The Casual Runner

Top 5 Tips: Star Wars – Dark Side Half Marathon Weekend

Top 5 Things You Need to Know for the runDisney Star Wars – Dark Side : Half Marathon Weekend


Last year we brought you the Inaugural runDisney Dark Side Weekend Preview in the weeks leading up to your run at Walt Disney World. This year we’re stepping up our game by giving you the five things you need to know so you don’t underestimate the power of the Dark Side.

So let’s get down to it…

Please make sure you go back and read our Inaugural runDisney Dark Side Weekend Preview for a more in-depth preview of the weekend. 

5) Pack Now

Make sure you’re packed and ready to go. Put those last minute battery packs in your light sabers and polish up your suits because it’s time to run like storm trooper.  Don’t forget to pack emergency supplies (such as a glue gun) incase something happens to your costume in transfer.  Trust me I’m speaking from experience.  Nothing sucks more than not being able to run in your costume because it fell apart on your way to Disney.

Also a lot of Star Wars costumes are over the top, and that’s a good, but it is always a good idea to take a trial run in your costume before you decide to wear it for 13.1 miles. We’ve heard multiple times of the horror stories on a course because of how uncomfortable a costume is because it was not run in beforehand.  Also be ready to call an audible and possibly throw away parts of your costume on the course if it’s not working for you.

4) Survive the Expo

The Expo will be insane on opening day…imagine Black Friday with all runDisney items. Get there hours before open or wait until the next day to go! Unfortunately the expo is not exclusive to runners and there are plenty of Star Wars fans out there that like to collect anything from the Star Wars Universe. Unless you have a special piece of merchandise you’re seeking out there is no need to go to the expo on the first day unless you’re running the 5K.  The expo opens Thursday April 20th at 10am and crowds will thin out as the weekend goes on. Of course, if you want to go at the opening of the first day for the thrill of the hunt or the entertainment value, have at it!  You may see a few casual runners there on the hunt for a certain shoe ornament.

Check out our tips for surviving a runDisney race expo.

3) Pre Race Party

You’re probably thinking I meant to say post race party… nope, I definitely meant to say pre race.  Last year getting to the pre race party was the best opportunity to get great pics with Star Wars characters before you get all sweaty.

This year it also seems to be very important to get to the pre race party as early as possible because for the half marathon there are only corrals A-G for over 18,000 runners.  This few corrals may suggest that the corrals will go out in waves like they did for the 2017 WDW 5K and the 2017 Princess 5K.  With wave starts it is important that you are as close to the front of the corral as possible if you want to get out on the course as quickly as possible.

2) Adjust Expectations: New Course This Year

Completely new course this year compared to last year.  So let me break it down for you…

We will start in the Magic Kingdom parking lots and make our way to Bear Island Road and spend the first third of the race on.  The best part of running this race compared to the 2016 Wine and Dine Half Marathon and the 2017 Walt Disney World Marathon we will not have to run a down and back on Western Way.  I repeat… no down and back on Western Way!  On this part of the course be on the look out for some great character stops and be happy that we’re running this most boring part of the course in the early morning hopefully before it’s light out.  On this stretch there will be three water stations along the way about every mile and a half.

After you pass the mile four marker it will be time to make your way toward Animal Kingdom.  You will enter backstage by the animal enclosures, along the access road where the train runs.  Then you will enter the park close to Harambe and make a left hand turn toward Expedition Everest.  Unfortunately there will be no time for a ride on Everest this early in the morning.  You will continue to circle around the river toward the Finding Nemo theatre and no toward Dinoland to exit the park.

After you exit Animal Kingdom you will be in the parking lots and the race will be very familiar to last year’s race, but backwards.  The mile six marker will be in the parking lot.  Last year there were awesome set pieces you could stop for photo ops that I regret skipping, so be on the look out for those.

After you leave the Animal Kingdom parking lots you will make your way on to Osceola Parkway and pass the mile seven and eight marker.  Right after the mile 8 marker you will take the exit ramp to put you on  World Drive heading toward Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

The next mile will be spent on World Drive heading north.  Once past the mile 9 marker you will take the exit ramp for Buena Vista Drive.  Two exit ramps will give this race a little bit of elevation that you should not under estimate.  The exit ramps also tend to be hard to run because you are running on a banked surface.

Right before mile 10 you will make a right turn to enter Disney’s Hollywood Studios thru the Fantasmic amphitheatre. You will run in front of the theatre and make your way toward the Tower of Terror.  From there you will make a left hand turn on to Sunset Blvd and then a left onto Hollywood Blvd to make your way out of the park.

You will make your way to the Boardwalk by heading along the narrow passageway to Epcot.  This part of the course can become very congested.  You will enter the promenade shortly after the mile 11 marker by turning right after Jellyrolls.  You will then run along the promenade and turn right on International Gateway to head toward Epcot.

You will head off to the left to enter World Showcase from the backstage area between Canada and the UK.  Time to spend the last mile of the course by strolling thru the countries.  Mile 12 will be between France and Morocco.  After heading around World Showcase you will head toward Future World and run straight toward Spaceship Earth.  Time to pin your ears back because you only have 0.1 miles left to go as the mile 13 marker will be right outside of Epcot.

Make sure to check the official runDisney event guide to check out the new 10K course.

1) SMO Celebration!

Wear your medals to the parks!

Embrace the clank (that all-too-familiar sound where your multiple race medals clank against one another as you walk around the parks). Get your medal pictures in front of the Launch Bay.  Or maybe even have one with Kylo Ren, Chewbacca, or BB-8!  You will see plenty of your fellow dark side runners doing just this, so join them, you’ve earned it!

I look forward to seeing all of my favorite dark side runners soon!  If you see Mike or myself out there make sure you say hi!  You may see us during the 10K dressed as one of your favorite Star Wars couples,

We have even more great articles to get you ready to run during Dark Side – Star Wars Weekend!

Inaugural runDisney Dark Side Weekend Preview
Star Wars Dark Side Challenge Weekend Recap & Overview
2016 Star Wars Dark Side 10k: Candace’s Race Recap, Jennifer’s Race Recap
2016 Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon: Candace’s Race Recap, Jennifer’s Race Recap 
 Star Wars CosRunning Concepts: Tangled Up, Beauty & The Bounty Hunter, Admiral Piett, The Droids

Enjoy the freedom of going wherever your feet, imagination, & determination take you!

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Enjoy the freedom of going wherever your feet, imagination, & determination take you!