In a city not too far, far away....


Episode RVN

Gene Lu, a runner in Portland, Oregon is battling the DULL SIDE of running. Using the Force, Gene has been completing runs in the shape of Star Wars icons, sending him into new parts of the galaxy while keeping him on his toes as he navigates through intricate run routes.

With the opening day of Star Wars: The Force Awakens quickly approaching, Gene and his friends race off to complete the runs in hopes of inspiring the rest of the galaxy in joining him to defeating the Dull Side...



Snowspeeder / New York, NY / Directions

X-Wing / New York, NY / Directions

Millenium Falcon / New York, NY / Directions

Princess Leia / Portland, OR / Directions

Red Leader / Portland, OR / Directions

AT-ST Walker / Portland, OR / Directions

Death Star / Portland, OR / Directions

TIE Fighter / Portland, OR / Directions

AT-AT Walker / Portland, OR / Directions

Stormtrooper / Portland, OR / Directions

Darth Vader / Portland, OR / Directions

Yoda / Portland, OR / Directions

C3PO / Portland, OR / Directions

R2D2 / New York, NY / Directions

Imperial Shuttle / Portland, OR / Directions

A New Hope for Running

In late November 2015, I was getting bored of running. The terrible weather that we were having here in Portland, OR wasn’t helping either. What I did have going for me was Star Wars: the Force Awakens, which was coming out mid-December. Inspired by Run of Thrones, a project that I did 2 years ago, I started mapping out routes in the shape of Star Wars icons and running them. What differentiated this project from Run of Thrones was that 1) the routes were a lot more intricate and 2) for each run, a set of run-friendly, turn-by-turn directions were created and shared so that others can also do the run.

These runs gave us new reasons to pound the pavement. We were no longer tied to the same old routes. We were running through new neighborhoods, across various bridges, down hidden alleyways, and past famous and obscure landmarks. In addition to all of this new stimuli, anticipating the next steps in the turn-by-turn directions further broke down the monotony of running.

The Search for Routes

Before combing through the map for a route, I first identify the most iconic parts of the drawing and then look for that part on the map. Once found, the rest of the route is built out from that point on using Nike+'s online route creator tool, Nike+ Places. After the route has been completed, I create the turn-by-turn cards by going through the route while also ensuring that all turns are clear. For parts that get a little confusing, I use Streetview on Google Maps to document the complexity in the directions. Once the directions have been compiled, I go out for the run. If any problems come up during the run, I mentally document it and update the directions afterwards.

Turn-By-Turn Cards

Directions for each run were presented in a storyboard / photo album format. While on the run, all the runner had to do was swipe left to proceed to the next step. The card format also allowed for directions to be granular, something that turn-by-turn directions through in-ear audio fails to do.

For example, in the Darth Vader run, step 10 requires you to make a right on NE 12th Ave. Then on steps 11 and 12, there's more detail around navigating onto and around the track at Buckman Field.

The loop of the experience was closed by including the names of those who finished a run at the end of each set of cards.

Padawan Participation

Not only did Run Wars put a new lens on running, it inspired runners around the world to look for iconic Star Wars run routes in their respective regions. The most fulfilling part of this project was hearing about other runners in Portland (here, here, here, and here) actually completing these complex runs on their own or with friends.

I also received the following message from a runner that completed the AT-AT Walker run right before the new year.

Presence of the Force

From local news stations to news sites halfway around the world, the recognition that Run Wars has received has been overwhelming. I'm hoping that this project will help inspire and re-inspire runners around the world to go out for a run in the new year.

May the Force be with you.