On Friday, straight after work I drove to the train station and caught the train to Luton airport (note to self- next time just get the Eurostar both ways- we could not get a direct train to the Disney station late enough for me to make it, but getting out from the centre of Paris would have been much easier than the bundle for the bus up to the airport/ security/ delays/ the terminal being super crowded/ the 30 minutes it took for us to get through immigration….). Andy had bought some salads for us to have as dinner, and we bought a hot drink in the terminal. As the plane arrived too late for the trains, we had booked a transfer that took us right to our hotel.
We stayed at the Hotel L-Elysee, which was one metro stop (or a free busy ride) from the Disney area, and right by a large shopping centre with restaurants and a supermarket. It’s a great location as it is close by, but nowhere near the cost of the Disney hotels.
On Saturday we headed to the expo to collect our numbers and t-shirts.
This was very well organised. They also had some merchandise for sale (although none of the cool Disney trainers that they get in the USA), so I bought myself a t-shirt, headband and we each bought a mug. We had been sent an email saying that Paula Radcliffe was doing a talk at 12.00 in English (and at 4pm in French), but there was a yoga class going on at the centre part of it. We wandered around a bit, but could not even find a schedule, and there was no-where we could see where it might be. In the end we left it and headed to the parks. We spent the rest of the day in the parks- we had bought a ticket for both. A lot of the rides were closed which was disappointing, but we still had a good day. The weather was gorgeous- blue skies and nice and warm. We kept seeing people wearing their Ratatouille 5K t-shirts (and medals) from the Saturday morning race, as well as loads of the USA Disney race t-shirts- the Enchanted 10K was my favourite- a lovely green colour. Before heading back to the hotel we bought our metro tickets for the morning (the hotel bus wasn’t running at 5am!) and then got our kit ready.
Waiting in the start area
Sunday morning came around too soon! We had to get up at 5am (4am UK time) as the metro was not frequent at that time, and we had to be in the pen at 6.30, and it was a bit of a walk from the metro, plus you had to go through security. We got the metro at 5.55am along with many other bleary-eyed runners! I only had on my vest, and I was freezing! I had packed my Minnie Mouse tutu, but in the end left it at the hotel as I decided it would probably annoy me- I’ve only worn it for a parkrun before and I don’t think it was that good. I kept my ears on to show a bit of Disney spirit! We ate our clif bars in the metro station before going through security as it was a teeny bit warmer in there. Then we joined the starter pen. Luckily we were in pen B (there were 4) because the race started late, and each pen took an age to get through the start as they were only letting a few people through at a time, then stopping everyone and having another count down. We crossed the line at 7.25am, but I heard people talking later saying that the D pen didn’t get through until gone 8am. We thought our checkout time was 11am so that would have been cutting things very fine indeed.
A bit lighter as we were about to set off.
The start pen was a bit strange- there was a big screen and two people leaping about on the stage, but the tannoy system was no good and we could not hear them at all. At one point they showed Paula having some selfies with other runners, and it became apparent that she was actually running it! For each set of runners, different characters appeared on screen (we had the genie) and counted down. Then fireworks were set off from the little gantry that you ran under.
The start gantry
Then finally, we were off. We had a plan of taking things steady, running together and aiming for around 2.10-2.15. I wanted to enjoy it and not worry about time, but we wanted to be back at the hotel for a shower. The first part was through both parks, and every kilometre there was a queue of people waiting to have their photos taken with various characters. I felt it was too early to stop!
When we were waiting in the pen, I could not decide if I needed the toilet or not- normally before races I know it’s psychological and I ignore it because my fear of portaloos is very great, but running through the parks we passed a few of the proper toilets, so we decided to stop after a few km as beyond the parks there would only be portaloos.
Main street! (I was running backwards here so Andy could take the photo without us stopping)
After that we just enjoyed running through the parks- as a Disney fan running down the Main Street and later through the castle were particular highlights, and although there were no members of the public in the parks, all of the staff from the rides and shops were out cheering brilliantly.
Gorgeous skies and runners in the park
Runners heading through the castle
After the 4th mile we left the park and initially ran around staff only areas, before heading into countryside. Here was a long and slow incline- probably for about 2 miles, which got a bit mentally tough. There were a few bands placed here and there, but not many, and it wasn’t as interesting as the park. There were some members of the public cheering (clearly some family members of runners with nice personal signs) but again not as many people as in the parks. We ran around an athletic track at one point but I have no idea when! At the top of the long hill (the end of mile 7) there were runners on the other side of the road heading back, so I kept expecting a turn around point. In fact we ran out and around a lake (the whole of mile 9 was going around the lake)- there were some cheerleaders here and a bit more of an atmosphere.
The lake we ran around- I just missed a pothole as again was running while photographing- not a good idea!
There were quite a lot of drinks stations (I think one after around the first mile), and some had interesting looking blue powerade as well as water. Later on there were “nutrition” stations which had Special K cereal bars (nutrition????) as well as packets of sliced apples. I had seen people the day before with Run Disney paperbags (there was a 5k on the Saturday) so I was hoping we would get some apple at the end. I didn’t have a drink (I hate that sloshing feeling) and probably could have eaten some apple but I’d never had an apple on a run before so I didn’t chance it.
Anyway, back to the run. I had been glancing at my watch and we had always been hovering around the 10 minute mile mark, but as we left the off-road surface of the lake and were heading back, we picked up the pace. I did tell Andy to run on as I could not quite keep up as my stomach had started to ache, but he slowed down and we ran together. We started to see people walking the other way with their medals and goodies, and it started to feel like the end was in sight. Mile 11 was around some of the Disney hotels (the theming is not a patch on the Florida ones) and then we were into the “Downtown Disney” area, running around the lake. Here there were plenty of crowds and I think I surged ahead a bit too early! The race had a km marker for each one, and then mile markers at certain points (I think 5 or 6, 9, maybe 12), so I was getting confused as to where we were. Plus (possibly because of our toilet stop) from the beginning our watches were beeping around 0.5km/0.3 miles before each marker. We ran past the start area and I really thought that was it, but then we ran out of the village area and around into a field to a little out and back marked off area to the proper finish.
Look at the medal!!!!
I was very pleased to have finished and I felt a little bit weird. I saw Minnie Mouse at the finish line so I handed Andy my phone and asked him to take a picture- she gave me a high 5 and then one of the marshals told me off and said “no photos”. I can see why I suppose, but I didn’t see any signs and as people were having their pictures taken with characters on the way around I don’t know why they were there?
Anyway, we were handed our massive medals, a banana, some water and lemon powerade, and then a paper bag to carry it all in. I had the drink as I think my stomach ache may have been hunger? Getting up so early makes my stomach feel weird anyway. We took a few photos, and I was tempted by another t-shirt in the expo but I resisted, and so we walked to the metro and went back to the hotel.
A strava screenshot- it started in the middle at the bottom, before going to the left, over the long loop clockwise, around the lake at the far right, back to the loop and into the middle.
Because of the late start we got back at around 10.30 I think- we asked as we went past Reception “what time is checkout?” and they told us “for you, 12.00” (it was meant to be 11am)- which was so kind of them. This meant we didn’t need to rush our showers and packing, and we enjoyed a breakfast of a chocolate almond croissant (we’d bought them on Saturday).
These were the signs they had at each km, but the only one I managed to have a photo of!
Later in the day it poured with rain- we were so lucky as it was gorgeous for the actual race. We had a wander around the shopping centre, headed back to the Disney village for lunch, before getting the train home. This sounds easy but I was so shattered that I nearly fell asleep in the sandwich shop while Andy was waiting for them to be made. As soon as I got on the train I put on a podcast and fell asleep right away (I listened to it driving to work as I had missed the whole thing!).
All in all I thoroughly enjoyed myself. It was a bit tough at the end, but it’s a half marathon and it shouldn’t be easy! The organisation was good, (despite the late start) although I still have no idea of my official time – apparently we will get them 2 weeks after the event! Strava says 2.12 something, but I don’t think that includes the toilet stop so the chip time will be a little more. Hopefully it won’t be the last one they hold in Paris, although I am hoping for a 10K next time.
I think that is my third race abroad ( to add to the Stockholm marathon and the Hawaii 5K)- I need to do a 10k somewhere to get a set!
Have you ever raced abroad? Would you be tempted by a Disney race?