Walt Disney World turned to the dark side with the second Dark Side Half Marathon weekend. Many gathered and ran through a few of the parks and the roads around them.
The racers start the weekend at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex where check in and the Expo are held. Check-in was held in one building, and where the Dark Side Challenge and 5k shirt pick up was too. But, 10k and Half Marathon only shirt pickup was in the Expo, which was in the J-Center. The Expo is open to anyone and full of running related merchandise. Of course the official merchandise store had great Star Wars Run Disney things to buy.
Though the half marathons are nothing new to the resort, this course and race is relatively new. The ESPN Complex was used for the check in and Expo, it wasn’t touched as part of the course at all, which was a rather different thing for the race courses. The route took people from the Magic Kingdom parking lot (or rather Transportation and Ticket Center parking lot) to the roads. Following the Half Marathon, the first park stop was Animal Kingdom at around mile 5. There was a beautiful sun rising view of Expedition Everest. After that it was onto Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Where last year’s route had runners go up the Hollywood Hills Amphitheater hill (home of Fantasmic) this time it was all downhill. The course went by the Epcot Resort hotels and ended at Epcot. Some racers even jumped on rides as the parks were starting to open for some in the later corrals.
The weekend’s races were tough mostly because of the weather. A bizarre heat spell made the half marathon day especially humid. Some thought the new course was too tough, but also conceded it could have been due to the weather. Most I talked to that had that thought hadn’t run last year’s course, which, in my opinion, was much tougher.
Despite weather conditions it was a very fun race weekend. There were many characters, great scenery, and terrific medals.
After the race, Disney’s Hollywood Studios was on the docket so that I could get some photos with characters from the franchise. I picked Kylo Ren and the new BB-8 photo ops. I also discovered that a great place to view some of the characters from A Galaxy Far, Far Away show is behind the stage at the end because they have to parade down afterward.
During this whole time the Flower and Garden Festival was featured at Epcot. This annual tradition has even more topiaries than before! Throughout the whole park are beautiful floral arrangements. In the Festival Center are great demonstrations of gardening techniques.
Food at the Festival is a great reason to visit on its own. There are almost as many kiosks as the Food and Wine Festival. One of the infamous places is the Smokehouse by American Adventure. Food is made from a real smoker grill!
It has been a big and busy time at Walt Disney World recently, but the Resort always creates great memories like running these races and visiting Epcot for one of its great festivals!