The build up to today had taken nearly 18 months. I’m not joking! From not being able to run for 3 minutes, all the way to running 16km in one go. The Disneyland Paris Half Marathon had been a focus on my training and a target to hit to keep me motivated. And here we were in the last few moments.
Disneyland Paris Half Marathon
This event was a milestone for Disneyland Paris as they hadn’t hosted a run like this with RunDisney, unlike the other parks in the USA. With all first time events there were several issues to be encountered along the way, but generally the weekend had been organised well and had a good feel about it. Many seasoned RunDisney competitors had flown over from the states. It was a great excuse to combine their first trip to Disneyland Paris, but also take part in the run events too.
After laying out my running gear the night before I slumped out of bed quietly, trying not to wake Catherine up (too much). The Half Marathon was scheduled to start at 7:00am, but we were meeting up with the DisneyBrit Running team at 6:00am. The Hotel Cheyenne had arranged for breakfast to be served from 5:00am, to which I felt there was a need to install some fuel in my belly before the run.
I met Stephen and Louise, in the hotel corridor and we headed to the buffet. The previous morning had greeted us with Pain au Chocolat, Croissants, Ham and Cheese. On a run day early in the morning, the options were Apples or Bananas! I have a strong Allergy to Apples, and a mild one towards Bananas, so I hunted around and found some cereal and milk from the coffee dispenser!
We headed to the arranged meeting point on the bridge beside the Earl of Sandwich. Everyone arrived on time except for Adam, who had transport issues at his Hotel (along with a hundred other runners). It was slightly chilly at this time in the morning, but the nerves also kicked in. I couldn’t help but jiggle! By 6:20am we started to head through the Expo tent towards the race corrals. We were all in Group C. This was related to our guesstimated run time of 2 hours and 30 minutes.
The Half Marathon was due to start at 7:00am, and we started a mini count down. The Cheerleaders / motivating compare, then announced “We are just waiting for clearance from security, before we can start!”.
I have to admit that over the year, security was a major thought in my head. With all the incidents recently in France, with terrorism, I felt this event could have been a target. But at the same time I felt that the odds, were slim and if you stopped doing everything through fear, life would be very boring. 7:10am, we were still waiting for the all clear. This anticipation and general event nerves wasn’t helping my mental focus. However I kept up with jovial conversations and general daftness, with the running team.
3, 2, 1 Go! A video screen launched the start of the run, with the 3 fairies from Sleeping Beauty. A spray of fireworks and the event was under way. Being in Corral C, we only had another half hour to wait for the start line.
Eventually we crossed the start line to a repeat of the 3,2,1 video and a spray of CO2 smoke! And we were off. Our running team had people of different abilities and different goals, but I decided to stay running with Stephen as we’d trained together and seemed to be able to encourage each other through the distances, along with some general chatter.
The course started off through the Walt Disney Studios backstage areas. Stephen Announce he needed a wee, which made me think that I needed too. So I decided to go to the first toilet break after the theme parks. Stephen pealed off before we hit the first park, but caught up with me on a slower pace. We went from the skip and bin corridor, through parking, into the back of the Lights Moteurs Action Stunt show and ran across the stage set.
Cast members lined the course cheering us on. Our Running team all in Purple (Caudwell Children) stayed together. On through a small section of the Backlot Tour (Reign of Fire), then our groupings changed.
One of the things that Disney throw into these running events is character meet and greets. We’d decided pre race that if there wasn’t a queue we’d dive out for a photo, but if not we’d keep running. For us this was about the distance of a long run, but with the visual distraction of Disney too. Others in the running team were in it for the characters and ran straight into a queue of 20 people to meet Captain America, then Spiderman.
Stephen and I ran on through the Studios and skipped passed the queues on either side. The atmosphere was amazing running through here with the side of the course lined with cast members, some with signs, others just leaning out for a high-five. I totally missed the first few KM markers on the course, but each one was themed differently and was a potential photo-op. Alan D’Arcy part of our run team jog ahead and managed to get selfies in front of most of them. I sort of wish I had too.
As we left the studios, we ran down towards the front of the big pink hotel towards Disneyland Park. We had friends awaiting us on Main Street, and we knew roughly where they were. We ran and waved towards the castle, and the cheers built. People shouted “Alan, Alan, Alan!”, I smiled and kept running. I later realised that this was the french “Allez, Allez, Allez”, which translates to “Go Go GO”, but I’ll claim the attention anyway!
The course snaked around the back of Fantasyland and through the back of the castle. I spotted a photo opportunity that had 5 photographers on it and this was the only posed photo I felt we could easily get without breaking our pace too much.
Right!… Toilet time
We were at about 4 kilometres, when we left the magic of the parks and I knew there had to be a toilet on the course soon, so I kept focused. I ran passed the first drinks stand (water and Powerade), on through the perimeter roads. Passed the second drinks stand (Water and Powerade). The course was a little dull at this point I knew we had around 6 km to run without any Disney-ness.
It was at the 7.5km mark that I spotted the toilet break. I was bursting and as I ran ahead towards the port a loos, I spotted a queue of 7 ladies, waiting their turn. But as I joined the queue I spotted a Port a Urinal. Phew! It was great relief as I genuinely was nearly spilling over the top! However, the first side meant that I was standing in the ladies queue, with my *insert any chosen word* hanging out, the next side meant I was showing, said item to the 8,000 runners of the run, the third side gave the ladies queue a side view, but the 4th side was concealed, but jammed with water bottles! I aimed carefully and caught up with Stephen.
The course took us through the Associated hotel area, which was well-kept and landscaped. It was nice to see areas that I’d never been to or seen before. Particularly areas where so many of our friends have stopped and told us about.
We then snaked back around to the Disney hotels, entering the resort via the Hotel Santa Fe’s Car Park and it was here that I didn’t realise how huge this hotels area was. Onto the Hotel Cheyenne, past our bedroom, where Catherine was ready to meet us. She insisted on a selfie, but I blinked then ran on.
Around Lake Disney, past the Sequoia, I spotted Matt, who was part of our running team, but being an amazing running was in Corral A with Paula Radcliffe!
Past the Newport Bay Hotel, into Disney Village and around through what looked like an abandoned piece of wasteland and up onto the finishing post.
21km was done!
I was knackered, but totally energised with the achievement. I received my Finisher medal, was handed a bottle of water. Then a Bottle of Powerade, a chocolate protein milkshake. A Kelloggs Cereal Bar. It was at this point I was running out of storage, but more pieces were handed to me. Then it was on for the finishers Photo in front of a screen. If I hadn’t seen that everyone was placing their arm-fulls of stuff on the floor, I think my photo would have looked like a finisher of supermarket sweep!
Then onto a stall that was handing out Paper bags with an Apple and a Banana in! Now they give you a bag!
I had achieved what I set out to do and absolutely loved it even if my legs ached a lot. My finisher time for the half marathon was 2 hours and 18 minutes. Secretly I wanted to come in 3 minutes faster, but I was pleased with the results. I couldn’t have done it if it wasn’t for my online running team and my local Great Park Dads running team. Doing it solo wouldn’t have been the same with results or experience.
I even made the official Event video (blink and you’ll miss me in the Toy Story area