Cole Horton

First-time Runners Will Feel the Force at Star Wars Half Marathon – The Dark Side

A year ago today, I was out of breath, out of shape, and out of time. When I decided to run in the first ever runDisney Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend event last year, I wasn't sure I could do it. I've never been much of an athlete and when the opportunity came up to run the Star Wars 5k and 10k races, I had just two months to train. But as a Star Wars fanatic, I finally found the inspiration I needed to get off the couch and take my first step into the larger world of running.

My training began on a cold November day in Ohio. I laced up a pair of New Balance shoes and hit the quiet streets of my neighborhood. I knew I was behind in my training, but I was eager to catch up. I ran hard that first day—too hard—and paid the price the next day. In my eagerness to get started, I forgot the most important part of my training: simply following the runDisney training plan.

I didn't realize it until that second day, but runDisney had already given all of us the perfect training plan. For a first time runner like me, I never expected the plan to be so simple or so perfect for someone, like me, who was starting from scratch.

It turns out the most important part about running is actually walking.

Jeff Galloway's runDisney training plans use the Run-Walk-Run method, which helps you avoid fatigue and exhaustion by running and walking in intervals. When I started my training plan, I spent equal time walking as I did running. As I got stronger, the time spent running increased. Using this plan, I was never left out of breath and also avoided any major injuries.

The time commitment for following the training plan is also surprisingly reasonable. Most of my training runs were just thirty minutes long, which I was very thankful for on those cold December days. In just a few weeks, my body had become acclimated to the activity and I actually wanted to run more frequently. For the first time in my life, I truly enjoyed going for a run (or rather, a run-walk-run!).

Best of all, I had a huge goal on the horizon. I knew that at the end of all this training was a giant Star Wars-themed event. I was not only looking forward to the races but also the expo, the characters, the exclusive collectables, and being surrounded by other fans.

On race day, I stuck with my run-walk-run method. While I managed to run a large part of the 5k and 10k races, I took walking breaks as frequently as needed. Many people on the course walked most of the race, which is also totally acceptable! In fact, many people frequently took breaks in the parks for photo ops or just to enjoy the experience. My goal was to finish strong, so I made sure I had enough energy to run across the finish line feeling great!

If you are a Star Wars fan who wants to improve your fitness, try out a new challenge, collect great medals, or just enjoy the experience of the Disney Parks in a new way, I highly encourage you to join me at the upcoming runDisney Star Wars Half Marathon – The Dark Side, this April in Florida. There are still limited registration opportunities available for the Half Marathon. Like all runDisney races, there is even a training plan available just for this event. The training plan starts on December 15th, so now is the perfect time to get started. May the course be with you!

Cole Horton is a historian and blogger for, Marvel, and more. Find him on Twitter @ColeHorton.