In the middle of last month Melanie and I drove down to Orlando for the first Star Wars Disney Half Marathon. We’ve heard for years from our running buddies about Disney races and their tales always fall into two categories of either loving the experience or hating the fact that you spend more time between the parks than in them. We like to run and wanted to find out for ourselves and Star Wars so the decision was made.
TL;DR It was a great trip and race! Short but packed with fun. You should definitely do it!
- Because the race starts early (to finish before the park opens) we had to stay someplace close by. This meant a night in an Orlando hotel. We chose to stay on the premises at the cheapest hotel we could find, The Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort. The hotel was decent (clean and quiet), but perks of getting driven everywhere and never having to leave the protective womb of Disney were FANTASTIC! Especially on race morning. The saps that were just getting dropped off (not even parking) paid the iron price and had to sit in traffic for a loooong time. We zipped right up to the front.
- There were plenty of shuttles so we never had to wait more than 10 minutes to go anywhere. Disney is ultra organized with everything and they’ve done many many races before so they must have known the exact number of shuttles to have ready. We saw buses from all the different parks plus many others that must have been rented just for the event.
- The race itself was great even though the course could have been better (very very tight in places – don’t plan to PR). It was very cool to get to run through Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom before sunrise with all of the lights on and run in the behind-the-scenes areas. I’d never been to ESPN but that is where we finished. What a neat place! Scenes from the movies played on giant screens scattered along the course. We ran through themed areas (that need improvement) like Vader’s hyperbaric chamber and a podrace course. The finisher’s medal is really cool too. It flips in the middle so you either see Vader or Palpy.
- There were places to get cool pix taken before the race and along the course. Had I known how cool, I would have packed a mobile phone and that should tell you something because I hate carrying stuff when I run. I just assumed that all of the Disney race photographers would be taking pictures at these stations but instead they just took the standard boring during-the-race pix that no one buys. You could stop and get pix with SW characters or enjoy famous set pieces like the Emperor’s throne. Some of these were pretty elaborate. Let me explain my favorite. Picture a giant shoebox. The front wall has a big oval-ish hole cut in it. There are fake glittery icy stalactites and mites in the foreground. There’s a Wampa painting on background. The midground is a snowdrift. You stand behind the fake snowdrift with arms stretched overhead. TRICKED YA! The whole thing is upside down!!! So now when you flip the pic, you are Luke hanging from the ceiling!!!!! WAMPA! WAMPA!
- I want to do the Kessel Run (SW ½ at Disneyland then SW ½ at World in same year). I would have tried to do it this year but I didn’t even know it existed. FWIW, I talked with someone who had done it and they said that the Disney World one is harder than the Disneyland one but other than that they are very similar.
- The day before the race we had to be there early enough for packet pickup so we decided to visit Disney World’s version of a large outdoor shopping mall called Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney). This place was large, expanding like crazy (construction everywhere), and neat-o. We walked around it that evening and ate at T-Rex (thanks for the tip Jen) where the food was good and we were surrounded by animatronic dinosaurs. We went back the next day after the race for our Ghirardelli fudge sundaes. Tasty stuff. The Lego store was fun to walk through with all of its giant Lego sculptures. As you would imagine, the Disney store is impressive (largest in the world).
I think you should do this race. If you are able to complete it, you will be “level 3” in your Stormtrooper training like we are now. I wanted to keep this mini review short so if you have any questions just ask them in the comments below.