My RunDisney Journey

I’m a little bit Dopey today. I’ve booked my race tickets for the Walt Disney World marathon weekend, and I’m doing the dopey challenge: 5k, 10k, Half Marathon & Marathon over one weekend. 6 medals, tshirts, lots of characters and lots of fun!

For those of you who haven’t been following my RunDisney journey I’m going to do a little summary post today about why I Run Disney, what got me started and what my future plans are.

In late 2015 a friend of mine sent me a link about the princess weekend in Walt Disney World. Earlier that year I had been on my first trip to Disneyland Paris and was a little bit in love with the park culture, but the thought of going to Walt Disney World seemed like an impossible dream. I was still working part time within the fitness industry then, and considered this a fun challenge I could possibly do. I did my research and found that Disneyland Paris were introducing Run Disney events in the September of 2016. The friend who originally turned me onto the idea wasn’t all in, but I was so I booked my place.

The January of 2016, after not long having started a new job I began my training. I began walking to work every day (1 hour there and 1 hour Home again) and took my walking to a run. I wasn’t fast, it wasn’t fun and it took me a long time to get into it. I couldn’t even run half a mile at the beginning of my training without getting out of breathe. My work offered me a place running Royal Parks the same year, this just happened to be two weeks after the Disneyland Paris race weekend, I hadn’t really thought this through. I trained for a long time for my first half marathons, it was a continuous thing throughout the year, but in the thick of it, I was using the Bupa beginners training plan.

Running was completely new to me, and I wish then I’d known all the things I know now. I trained in the same crappy trainers that took me through months of training and two half marathons.

September comes around quickly, I’m staying off site with my good supportive friend Steph who couldn’t resist the opportunity to come to Disneyland Paris. I didn’t do the 5k then, it seemed targeted towards children, with a plastic medal, I was all in for the half marathon though. In hindsight the first year wasn’t that busy, there were many American tourists coming for the inaugural year but not many people in total I believe. It felt like a very unique experience as I knew no one else doing it or anyone who had heard of these events.

The first year I managed to meet most of the characters and complete my first half marathon in 2 hours and 27 minutes. All the characters were in the first 5k, and the rest of the course was around the outside of the Disney property. I was very pleased with my time, the first 5k took me 45 minutes so looking back, with character stops that could have been my best half marathon time. The character stops were short and sweet, jump in jump out and run on. The medal was spectacular and the atmosphere around the parks after was great, lots of people showing off their bling and posing for pictures.

My legs struggled around the parks for the rest of the day and the following days but it was so worth it. Going home I knew this was an experience I’d want to do again.

At the end of 2016, Leah and I met through a Facebook group called “RunDisney Run” after I made a post on New Year’s Eve, we had both Run the Disneyland Paris races in the September and big had our sights set for Florida & Paris in 2017. Being a Disney expert she was able to offer me lots of advice for booking my Walt Disney World holiday. We eventually met up to cheer the 2016 London Marathon and our friendship blossomed from there. We had both booked on to do the Disneyland Paris Half Marathon weekend and the Walt Disney World Wine and Dine Half Marathon weekend. Though we had separate trips booked for both we had plans to meet up.

By September 2017, I had completed quite a few more races. I’d finished the 2016 Royal Parks half (in 2:13) and Great Manchester Run Half Marathon (in 2:16) as well as many other races with Runthrough.

The Disneyland Paris 2017 Half Marathon week was a little different to my first experience. Firstly it was really poorly organised, there were issues with shirt sizes and character stops, it was extraordinarily busy and just not as exciting as the year before. The theming was all over the place with major character errors printed on tshirt and other things around the event. On the flip side I was surrounded by friends, so it was far from the lonely experience 2016 had been.

I didn’t find the back to back races to be too challenging, I wore different trainers for different distances and had slowed my pace down to accommodate for friends/taking it all in I guess. The finish line was in the parks this year which I didn’t think was necessary. It made the finish a bit over crowded and chaotic. The challenge medal was great for this year despite the theming being really disconnected. Unfortunately they ran out of medals for some people which seems a bit ridiculous as they know how many people to expect.

In October 2017 I flew to Orlando Florida for my first ever trip to Walt Disney World. I had organised and paid for the whole trip myself and was excited to be able to share this experience with my mum, who agreed to run a 5k with me and trained really hard. Days before we were due to fly she had a fall and did some damage to her arm (small broken bone from what I can remember) she was such a trooper despite the pain. Walt Disney World itself was an incredible experience but the races were something else. Unlike the Paris races the organisation was impeccable. Character meets at the start line and finish line, great t shirts included in good size, an organised expo with lots of merchandise on offer and helpful staff throughout the races.

Starting the races early in the morning was hard, but understandable why they do so. It was so warm and humid. Me and Mum didn’t stop for any characters on the 5k as she just wanted to run the race, however there weren’t any I wanted to stop for. It was amazing to run through the beautiful world of pandora in Animal Kingdom in the dark! I ran the 10k alone and did really well for time, I only stopped for one character at the end which was Genie from Aladdin as this was the only character I was interested in meeting. I ran the Half Marathon with Leah and we stopped for lots of characters and took our time completing the course. The downside to the Walt Disney World races is that the volume of people often brings a lot of people who lack race etiquette. Large groups of Run/walkers took over the course making it difficult to get around them and often slowing us down. I commend everyone for participating in a race of any length, however there were a lot of people under trained and many people cutting it fine in front of the sweeper bus. I had also seen that many people were putting down unachievable marathon times (for them personally) to start in a earlier corral to give them more time to complete the course. RunDisney hold a rule of 16 minute mile pace from the last person.

On this trip I achieved my second RunDisney challenge medal and also got my Castle to Chateau medal. You get this medal when you complete a US race (there used to be races in California as well as Florida) and a Disneyland Paris race. This has to be one of my favourite medals.

Since returning from Florida, I’ve told myself countless time I can not afford another US trip so soon, however I caved and Leah and myself are going back just after New year 2019 to take part in the Walt Disney World marathon weekend. We will also be doing the Disneyland Paris races again this year too.

We both completed the 2018 London Marathon and whilst I still feel somewhat good about my running and am still motivated to keep going I feel like now is the right time to do this challenge.

This year it feels like so many more people are taking part – maybe because I’ve met so many Disney / running people through Instagram and twitter but also because I think people are seeing what a unique and incredibly rare opportunity this can be to meet your favourite characters. The downside to this is not everyone is going to take this as seriously as me and have as much passion for the running side of it. I first and foremost Run for my mental and physical wellbeing, running in Disney is the bonus and meeting my favourite characters is the cherry on top. I do have worries that the masses of bloggers/influencers doing it this year for a photo op is going to tarnish my experience, having noticed the rise in the races popularity last year, but I am determined to enjoy the race my own way in my own pace regardless.

Running with friends/family last year – my time definitely took a hit. Nothing against my friends, I applaud anyone who takes up this challenge but I also think running is such a personal thing, and as much as they would find it hard to match my pace I found it hard to match there’s. This year I want to have a mixture of the two year I’ve done so far, good runs and getting a good time for my self (and for a Disney race) and having fun with friends. My aim is to take a more relaxed approach to the shorter distances and have fun with my friends and then take it a little more seriously for the half marathon and full marathon. Running different races from my friends will also be exciting so we can compare experiences and character meets etc because no two races are the same!

My RunDisney goals, wishes and dreams:

⁃ complete the dopey challenge. If you haven’t read any of my training blogs, please do. You’ll see I’m running 5k, 10k, Half Marathon and Marathon over one weekend.

⁃ Run every single RunDisney race in a calendar year. Ok so this is definitely a dream and might never be a reality. There are currently 5 race weekends in a calendar year and two virtual race events, there used to be more when you could run in the California parks but they have currently stopped these with no idea when they will come back. Also the cost to do all and make all those trips would be extortionate, so maybe when I win the lottery?!

⁃ Run a race in one of the Asian parks. I would love to visit all the parks one day so why not try and squeeze in a race?!

⁃ Run the castaway cay 5k – I will have to save this for the next time I go to Florida as it requires me booking a small cruise.

⁃ Run the Disneyland Paris races every year. On the 25th anniversary of the Marathon weekend participants who ran every single year were given exclusive merchandise. GIVE ME THE MERCH.

⁃ I would love to see multiple race weekend at Disneyland Paris, the one we currently have needs a lot of work to be on par with Walt Disney World but over time this will improve.

⁃ I’d totally love to attend a Princess themed weekend wether it be in Florida or Paris and would definitely love to attend a Pixar themed race!

⁃ Lastly I think I’d just like to keep doing these races as long as I’m able, they are fun relaxed and friendly. I want to keep making friends doing these races, hopefully inspire others to take part and improve my own running in the meantime.

I am so happy registration is finally completed. I gave my proof of time as my London Marathon time, as it was a full marathon. So I’m hoping I can get a good corral placement via that. I cannot wait to add more medals to my collection!

Have you ever run a Disney race? Is it on your Bucket list? Will I be seeing you at Walt Disney World next January? Leave a comment below and let me know.

You can follow along with my training via my blog, Instagram and twitter.