Oh the Disneyland Paris half marathon. It was always a big dream, in fact I even mentioned it on my bucket list races, and when I booked it last year, it felt like the weekend would never come!
There are various races that happen within Disney, with I think the majority happening in the American parks. (Maybe I’ll get there someday eh?) This weekend comprised of a 5k on the Friday night, 10k on the Saturday morning and then half marathon on the Sunday morning. You could do one, two or even all three. Doing the latter two gave you a 31k challenge medal and t-shirt, and doing all three gave you a 36k challenge medal and t-shirt. I stayed safe and chose to do just the half marathon, but I’m honestly debating all three next year…
The runDisney Expo
This seemed to be running pretty smoothly. There were stands for each race and stands for the challenge bibs, and within that you had a line to queue in with your bib number that was located on the voucher. Even with so many people taking part, they located my bib pack pretty quickly! I’m sure it was a lot busier on the Thursday when it first opened, but when I went on Friday afternoon it was fairly quiet.
Photopass & Photo Opportunities
I didn’t buy my photopass online, so the first thing I did after collecting everything was head to the tills to buy one. I paid 79 euros I believe, and this included the run and parks. You could pay less for just the run, and you can obviously buy just a parks one from the Disneyland parks themselves. (I would say it’s definitely worth the money – we got 50 photos from two days in the parks, and we only met three characters. The rest were run photos, ones in front of the castle, and ride photos.) If you don’t buy one, you can pay for individual photos later on but that will quickly become expensive.
Had my photo taken with my bib on photopass at the expo, and then the rest of the photos taken there were from my phone. There was a Vittel photo opp, falling backwards into a ball pool, but I didn’t do it so I’m not sure if that was photopass.
They had a themed wall with different photo frames where you could take photos yourself – a friendly cast member was around to help if you were alone or wanted group photos ,and they also had the long wall with every runner’s name printed on it. This was so cool, and I managed to spot my name pretty quickly. I really liked this idea.
I found the clothing merch a lot like the majority of Disney merch… Just a little bit too ‘young’ looking. I didn’t buy any of the ‘I Did It!’ race tops because I just didn’t think I’d wear them besides as pyjamas, and that makes for expensive pyjamas!
I picked up a little medal replica pin for the half marathon, and I also grabbed a Villains themed lanyard to hold all my tickets/passes in. They were the main things I wanted, and weren’t too expensive either.
The expo also had a few bits of just general Disney merch: clothing, plushies, hats, mickey ears etc. Overall though, there wasn’t a lot to choose from. I’ve never been to any other runDisney race expos, but I have seen a few people express disappointment at the lack of choice here.
The Race Start
Arriving at the event area on the morning of the race was easy, and again seemed to be running quite smoothly. I went in for the bag drop, didn’t really see any queues and was out within minutes.
I was a little worried about the race corrals because I had seen plenty of complaining previous to getting our bib vouchers. This is primarily because the later your corral starts, the more chance of characters having a huge queue by the time you get there. People were also annoyed once they got their bibs because the placing was seemingly a little random – faster people had been put in the later ones, which isn’t how races are usually designed.
Anyway, I was placed in C, the middle of the pack (Corrals ran A-E). I think it was an alright place to be to be fair – I was right at the front of my pen so that certainly helped.
The start of the race was staggered. Corral A set off just after 7am, and I managed to get over the line just half 7:30am. Each corral had a few different waves, so it didn’t feel completely congested once you got over the start line.
The 7am start was a dark and drizzly one though – I’d definitely recommend taking either a foil blanket or an old jumper or something to put on whilst you are waiting. It felt like forever whist waiting for the actual start but we were treated to a few Disney film trailers on a big screen. When it finally got going, a couple of presenters were chatting to us, Paula Radcliffe appeared and said a few words and then Cruella was there to set us off.
The runDisney Half Marathon Route
I really enjoyed this route. The first 6-7km was throughout both the Disneyland parks, and this is where all the photopass meets took place.
The Character Stops
Each race had a theme, with the half marathon being Villains for 2018. Now I’m not a huge fan of Disney villains. Like, it wouldn’t be my first choice of ones I’d like to get photos with.
That said, it was still good fun and I did stop for a few. The queues weren’t too bad for the most part when I got to them – I don’t think I waited much more than 10 minutes. I know that some queues could get very long though, so really you’ve just got to decide whether the character is worth it for you, and whether you can pick that time up later on. There are balloon sweepers that move at a 16 minute pace, and really you’re not supposed to fall behind these. I’ve seen plenty of stories of people getting passed by these though and being allowed to carry on. So who knows!
Most of these character stops had a Photopass photographer, but a couple just had a cast member who would happily take a photo using your own phone/camera. Also of note – the characters do switch around. I got to a queue for a Mulan character, and the cast member managing it mentioned that they would be switching to Jafar . I was able to wait to one side for Jafar to come out.
Support Along the Route
The majority of the race was outside of the parks, running ni the immediate areas. Mostly countryside, running past fields on long stretches of road. There were a few quiet places, but for the most part we had people on the sidelines cheering us on. We ran through a small village and had plenty of locals lining the streets, as well as cheer/dance teams too. There were also a few bands lining the route.
I didn’t think the route was hilly – it surely didn’t feel like it to me after my last two half marathons – but looking at the gradient on Strava it seems it was actually a little bit hilly. We were running mostly on road, but there was one point in the village where we ran through a park and on grassy/woodland trails.
The Finish Line
A little unorganised, I have to say. I crossed over the line and we were just in such a big open area, people were everywhere. Usually you are pushed through, told to keep moving forward to get out of the way. Not here!
I almost missed the medal – cast members were stood in the crowds handing them out. I’m sure they were in a row to begin with, but with so many people just milling around they were a little hidden from view.
You then had to keep on walking, grab your banana/drinks/snack box and head out. Once you got through that, more photopass photographers were stood to take your finishing photo in front of the Studios gates.
And then you were out, done and free to go wherever. I had to join the long walk back up to the event area to pick up my bag, which didn’t take long to be fair. After that it was just a matter of finding my mum and brother in the park!
After the Race
We spent the rest of the morning/mid-afternoon in the parks, going on more rides and taking more photos. I was knackered by the end of the day – my fitbit had counted over 50k steps!
Obviously I had to go meet Woody in the Studios… We had to book it using the Lineberty app (not 100% sure I’m sold on that process) and thankfully we got a spot. A torrential downpour looked like it was going to stop Woody from coming outside, but thankfully it stopped for long enough for us to get a few photos.
All in all, I had an amazing time doing the runDisney half marathon in Disneyland Paris and it was definitely the most fun I have ever done. Who’s up for it next year?