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2017 Dates: Thursday, April 20, through Sunday, April 23
Unsurprisingly, the popularity of both runDisney events and Star Wars have come together and created a new running event. In mid-April, Walt Disney World will host the inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side which, like all of the Florida runDisney events, is surrounded by a full weekend of races and activities.
Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side
The Star Wars Half Marathon is a 13.1 mile race through Walt Disney World. It occurs on Sunday, April 17, 2016. What makes this event special is that it is themed around Star Wars with intergalactically themed characters and award medals.
The route for the half marathon starts in Epcot and finishes at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, winding through the Walt Disney World Resort. As the runners wind through and around parks, several characters, including some rarely seen ones, make themselves available for impromptu meets. The "host" of the race is Darth Vader himself, and the event is called The Dark Side, so that should give you some idea which type of characters to expect.
One important item is the cost, which is significant. Most runDisney events have a three tiered pricing structure dependent on when you register. Since the Star Wars Half Marathon is in its first year, there is only one price, but expect that to change in the future. For 2016, the Star Wars Half Marathon costs $199.
As you are probably hoping, all of that money is not simply for the thrill of the race and the availability of some characters, there is also a goodie bag for each runner. These gifts include a Champion short sleeve tech shirt, a mesh bag, a newly designed finisher medal, an iGiftbag, a personalized bib, and on-course and post-race refreshments.
Star Wars 10k
The day before the Half Marathon, Saturday April 16, the 6.2 mile course will lead runners through Epcot and to ESPN Wide World of Sports. Like the Half Marathon, the 10k featured characters and on-course entertainment.
Also like the Half Marathon, participation comes at a price. The cost for the 10k in 2016 is $110. The extra goodies for the Star Wars 10k are the same as the Half Marathon, although the finisher medal is different.
Star Wars Dark Side Challenge
If you read the above and thought that a half marathon sounded too darn easy, the Star Wars Dark Side Challenge might be more to your liking. This combines both of the above races into a 19.3 mile, two day joy of jogging.
If you manage to finish inside of the pacing requirements for both the Star Wars 10k and the Half Marathon, you will be awarded with the Star Wars Dark Side Challenge medal in addition to your two shiny new Star Wars Half Marathon and Star Wars 10k finisher medals. Please note that to be eligible runners need to pre-register specifically for the Star Wars Dark Side Challenge.
The fee for the 2016 Challenge is $330. This registration fee includes all the swag and extras that the other races enjoy, although you may notice that the Dark Side Challenge registration costs a few dollars more than the other two races combined. Oh well, someone has to pay for those Challenge finisher medals.
Star Wars 5k
A relatively short race that everyone can participate in, the Star Wars 5k is a 3.1 mile jaunt around Epcot. This event is for Sith Lords of all ages and their families and takes place the Friday of the Star Wars Half Marathon weekend, which, in 2016, is April 15.
The 5k cost is $75 per participant and also included characters and on-course entertainment. Runners receive a t-shirt, finisher medallion, iGiftBag, and personalized bib.
runDisney Kids Races
Just in case the young ones feel left out during this fabulous weekend, runDisney has designed a pair of special events just for those under age 13. They take place at the New Balance Track and Field Complex at ESPN Wide World of Sports on Saturday April 16, 2016.
The Kids Dashes are all short sprints with varying distances depending on the child’s age: The Diaper Dash is specifically for crawlers under 1 year old. There is also a 100 meter dash for the 1-3 year olds, a 200 meter for the 4-6 crowd, and a 400 meter for the 7-8 year olds. All participants receive a t-shirt and finisher medallion in return for the $15 registration fee.
The other event for all those 13 and under racers is the One Mile Run, which is pretty self-explanatory. Just as in the Dash races, all participants receive a t-shirt and finisher medallion although the One Mile costs $30 per entrant.
runDisney Health and Fitness Expo
The Expo is a multi-day event held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex. The most important part is that all runners MUST attend the Expo in order to pick up their race packet and number.
In addition, attendees can check out much of the latest in fitness equipment, clothing, and footwear as well as the official Star Wars Half Marathon merchandise. There are also frequent presentations by runners and fitness experts.
This one is strictly for the non-runners. The ChEAR Squad is a way for spectators to be a part of the event weekend by cheering on runners...sorry, chEARing. Pricing is not yet available.
Special bus transportation is provided from on-site Disney resort hotels to all Star Wars Half Marathon weekend races and events.
Just kidding, speed isn’t the only thing to shoot for with a race, especially a runDisney event. Most of all you want to enjoy yourself as much as you can. Here are a handful of things to keep in mind about Disney’s races:
Sign up early. Disney races sell out very far in advance, so find out when the race you are interested in opens registration and sign up.
The races DO NOT include admission to a park. While you will run through parks, you will not be allowed to stay. If you would like to visit one or more of the parks after you finish the race, you will need to have an admission ticket.
The finish area is very busy. If you are meeting people at the end, pick a spot that is not near the finish line.
Dress in layers that you don’t want. Standing around and waiting for the race to begin in February can get chilly, so it is good to wear layers, but why one’s you don’t want? All clothing discarded during the race are donated to charity so shedding those layers doubles as a good deed.
Like all Disney races, we expect that the Star Wars Half Marathon will bring a significant amount of people to the resort, but that it will not necessarily increase the wait times on any of the attractions. Being in the parks during this event weekend you may notice more people wandering the pathways, many of them with brand new, shiny finisher medals. You will not notice much of an impact to your touring strategy, especially if you use a proper Touring Plan.
To find out exactly how busy each park will be so you can determine when and where to visit, make sure you explore our Crowd Calendar.