2016-DARK-W5Kx-xxxx
10K Race:  2016-DARK-10Kx-xxxx
Half Marathon Race:  2016-DARK-HLFx-xxxx

If your bib number is less than 5 digits, use leading zeros in to fill the remaining “x slots.”


We are already hearing from many readers who have some amazing costumes planned for this event. While CosRunning promises to be a highlight of this event, please make sure you check out runDisney’s updated costume policies to avoid any problems or necessary stress during race weekend. The full policy can be found on page 36 of the event guide.

Dark Side Challenge 

If you are registered for the Dark Side Challenge, make sure to keep your eyes open at the expo for specific directions, which usually involve having your picture taken at the expo. After finishing the 10k you will be directed to exit through a special tent. Typically nothing will happen at this point, but it is practice for the following day. After finishing the half marathon, you will be directed through the same exit, will volunteers will confirm your picture and bib, and you will receive your challenge medal.


Kessel Run & Coast to Coast Challenges

Again, keep your eyes open at the expo for specific instructions, and confirm with your registration when you pick it up that you are registered for these challenges.

If you completed the Star Wars Light Side Half Marathon in Disneyland in January 2016, you must visit the specified tent after the half marathon to claim your Kessel Run Challenge medal.

Additionally, if you are getting your coast to coast medal for 2016, you will have to visit the specified tent after the half marathon to claim your medal.

Event Transportation

If you have been a to a runDisney event in Walt Disney World before, this will be old hat to you. If you have not, it is quite simple. Each of the Walt Disney World resorts, plus Swan, Dolphin, and Shades of Green will serve as host resorts. There will be event shuttle buses at designated places at each resort to take you to and from both the expo and the races. Event transportation schedules, as well as pickup locations, will be posted in your resort lobby. Keep an eye out for signs bearing the runDisney logo and all event shuttles will be denoted by signs bearing the event logo in the front window of the buses.

Please note that anyone can ride these buses, including your friends and family.  Additionally, when leaving the expo or any of the events, if you want to go to a different resort than the one where you are staying to catch a dining reservation or to have easy access to a park, you can feel free to do so. Just get on board, its that easy.


Driving Yourself: Expo & Race Day Parking

As we noted in our course previews for the 10k & 5k and half marathon events, the 10k and half marathon will finish in the parking lots at the ESPN Wide World of Sports that traditionally were used to stage event transportation for the expo. Given this, anticipate changes to the parking plan to accommodate the finish line.

If you are driving yourself to the the 5k, 10k, and half marathon races, you will park in the designated lots in Epcot.  As the 5k will start and finish in Epcot, you can walk back to your car after you finish. However, as the 10k and half marathons are point to point races, while they start in Epcot, they will both finish in ESPN’s Wide World of Sports. Thus, if you drive, you will have to catch an event shuttle to transfer you back to Epcot after the race to get back to your car.


The Weather

Given that the races will take place in April in Florida, there is a good possibility of higher-than-normal temperatures than you may be used to if you have run runDisney races in Florida in January and February.  Make sure your costumes are suitable for potential high temperatures and make sure you HYDRATE! HYDRATE! HYDRATE!

One of the best tips we will keep sharing with you is, if you plan on spending a lot of time in the parks and even the Disney resorts, any quick service/counter service location will give you FREE glasses of ice water. Use this tip early and often during your trip, and always HYDRATE! HYDRATE! HYDRATE!


More Planning Tips

Are you looking for even more tips and information to get you ready for your trip?

Don’t forget to read our detailed 5k course preview10k course preview, and the half marathon course preview. They are full of great tips and information so you know what to expect when you toe the line during race weekend.

Also, make sure you check out our tips for surviving a runDisney race expo.

Here are the Top 10 things you should know before you runDisney and be sure to avoid these Top 10 runDisney runcation mistakes.

Finally, even though you are already committed to this event, you may want to check out our Top 10 Reasons NOT to runDisney.

Four of the members of Team Casual Runner will be running these races, so be sure to follow our updates on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and be sure to say hi to us if you see us in the parks or at the events.

That is going to just about do it. All that is left is to say May the Force be With you! Or, if you prefer: Join the Dark Side! Again, we don’t judge.


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