Late For A Very Important Date: Disneyland Paris Semi-Marathon Recap

I channeled my inner white rabbit on Sunday and ran like I was late for a very important date! Waking up on race morning I was overcome with a feeling of excitement. I felt so lucky to be back in the french countryside running one of my favorite half marathons.

After pulling on some Lulu tights, a red shirt adorned with accents giving subtle hints to the Alice’s Wonderland trapped rabbit, a tutu for extra race strength and speed, I was out the door. I followed the path along the water’s edge, walking up towards the event hall which was just minutes from my hotel.

I passed through some security guards and was happy to see my corral was fairly empty. Forty minutes of standing usually feels long to me but with the help of pre-race speakers, music and group stretching, it was go time!

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Dazzling fireworks at the start!

Race

Being in France made me miss the usual anthem sung start but the fireworks exploding into the sky, sending runner’s through the start line was spectacular. The beginning of the course prompted runners through the Studios park first. The path took competitors into a slightly different entrance than the 5 and 10k races, still going through the Toy Story and Ratatouille themed areas as well as along the Tram Tour path.

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KM markers for 25th Anniversary!

While I had run through the main park the morning before, I could run through it a thousand more times and still feel the same level of excitement! Runners entered through the backlot leading them through the ranch area and around part of the Thunder Mountain waterfront. Finally we hit Main Street U.S.A featuring many ecstatic cast members landing high-fives, wiggling handmade signs, and cheering in metachronal rhythm. The genuine feeling of excitement could be felt by all. Mickey and Minnie were stationed at the top of the avenue, decked out in their glittering blue suit and dress. I have to say it is a fun sight to see the castle in all of it’s sparkling 25th anniversary glory at the end of the iconic street, as you bound towards it.

After a quick loop through Adventureland where runners could pose with Captain Jack Sparrow and all three hyenas from The Lion King (Shenzi, Banzai and Ed) it was time to pay a quick visit to Fantasyland before running through the castle. Rapunzel and Flynn Ryder were posed with chariots just by the It’s a small world attraction. Runners went into the extensive backstage area but it was not long until we found ourselves back in Tomorrowland. Nick Wilde from Zootopia greeted runners as well as Sadness from Pixar’s Inside Out.

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All ears 🙂

After exiting the parks, the course continues onto the farmland ring road, Boulevard du Grand Fossé which cradles the outskirts of the resort. It is hard not to enjoy the picturesque shades of green and yellow fields which form Coupvray. I feel the scenery gives me a little extra vigor! While this stretch is long, local high school bands were playing music and cheering the runners up a gentle elevation gain. (Pro tip: Sunglasses are highly recommended for this portion if race staff recycles this portion of the course for future years.)

A left hand turn takes runners into the residential area of Magny. There is lovely new architecture in this area showcasing charm with the sun’s glow. Local families line this section of the course with signs and enthusiasm (Most of the kids were yawning but when listening to music, it appears they are participating in some hard-core acclamation :))

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Town of Magny

Once leaving the residential roads, asphalt turns to dirt and short loop takes runners around a pond. More french students dressed in cheer attire complete with luxuriant pom-pom’s gave a much-needed boost.  A man I had recognized from the previous year had once again set up his kite display. While these don’t draw breath from the wind, metal stakes plant them in place. The array of colors and patterns is beautiful and they seem to wave runner’s onwards creating a tunnel of zest.

It was just about the half-way point and I glanced at my watch to get a feel for the time since non of the kilometer markers on course have timers. I had to do a double take! My watch was displaying a time that was a similitude to some of my faster 10k’s. With another 6.5 miles to the finish, I was determined to keep up a good pace!

After passing through a water station, I found myself on the backside of the pond, a canopy of trees pitching shadows to the rising sun. The course here becomes more rugged with wet grass and potholes. This short stretch of varied terrain requires the brain to be sharp for optimal foot placement.

Soon my feet were striking pavement once again and the course herds runners back towards the resort. Letting the momentum pull me forward, runners turn off down an avenue, a straight shot to the hotels and parks. Fields of green and yellow line either side of the road and towering trees provide nice shelter. It had the appearance of an avenue fit for Austria, harboring climbing von Trapp children.

A sharp right turn takes runners into the entrance of the Hotel Santa Fe, one of Disney’s themed hotels playing tribute to Cars. With beige tones and cacti every few feet, I kept my eyes peeled for any troublesome tumble weed threatening my path. Running around the backside of the hotel, runners came up on Hotel Cheyenne, modeled after an old western town.

Food and water were stationed by the entrance into this particular property. After weaving around the Saloon and Chuck Wagon, runners soon tipped their hats to Butch Cassidy and followed the river leading back to Lac Disney.

We hit the Lac and a quick loop would take participants back into the Village and backlot before I arrived at the finish line with a twelve-minute PR.

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Traversing the line!

Finish Line

I was misty-eyed. Last year this race mean’t so much to me to be able to travel solo from the States and create friendships and experience what it means to be a runner. Once again, this year demonstrated the love and strength found within the running community between the competitors and those on the sidelines rooting us on. While I was never shooting for a PR, I sure can see how my Dopey training is allowing me to find my stride.

After throwing my hands up and hearing the announcer state my name as I traversed the line, I went to receive my finisher medal. I got into another line to receive my Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo challenge medal since I completed the 10k the morning prior as well as the Castle to Chateau medal for running a half in Paris and the U.S.

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Earned my medals this race weekend!

I wanted to savor the moment, not sure if I would ever be that fast again! I texted that to my best friend who stated that I wouldn’t be. I would be faster! With my medals clanging victorious chants from around my neck, I made my way back to the hotel all smiles from a perfect morning.

The Runologist

Disneyland Tour Guide Too Fast, Loses Tour Group: Disneyland Paris 10k Recap

The 10k course was probably my favorite of the weekend but I will most likely find myself typing that again as I write the half-marathon review! In general I do love the 10k distance. Perfect in the sense of feeling accomplished after completing but not so exhausted where one’s day is jeopardized. After finishing the 5k only hours before, I was happy to find my feet and legs felt pretty fresh as I headed over towards the expo and event hall. Both the 10k and half started steps from the events area used to pick up bibs, purchase merchandise and drop bags come start time!

Only three corrals and many mini waves restrained runners to their designated start. A, B and C corrals weaved around the announcer’s stage just outside the both theme parks. At promptly 7 a.m. the first wave was released, as Flora, Fauna and Merrywether sprinkled some of their magical dust on the chilly morning.

The course took runners on a similar route to the previous evening’s 5K. A quick entrance into the Walt Disney Studios park had runners entering Studio 1, a giant warehouse modeled after Hollywood’s finest. Bright lights, cameras, and iconic derby hats (Did you think I was going to say action?) decorate the interior of Studio 1, playing tribute to the golden age of Hollywood. As quickly as runners entered the studio, the exit led them towards Toon Studio and a quick loop brought us around the Paris themed Ratatouille section of the park. I swear I could smell steak frites cooking in Bistrot Chez Remy as I ran by! After helping Buzz with his blasters, with a quick visit to theToy Story Land, it was back on the tram route before switching parks.  I ran under the Disneyland Hotel and I was soon dancing down Main Street.

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Just a Disneyland Tour Guide out for a run! 

I could hear massive french chants and enthusiasm from all the cast members, lining up under the Walt’s childhood themed shops and street. I flew by Thunder Mountain, into Fantasy Land and through the castle! Just on the corner of Tomorrowland stood a giant bronze dragon, puffing smoke accompanied by the fairy trio from Sleeping Beauty. This picture perfect scene of characters was beckoning runners to stop and take a photo. Since the line was long, I opted to keep going.

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Loving Disneyland Paris’ unique character stops!

I blasted past Space Mountain and entered a back stage area that lasted just under one kilometer. I was transported once again to Fantasyland where I stopped for a quick photo with the White Rabbit and Cheshire Cat. As two of us were all grins, the White Rabbit told me I was running late so I bid the duo farewell, bounding through Adventureland. I cheered on some pirates and left the park for another kilometer of backlot. The final bit of Disneyland park had runners going through a western town, a photo op with Woody and Jessie before a quick glimpse of Le Phantom Manor.

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We had a contest to see who could smile the biggest! Did I win?

Exiting the park at the 8km mark, my legs felt great so I pushed onwards. At this point runners found themselves back on the tram route, heading towards Studio 1 and the finish. Similarly to the 5k, the 10k course revived the hair pin turn which led runners back onto the stage of the Motor Action Stunt show. Once again Emile and Remy were greeting runners, complete with chef hats and baguettes! I was happy I did not have to stop for this photo after taking a pause from my run the night before in order to greet the rats!

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Running towards my PR but lost the tour group ;D

A straightaway sprint had me crossing the finish line with one of my fastest 10k times to date! After looking around for a timer and asking some of the other finishers they all confirmed what I feared. The 10k was not timed. While I was hoping to use the time for some 2018 races, what can I say? I had a blast and I finished well! There is no documented proof of red numbers on a clock but aren’t all times just moments of pride for the heart and mind?

As I headed out with some Lactel protein drink, Powerade, water and a snack box, I turned back, remembering I had forgotten to get my Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo Challenge bracelet. This was announced multiple times at packet pickup that all runners who completed the 10k would need a wristband in order to receive the challenge medal once completing the half-marathon the following morning.

While some people near me had wristbands on, upon asking a member of the race staff, she stated it would take too long to tag each challenge runner. As long as we had our challenge bib upon finishing the half the next morning, that would be enough. I hoped no one would take advantage of this modification and accept unearned medals but that would be a problem for race staff, not me!

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I headed back to my hotel to enjoy breakfast and rest up before the half-marathon.

Hope to see you out on the roads or trails soon!

The Runologist

 

 

A Cool Cat in France: Disneyland Paris 5k Recap

Lumiere and many of his inanimate pals helped illuminate the sky and course path for the Disneyland Paris 5k. While I was lucky enough to run last year, I was excited to see the change to an evening race for the 2017 weekend. The race was slated for an 8 o’clock start, just outside the Disney Village. Dressed as the cheshire cat, I headed to my corral about thirty minutes before the scheduled start.21685977_10155119278321902_8817163819654181863_n

Corral A was located at the front steps of Disney’s Sequoia Lodge with corrals B and C curving back around Lac Disney towards the Newport Bay Hotel. I felt the race staff took advantage of the area by having floating barges showcasing DJs and dancers. These boats glided along the edge of the water, filling the crowd and air with contagious energy! It was fun to see the volunteer’s individual personality come out through their dance moves whether it was a Pop & Lock or motioning a worm. As each barge floated by, blasting music and demonstrating some wicked dance moves, it put me in a good mood for the 5k.

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Pre 5K Party Boats!

Due to heavy congestion of people exiting the parks, runners were not released until closer to 8:30. While the delay was frustrating for those with young ones or a 10k start just a few hours later, it was important to remember that it was only a 5k; a chance to have fun!

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Start line

After an anxious start, 5k participants were finally released! The course took runners through the Disney Village, where eager attendees rattled against gate barriers, hoping to catch a glimpse of friends or family members. Runners entered Walt Disney Studios park by the front lot, where colorful lights danced and created luminescent glowing images against the asphalt. Even Cinderella and Prince Charming were stationed for photographs!

The beginning of the course was very slow. Unfortunately, families with young children were placed in corrals A and B. Most of the kids to the front of me acted very much like dogs chasing squirrels, running in each and every direction!  While the parents may have been fit, little legs can only go so far without stopping in front of a pack of runners. My legs were getting whiplash by the constant stops and sprints, attempting to avoid numerous small children. After the first mile I was able to bypass most, making the remainder of the course fun and enjoyable!

Stationed by Crush’s Coaster stood fervent cast members chanting in french, as well as some characters from The Hunchback of Notre Dame. A quick loop around the Toy Story themed section of the park and I was almost halfway home. I loved the next section of the course as Disney decided to use the Studio Tram Tour path for a good section of the race. There are many objects to look at from older Disney films such as cars used in 101 Dalmatians and a scene of London in ruins from Reign of Fire. This is a nice wooded loop area that provides nice detail to distract the mind from the miles ahead.

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Proof that cats and rats can be friends!

Just as runners reached the home stretch, a camera sending live feed to a giant screen, documented each runner’s arrival onto the Moteurs… Action! Stunt Show Spectacular stage. This lovely set showcases french shops and markets that motorcycles and cars perform stunts on during normal park hours. While there were no zooming motorcycles performing wheelies to distract runners, Remy and Emile were there receiving hugs and Bonjours!  After a quick photo with two of my favorite rats, I pounded the pavement, finding myself at the finish, where I received my Lumiere themed medal.

Similarly to the Disney races in the states, this 5k was not timed. The course was lovely in function and entertainment, however I missed running through the main park. If you have never been to Disneyland Paris, there are some wonderful details in the smallest of places and who doesn’t love running through the castle? It would have been nice to run down Main Street with twinkling lights, but by having the 5k concealed to the Studios, this made me even more excited for both the 10k and half-marathon courses!