If you plan to attend San Diego Comic-Con International 2012 from July 12-15, you should consider adding a few more days to your trip. Nerdist, in collaboration with Lucasfilm Ltd., Machinima, and Octagon Global Events, is hosting a special event leading up to Comic-Con. The Course of the Force run begins on July 7 in Santa Monica, California and ends in San Diego on July 11, just in time for Comic-Con.

The Jedi lightsaber has long been a symbol of hope and freedom for geeks throughout the galaxy, and now it will be carried Olympic-torch style as a symbol of hope for the Make-A-Wish Foundations of Southern California. Course of the Force will raise money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation through sponsorships and a $500 participation fee. Make-A-Wish grants the wishes of children with life-threatening illnesses come true.

For $500, participants get: to run a quarter mile of the course, a sense of self-worth from contributing to a charitable cause, the opportunity to dress in costume while running in California, Star Wars Ultimate FX lightsabers, and swag bags of other cool, geeky stuff. Registration for Course of the Force is now open, but space is limited and entries will not be accepted on site.

If you don’t get to run, you can still participate by attending special events that will be held along the course each night. Nerdist founder and comedian Chris Hardwick will host nightly events with special guests, shows, and panel discussions. The events schedule, roster, and tickets have not yet been announced, but all of these details will be posted on the Course of the Force website when they are finalized.

For those who can’t make it to the events, live broadcasting of the race and highlights of the nightly events will be broadcast to the Nerdist YouTube channel. There’s also a Course of the Force Facebook page and Twitter account.