A morning with Mickey Mouse – Disneyland Paris Half-Marathon

It’s been a long time since my one and only venture overseas to run a race, which was the Le Touquet 10k sometime back in the last century, so when I read about the Disneyland Paris Half Marathon I decided it was one I wanted to do. I hadn’t been to Disneyland for a few years as well so it was a good opportunity for a long weekend away as well. One of the bonuses of living in Kent is easy access to the Eurostar train, so getting there was very easy and straightforward, especially as we were able to get a direct train to the station right outside the Disney complex.

The first thing we did when we got there was to go to the Disney shop as my partner had decided she had to have a pair of Mickey Mouse ears for the weekend! (I declined that particular opportunity). After that we picked up our hire car and drove the 10km or so to our hotel, which was an experience in itself as I haven’t driven a left hand drive car on the right hand side of the road for a few years, but we arrived safely and without getting lost, which was a good start. We spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening wandering around the big shopping centre near the Disney complex, and finished the day by having a meal there as well.

The following day we hit the Disney Studio Park, and a combination of lots of runners in town for the races and good weather bringing out the locals meant it was heaving, but we did a few of the rides and attractions and avoided the worst of the queues. Mid-afternoon we took a break and headed across to the race HQ to pick up my number and goody bag. There was a small expo as well, but it was so hot in there we didn’t hang around, just stopping for a couple of photos and to buy a t-shirt in the race shop to go with the race t-shirt I was given.

Having had a bite to eat we headed back to the hotel for an early night, as the race start of 7am meant a 4am alarm! I haven’t done that since my triathlon days, and I wasn’t looking forward to it, but it wasn’t as bad as I’d feared, although the two coffees I had were very welcome. Leaving at just gone 5am I had just got on to the motorway I was greeted by the sight of flashing blue lights and traffic slowing in front of me! There then followed a panicky 15-20 minutes for both me and a lot of the drivers around me who were clearly heading to the race as well as we all contemplated the possibility of not getting to the start on time. However by a stroke of good fortune (obviously not for this involved of course, who hopefully were all OK) the accident had occurred on a stretch of the motorway adjacent to a service area, so once the emergency services had set up a proper road closure we were all diverted through the service area and back onto the motorway.

Fortunately the delay didn’t cause any problems as I always set off earlier than I probably need to for races, on the basis I’d rather be there earlier than later. It was still dark when I dropped of my kit and made my way to the start area, where a pair of hyperactive French hosts were up on stage with a DJ attempting to hype up the runners whilst we waited for the start. To be honest I’d have preferred more coffee at that stage!

There was a field of around 7,000, and we were started in small groups of around 500 or so, which was good as it meant it wasn’t too crowded in the early stages, but it did mean it took half an hour to cross the line, by which time it was light. You head straight into the Studio Park where there was music playing and all the Disney staff were in their uniforms/costumes as were winded our way around, which was a nice touch. In addition every so often there were Disney characters by the side of the course with whom you could pose for a photo. There were quite long queues so I just carried on running, although I was tempted by the dark side when I saw the Stormtroopers!

After the Studio Park we headed into the Disneyland Park, and ran down Main Street USA towards to big Sleeping Beauty castle, which really looked fantastic in the early morning sunshine. The first 7k was pretty slow as I stopped to take quite a few photos, being such a unique race route, but we eventually exited the park and headed out onto the roads on the periphery of the Disney complex.

I wasn’t looking forward to this section as it looked pretty dull and featureless on the route map, but it wasn’t actually too bad. There were bands and DJs at a few points, and a nice off-road route around a lake as well, so it was actually quite enjoyable. Once we got to the 17k point we headed into the hotels complex, with a great loop around a lake towards the end before a final kilometre or so back in the Studio Park finishing in the shadow of the Twilight Tower of Terror!

I wasn’t too worried about a time, I finished in 1:53 which I was happy with, having taken it very casually in the early stages. Once we got out of the park I got my head down to push the pace a little to see how my legs felt, and considering I’d spent pretty much all of Saturday on my feet I was pleased with how it went. The medal was properly good as you’d expect from Disney, with a decent goody bag and lots of food and drink at the end as well.

The journey back to the hotel was far less eventful than the trip to the race, and after a shower and a short nap it was back to the Disneyland Park for some more fun. It was still pretty busy but we had a great time and watched the famous parade before a meal at Planet Hollywood. Then we headed back into the park for the fireworks and illuminations show which was absolutely epic!

We had a late train on Monday, so got another full day in the Disneyland Park which was somewhat quieter than it had  been on the weekend, so we got to do all the the big rides we hadn’t done because of the big queues. I’m not sure my partner has recovered from Space Mountain, which was every bit as mad as I’d remembered from my last visit! She had to spend a little while recovering whilst I did the Indiana Jones ride. Big Thunder Mountain and the Star Wars Shuttle Ride were great fun too.

All in all a great weekend, and I’d certainly recommend this race to anyone who wants a good race and a fun weekend away. There’s also a 5k and 10k for anyone wanting to something shorter, or if you want an extra medal or two. There was a special one for anyone doing the half and the 10k, but the idea of consecutive 4am starts didn’t appeal to me. I’d like to do it again although there’s a few other overseas races I’d like to do first before I do.

I’ve got a busy couple of weeks coming up as the Autumn race schedule kicks in properly now we’ve hit October. It’s the Sittingbourne 10m next followed by the Ashford 10k the weekend after, both old favourites of mine. And then it’s not long until cross-country starts!

Catch up again soon, enjoy your running.