runDisney Star Wars Half Marathon – The Dark Side Begins!

Put on your running shoes and use your aggressive feelings.

Thousands of runners from all over the world have spent many months training for runDisney’s latest race weekend, Star Wars Half Marathon – The Dark Side. Now the big weekend is here, but instead of training runs, these events are the real deal. Star Wars fans from across the galaxy have taken over Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, and I’ve got the full report on the first two days.

Cole Horton with BB-8

The weekend of activities kicked off with the runDisney Health & Fitness expo, which is like a mini-convention for runners and Star Wars fans. The expo is where runners come to pick up the items they need for the run, have the opportunity to buy exclusive merchandise, and see guest speakers talk at the Speaker Series. Matt Martin (creative executive, Lucasfilm Story Group) and I took the stage to talk what we know best: Star Wars.

Matt and I give a quick recap of the Star Wars saga and then dive deeper into running related facts. We talk the best Star Wars planets to go for a run, the best running moments from the films, and how long it would take to run a lap around the Death Star. If you want to learn more about the past, present, and future of Star Wars from a runner’s point of view, we’ll be back on the Speaker Series stage at 1 p.m. on Saturday, April 16.

Today, Matt and I ran our first race: the Star Wars 5k. This fun run took us on a 3.1-mile course through Epcot®. I’ve visited Epcot many times, but this was unlike all of my other visits. Of course it was great to run past all of the various countries represented in the World Showcase, but the real highlight for me were all of the Star Wars characters and themed moments spread throughout the course. Star Wars music plays throughout the park, there are photo opportunities with iconic park sites, and characters are ready to meet you along the way.

Matt Martin with Sabine and Ezra

The weekend isn’t just about running, it also makes a great family vacation. I brought my wife along for the trip where we will meet up with family. Walt Disney World Resort offers so many hotels, restaurants, and things to do; I spend most of my time enjoying the trip. Getting up early for the races is perfect, too. I’m done running when the rest of the family is just waking up. By the time I get back from the race, we are ready to head off to the parks.

I fully embraced the vacation aspect of my runDisney trip this time, jumping at the opportunity to get a massage at Senses – A Disney Spa at Disney’s Grand Floridian. With all of the training and travel leading up to the trip, it was great to unwind at the spa for a few hours. In fact, I’ve spent more time relaxing on this trip than running so far!

All weekend long, I’ve been making it a point to explore the resort and relax…in style. Matt, Aubrey from runDisney, and I embraced the dark side race theme with casual wear from Champion and New Balance. Matt had a Darth Vader-inspired look, which he personalized with a homemade chest box. Aubrey and I wore stromtrooper-inspired outfits. From the races to the parks, other fans wearing Star Wars apparel and character-inspired outfits are everywhere. It’s great to be surrounded by fellow fans everywhere we go.

Cole, Matt, and Aubrey at runDisney

The weekend’s Star Wars activities have just begun. Tomorrow is the Star Wars 10K and Sunday is the Half Marathon. I’ll be running both races and will be back with the full recap when it’s over. Stay tuned right here on for the latest!

Cole Horton is a full-time Star Wars fan, historian, and author. He is the co-author of Star Wars: Absolutely Everything You Need to Know and also makes games at EA. You can follow him on Twitter @ColeHorton.