May the force be with us! In this runDisney review we’re looking back at our experience at the 2019 Star Wars Rival Run at Walt Disney World. We’ve all had that thought at some point in our lives, lets run a half marathon. Ok, maybe only we’ve had those thoughts. It was a cold November day when we both looked at each and said, let’s do the Star Wars Rival Run in April. Minutes later we’re signed up, some may say, pot committed. The tracker beams are locked on us, and there’s no escape, we’re off to the races in this runDisney review!
No one just shows up to a half marathon and says lets do this. Well, we may know a few people that did this very thing, but the majority of us will log a few training miles before race day. Training for a half marathon can be a big task, but when you break it down over time, it’s not as bad as one may think. The runDisney website is filled with great training programs. Our best advice is train with a partner if you can. The miles pass by a lot faster if you have someone to chat with about anything. If you’re like us, it’s usually travel plans and what Fastpasses to get for the trip.
Passholder Insights: runDisney events have a lot of runners and hotels can be hard to come by. If you’re planning to race, we’d recommend booking a hotel prior to signing up for a race. Disney announces the race dates well in advance to when registration opens.
The Calm Before The Storm
T-minus 24 hours to all systems go! Let’s go find that bib! For all runDisney events at Walt Disney World the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex is home to everything race related. From bib pick up, to race merch, and the fitness expo, you’ll find it all there. For the Rival Run the bib pick-up and race packet pick-up (t-shirt, and free stuff) we’re in two different locations. This was a great idea as it spread out the crowds and gave us the opportunity to run into a few stormtroopers on patrol.
Passholder Insights: Prior to the race you can order your race merch from the website and then pick it up when you arrive. If there’s a certain item you want, we’d definitely recommend ordering ahead of time.
If you’re staying on Disney property bus transportation will be provided from your resort to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex and back. All of the Disney resorts will have a sign outside the main lobby outlining the bus schedule for the event with details around transportation to both ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex and the race startline. We found it really helpful to take a picture of the sign for reference later.
Depending on which race you’re participating in the day to pick-up your race packet will vary. The only requirement is to pick up your packet at least one day prior the start of the race. For our runDisney event we picked up our stuff on Saturday as the half marathon was on Sunday morning. We found that heading over first thing the morning was best, as the lines were almost non-existent. Please note that each person will need to pick up their own bib and a picture ID is required.
Passholder Insights: As part of the race you will need to sign a race waiver. You can sign it ahead of time through the runDisney website or you can print it at the bib pick-up location.
Is it an early morning or a late night at 2:30 am? We’re not sure either, all we know is it’s dark! The start times for all runDisney events tend to be (way) early in the morning, prior to the parks opening. This is a good thing, running in the Florida sun is hot (ain’t nobody got time for that!), plus the courses bring you through the parks! We’ll be rolling through the parks well before the rope droppers are gearing up to start their day.
For the Star Wars half marathon the runners were asked to be on the bus to the start line no later than 3:30 am, for a start time of 5:30 am. No worries though, when you get to the start line there is plenty to keep you entertained, from character meet ‘n greets, to trivia, and music galore. We (kinda) forgot about how early it was and soaked in the entertainment.
Passholder Insights: A lot of the characters at the meet ‘n greet were at the finish line as well. We recommend asking a cast member which ones also be at the finish line, then wait for the one that will be at the start only.
Let’s Get This Show On The Road!
Take your places! The start of all runDisney events are broken down into groups, and runners begin in a staggered fashion. On your bib you’ll have your corral letter, and you line up accordingly. You can feel the excitement build and see the blast of fireworks as each group is sent on their way. The start of a runDisney event is just like any other, definitely keep you head on a swivel as everyone “jockeys” for position.
The Star Wars half marathon course began in the back of the Magic Kingdom parking lot and brought us on adventure that was out of this world (pun intended!). We traveled behind the scenes past the Disney Golf maintenance buildings, the Reedy Creek Environmental Sciences facility (a smell we won’t forget), towards the Animal Kingdom. All along the route there were mile markers to remind just how much farther you had to go, and plenty of water stations.
Passholder Insights: There are picture stops all along the route, at least one every mile. runDisney pictures do not link to the your MagicBand or My Disney Experience, you’ll have to check them out on the runDisney website.
What We’re All Here For
Best part of any runDisney race is jogging through the parks. First stop is the Animal Kingdom. Good morning, Mr. Lion! Our course brought us through Africa, down around Pandora, past the Tree of Life and out by Dinosaur. There’s nothing like running through Pandora when it’s dark, just tread lightly if the ground is wet; can you say slippery?
Leaving Animal Kingdom we knew had some miles ahead of us to make it to Hollywood Studios. Definitely the most challenging part of the race. Once we saw the Tower of Terror and made the sharp right into Hollywood Studios, our spirits rose. The park was lined with cast members cheering us on and Nate even “ran into” a Stormtrooper. How can you not stop for a picture with a Stormtrooper? Hollywood Studios was the one park we spent the least amount of in. We’re guessing next year when Star Wars Galaxy Edges is open this race will take you through more of the park.
Passholder Insights: Disney is prepared for pictures during the race. It only takes a few seconds to snap the picture. Make sure you got your smile ready to go!
Exiting Hollywood Studios we headed for the one our favorite walking paths at Walt Disney World. The path brings you to our of favorite resort area, Boardwalk, and onto Epcot. As guests from the Boardwalk Resort cheered us on we were in the final miles of the race. Heading into Epcot we got our first behind the scenes glimpse of the new Disney Skyliner Station, wow! So cool!
The only thing left to do in the race is make our way around the world – Epcot’s World Showcase that is. If we had to pick one part of the race that was our favorite, this was it. As you passed by each of the countries (and it seemed like there were infinite!), the cast members were out waving flags and cheering us on, it was a sight to see. We even saw a cast member from the Norway Pavilion run with one of the guests in a show of support and encouragement!
A few more steps through Future World and all that awaits is the finish line. Wait! We got one more surprise, a look at the construction progress of the new Guardians of the Galaxy coaster. Now that’s a big building! Finish line here we come!
The runDisney races are loads of fun. Disney World does a fantastic job organizing the event. If you’re considering doing a race and are a Disney fan, these are a must do. We saved our biggest tip for last. Disney groups people based on whether or not you submitted a qualifying time. You definitely want to do this. For our half marathon, all we had to do is submit a 10k time from the past year. We used the 10k race as a training run. If you do not submit a time you may end up in one of the last groups, and it can be up to 45 mins to an hour of extra waiting before you being the race. Until next time, we’re off to dinner at O’hana, we’ve definitely earned it!