April 17, 2016 The Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon – The Dark Side, took place at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando. I was thrilled to be among the 18,000+ finishers of the Half Marathon. Was it my best half, nope, not time-wise but maybe view wise – depending on how you define “views?” While we ran, the Emperor’s white uniformed Stormtroopers lined the race route in several places cheering the runners onward with high-fives and blasters. There were very cool photo-op stages set up en-route as well, like the famous trash compacter scene and the ice cave with Luke’s lightsaber, scenes even a moderate Star Wars fan is aware of — the photo-op placements did help break up some of the Disney parking lot running we endured.
I learned that while I’ve run the Disney Princess Weekend three years in a row, I’m really more a Star Wars Princess than a Disney Princess, because I’d much rather swing a lightsaber, high-five a Stormtrooper, and have my picture taken with Chewbacca than pose with Princess Aurora and have glitter sprinkled on me by Fairy Godmothers. Don’t get me wrong, I like Disney Princesses and Fairies, but apparently I’m just more Leia than Cinderella. I’m totally okay with that. It fits with being a mom to only boys.
If you are trying to decide between the Disney Princess Weekend and the new Disney Star Wars Dark Side weekend:
- First consider are you a more Princess or Star Wars, i.e. would you rather have your picture taken with Ursula or the Sith Lord? I personally was ecstatic to see Chewbacca and R2-D2 posing for pictures and really wish the lines weren’t as long as they were, reinforcing that others were just as excited.
- The Inaugural Dark Side Half started at 5 a.m. or 30 minutes before the usual 5:30 a.m. start of the Princess Half. When you are getting up at o’dark thirty that thirty minutes might make a big difference to some. Personally, the time shift didn’t affect me.
- The two Halves take totally different routes through Disney’s Parks. To some runners the views in the parks make the race. The Dark Side Half route was very similar to the Run Disney historic Wine & Dine route in reserve, as it started at Epcot, travelled through the Animal Kingdom and ended at the ESPN Zone. (With the Wine & Dine changing format to a morning race instead of a night race, I’m not sure if the route is changing also!)
- Both Halves were primarily dominated by women runners, although there were more men in the Dark Side than the Princess Half. Not counting the race challenge opportunities, 8000+ men finished the Dark Side Half compared to just over 2000 in the 2016 Princess Half Marathon. Still small compared to the 18,000+ and 10,000+ women that finished in both respective Half Marathons. Further proof that women are dominating the sport of running.
Disney, the consummate master entertainment company, continually strives to have something for everyone and this has obviously expanded into the runDisney race offerings.
In 2014, I began my Disney running with my first Half Marathon in the Princess Half. In 2015, I ran the Disney Princess Glass Slipper Challenge (10k and Half) and the shortened due to lightning Wine & Dine. I followed with the Princess Glass Slipper again in 2016 and Star Wars Dark Side Half. In 2017, I’m going to switch it up and run the Half during the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend in January and instead of the Princess Weekend run Gasparilla in Tampa, Florida instead.
Disney races are an experience unto themselves. What runDisney race suits you best?
What Disney race do you want to do?