Last weekend, I was lucky enough to take part in the inaugural Disneyland Paris half marathon. I had heard about the American events and was keen to combine two loves in life; Disney and running so I took to stalking the RunDisney Twitter account for information on Paris (I had heard lot of rumours of a race series in Paris!)
The second I heard the Paris race was going to change from a princess dream to a Disney reality, I heightened my stalking on how I could get there and booked our places. To guarantee entry before the places were released on general sale, there were options to book through agents who organise a package deals. We booked through Run to the Magic (www.runtothemagic.com) and our package price included the race tickets for us as a family (I did the half marathon, hubby Paul ran the 5k and the boy, Finley ran the kids race), entry in the Disney parks for 2 days and 2 night’s hotel. It wasn’t cheap, but this was one race I had to do!
We arrived into Paris on Thursday (we booked an extra night outside of the Disney resort) so we could enjoy longer days in the park. After our traveling, we were shattered so it was pretty much a case of arriving and sleeping! The following day, we moved hotels to New York within the Disney Park and headed off to the Expo to collect our bibs and t-shirts in advance of the races. My expectations was something similar to the London Marathon or Liverpool Rock N Roll, but it was a very well organised albeit small set up to collect your number. There were a few stalls, but nothing that took much more than 30 minutes to walk round.
With our numbers in our possession, we then spent day 1 in the Disney park – wow, we were in theme park heaven! The queue times were very reasonable and after walking around 20,000 steps were were done. Our highlights were most definitely the Disney parade and the night time closing show. The park closed at around 8.30pm which was still fairly late as the 5k was starting in less than 12 hours!
Saturday morning was a very early start as the 5k race start time was 7am. The race was prompt in starting, but as they set everyone off in small waves it took quite a while to cross the start line if you were nearer the back. So Paul’s 30 minute 5k took closer to 90 minutes. On route, there was the option to high five characters and even queue to have your photo taken with them. The staff getting ready for their day ahead working at the Disney park were lining the route offering support; a great touch. On finishing each runner was presented with a Ratatouille medal and a finisher’s bag with fruit, a cereal bar and a sports milkshake drink.
It was definitely time for breakfast! Then it was time for the kids event which started at 10am. There were 3 distances, 100m, 200m and 400m. Children were allocated their distances based on their ages. Finley was competing in the 200m event. It was great to see so many people from all over the world dressed up as their favourite Disney character. The race did take a while to start (again set off in waves) which will be one of my very few criticisms as the kids were getting a little fed up waiting around. All was not lost, as the kiss my five year old received from Minnie Mouse at the finish line was probably one of his most treasured moments ever! Fin was also very proud of his Mickey Mouse medal.
From the highs of the races, we again went to the park and had another fab day on the rides. Queue times were much larger but each ride was worthwhile. Disappointingly, we struggled to get any other food other than burgers – not the best fuel for a half marathon but a great excuse to eat badly!
It had been a long day, so early to bed for we (I) had another early start. The half marathon started at 7am and they advised you arrived an hour before. I’d decided that this half marathon was going to be my slowest ever as after Equinox24 from the weekend before, a dodgy ankle, I was going to be in fancy dress and the fact I was in Disney so I didn’t spend too much time having breakfast and made my way by a very short walk to the start. I bumped into a Run Mummy Run member who had entered races via us so we got talking and the time spent in the race (and toilet) queue flew by! Within half an hour from the official start time, our wave was ready to go! We were counted down by a film of Mickey Mouse and we were off…!
We ran through the first of the two Disney parks – it was amazing to run behind the scenes and through the rides and onto my highlight through Cinderella’s castle. I had stopped to take photos with other runners (as Jesse from Toy Story, lots of runners dressed as Woody seemed keen for selfies!) All 11,000 runners then ran through the second Disneyland Paris park and then onto the surrounding roads and parks. I can safely say this was my favourite half by far – there was always something to see from the Disney themed km markers to other runners in costume. I completed the event as a run/walk to enjoy the time as much as possible. Like the 5k, there was the option to queue for photos with characters, but the queues did seem too long to make it worthwhile. The finish line was a little disappointing, finishing near the train line/bins but then I was presented with my first Disney medal and I forgot all about the location!
I was on a high – I had finished a half marathon at Disneyland Paris, Allez Jesse! And wow did it live up to my expectations.
As a family this will be one of our fondest memories and if it helps encourage my son to keep up his running, then it was truly worth every penny.