Due to COVID19 “runDisney” cancelled the fifth Star Wars Half Marathon weekend at Walt Disney World. Having already cancelled the first two races of the year, this morning runDisney announced that the 2021 Rival Run would be reorganized basically bringing the 2021 runDisney season to a total stop. Instead of being an in-person race held at the Walt Disney World resort, Rival Run has been turned into a virtual race for 2021.
2021 participants were given the option to get a full refund or convert their entries to virtual race entries. The virtual 5k, 10k, Half Marathon and Challenge races are based on an honor system. Per runDisney “Runners track their own times and completion is based on the honor system. Once you complete your run, visit the finisher website to submit your finish time and download your race certificate.”
Runners who opt to convert their registration into a virtual entry will have the choice of receiving a medal, or medal and shirt for the race they are registered for. Already registered runners have until December 18 to make their selection. On December 15 at 10am ET, runners who haven’t yet signed up for the 2021 Rival Run Half marathon weekend will have the chance to sign up for the virtual race on the runDisney website. Finisher kits for the virtual series “will be shipped at the conclusion of the event completion timeframe.”
The interesting part of today’s announcement was the teaser that come 2022 the March/April runDisney event theming will be reimagined “for 2022 and (we) will share more information on that at a later date.”
This isn’t the first time this runDisney race series has been reimagined. At the beginning of the Star Wars race series in 2015, Disneyland was still holding several runDisney events a year. The Light Side race series was held at Disneyland and the Dark Side race series was held at Walt Disney World starting in 2016. At that time the normal “castle to castle challenge” which required the runner to participate in races on both coasts within 12 months of each other became the Kessel Run Challenge for the Coast to Coast Star Wars Challenge.
In 2018 runDisney cancelled all runDisney events due to construction and the then rumored issues between Disneyland and Orange County regarding the now cancelled Eastern Gateway parking expansion. The transportation hub and parking structure project would have been on the east side of the resort on Manchester Avenue, but the project was killed off in 2017. In 2019 the Dark Side race at Walt Disney World was reimagined as Rival Run Half Marathon Weekend, but the Kessel Run Challenge was kept as a virtual half and in person half marathon challenge option.
While many runners are assuming that the reimagining of Rival Runs means the end of the Star Wars race series all together, I tend to disagree. Yesterday Disney Corporate announced a slew of upcoming Star Wars projects that will take new and old fans into unexplored regions of the Star Wars universe. I think this reimagining is all about making it easier to incorporate new characters from these new shows, games and movies.
In my opinion Disney is putting too much money and time into expanding the Star Wars universe in the next few years to not keep a Star Wars race in the runDisney lineup. I honestly do not think we will see an end to the Star Wars race weekend concept, just a change in how the race themes and overall event theming works.
If you look at the original race themes for the cancelled 2020 event you see that the 5k medal and merchandise would have featured Darth Maul and Ahsoka Tano; the 10k was Princess Leia and stormtrooper themed; the Half Marathon featured Darth Vader and Yoda; the Rival Run Challenge featured TIE fighters and X-wings and the Kessel Run as with the original series was themed after the Millennium Falcon. The 2020 kids races featured R2-D2 and Jawas on the finisher medallions and merchandise.
Today the 2021 Rival Run race themes were announced and while the images are slightly different the “rivalries” for each race are still the same. This follows the same race theme concept that seen at the Walt Disney World Marathon weekend where each race has a set “mascot” and the medals and merchandise just change vs with the Princess Half Marathon series where the Princess represented for each race can change every year. This also pins runDisney into keeping with the pattern of manifested “rivalries” vs the enemies that had a few fights in a movie concept they have had for the last two years as well as a race name that even their own employees have issues remembering.
By changing the theme of Rival Run to a general “Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend” it opens the door to having each Star Wars Weekend race themed towards different parts of the Star Wars Universe as well as opens the whole timeline for character, vehicle or even planet representation.
Imagine in 2022 if runDisney hosted a Star Wars themed race weekend that had a kids race with a Droid Story theme; a Rebels or Ladies of Star Wars themed 5k; a Bad Batch themed 10k; Rangers of the New Republic Half Marathon; The Acolyte Challenge for those that complete the 10k and half Marathon and instead of a Kessel Run challenge imagine a Mandalorian Razor Crest IRL and Virtual Half Marathon challenge theme. Then each year as Disney releases new Star Wars content the themes could change.
So in 2023 there could be a popular Star Wars ship theme with themes like the Tie Defender, Luxury 3000 and the Ghost. Then in 2024 planets or bases of common reference like Tatooine, Geonosis, Kashyyyk, Edan II and Batuu, could be used for race themes.
What do you think the new theme for the March/April runDisney race series should be?