Magic Run Weekend – 36k Challenge Race Recap

Hi all.

The first race weekend of my current RunDisney training plan has come to an end, if you’ve been following along on social media you will have seen some great highlights from my weekend.

If you haven’t followed my Running thus far please check out my post here.

THURSDAY

I left my house on Thursday morning around 7am and got to St Pancras at half past, where I met Emma & Leah. We grabbed a bite to eat and headed through security and passport control. We had booked our trip through Runtothemagic (greatdays holidays). When we scanned through to the Eurostar our seats were changed as they had changed the train operating this service, so our seats were slightly separated on our journey to Lille. When we changed on to the next train to Disneyland Paris we were once again separated but thankfully on both trains we moved around with other passengers, who were also sitting separately from their party.

When we arrived we checked into the Newport Bay Club hotel, we had a separate check in desk as we were doing RunDisney, and were given our park tickets and breakfast vouchers but unfortunately our room wasn’t ready. We dropped off our luggage and headed out for a coffee and some shopping before heading to the expo.

Around half past 2, we started queueing for the Health & Wellness expo. We got in around 3:20pm and we pleasantly surprised how easy it was to navigate. Previous years it had been a little complicated with collecting bibs from several booths and tshirts from various different stalls. We managed to grab our bibs, tshirts, photopass, do a quick tshirt exchange and check out the merch and wall of runners within half an hour and just like that we were done.

The selection of merchandise was poor, having now done the races at Walt Disney World, it’s so disappointing to see that for the third year running the selection was very minimal even more so than the previous two years. I wish they would bring some of the generic RunDisney Merchandise over to Paris.

There was also a lack of stalls selling other bits. There used to be vendors for trainers, headwear, medal holder etc but this year there was only one or two stalls. It was a little disappointing.

After that we headed back to the hotel to unpack, chill out before getting some food and having a drink in cafe Fantasia.

FRIDAY

After an early morning getting caught in the horrendous rain and sheltering from the storm by riding all the rides in Walt Disney Studios Park we headed back to our hotel to get ready for the 5k.

We headed out around 5pm and there were already people queuing. We managed to get to the front of corral C and were joined by our friends who were also in C – David, Lucy & Sophie. The organisation of the start was more alike to Florida, we were queued up in corrals next to each other and were walked to the start line one corral at a time and separated into waves.

I had no interest in the Marvel theming of this race and was given a heads up about the characters on the course, because of this I decided to just run. I managed to over take many runners from A who were walkers (not sure at all how they assigned corrals this year) and those who’d got in line for characters: I’d passed the Star Lord and Gamora, Black Panther, Thor & Loki, and captain America.

I made it to the finish line in just under 29 minutes and my Garmin was reading a little short on distance. I left it as it wasn’t worth trying to run around in circles trying to correct it.

Aside from the terrible corral assignments, the course was a little more organised, better lit and better supervised. The cast members in the park were great and a lot of fun. As I didn’t stop I spent a lot of time running into photopass pictures.

After the race I waited for my friends to finish before grabbing some snack boxes and heading for a late night Starbucks with Emma & Leah before heading to bed ready for tomorrow’s 10k.

SATURDAY

We woke up about 4:45 to get ready for the races. This was a struggle after the late night before. We made tea and took it with us in disposable cups and wrapped ourselves in foil blankets to keep warm. It really wasn’t too cold but not very comfortable to wait around in still. Once again we were joined by our friends David, Lucy & Sophie at the front of Corral C, we were lead to the start line about 20 minutes after the first wave went off. Pain, Panic & Meg from Hercules were warming everyone up and sending them off to run. A Great start to the race.

Once again my plan was to only stop for characters I really wanted, turns out there isn’t many characters I am fussed about and I ended up only stopping for a few minutes to have a photo in front of the castle. I enjoyed the run, everyone seemed in good spirits and I was quite happy to just run it. I crossed the finish line with a moving time of 55 minutes but my elapsed time was about 57 minutes with the castle stop.

Hades was on the finisher stage to take photos of. So I tried my best to get a photo with him in the background! The medal & theming of this race were my favourite, I wish they’d have had characters from Hercules on the actual course though!

After the race I headed back to the hotel to shower etc whilst I waited for Leah & Emma to finish and then met them for breakfast! They had a great time and met loads of characters along the course.

We tried to spend time in the parks for the rest of the day but it was so busy and we were incredibly tired. After watching the parade we headed back to the hotel and got an early night.

SUNDAY

After a long nights sleep, we woke again at 4:45 for our last day of running. Today felt like more of a struggle especially with the weather forecast for rain. Fortunately it wasn’t raining when we left our hotel. We wore extra jumpers and took bags to sit on as the ground was wet. This morning we were joined to by Alex & Mel at the start as well as David, Lucy & Sophie. Whilst we waited in Corral C, it did begin to rain and was very windy, there was a yellow warning flag up due to the conditions.

We didn’t get started till at least half past, as usual I headed off in a speedy run! I had my eye on a character meet I wanted and knew that they would swap characters at certain times, so I would either catch them on their first meet or miss them and have to wait. After speeding through the first mile and a bit I found the stop for Pain, Panic & Hades from Hercules. This was honestly the only characters I have actually wanted to meet so I bit the bullet and waited. They swapped out a few minutes after I got in the queue. Emma, Leah & David caught up and joined me, we all met Kronk & Yzma from the Emperors New Groove, Leah’s favourite film, and I then got back in the queue for the Hercules characters!

After 40 ish minutes start to finish at this meet I carried on with David with the balloon ladies not far behind us. At this point the queues were relatively quick for characters and we met Dr Facilier from the princess and the frog and Flotsam & Jetsam from the little Mermaid.

I carried on as I was worried about my time, I ran up and down main street which was a great new route adjustment on the course and was lovely to see Sophie cheering us all on and stopped for another castle picture.

I passed a few more characters like Shan Yu from Mulan and Maleficent who was just kind of decorative on the castle stage yet had a massive queue for a pic in front of her which I didn’t stop for. Once I’d passed all the character stops and was out of the parks I felt ok that I was far from being swept and thought maybe I would have caught up to Leah and Emma who left me after the Emperors New Groove characters, I rang them and they were actually behind me as they’d stopped for a few characters so I waited around 9km for them to catch up. Whilst I waited I found a few more running friends, Saskia, Lucy & Mel and we all walked together for a moment. Eventually we split up again as we tackled the long stretches outside the parks but we ran/walked and chatted a lot and it made the miles go a lot quicker.

Around 9 miles in we passed our good friend Alex who was Run/walking and looking strong, we walked with her a moment before carrying on to get back onto property!

We arrived back onto Disney property with 2 miles to go and was cheered on by the lovely Sophie again.

Mel & I stuck together which was great, we’d never met before this weekend but had followed each other on Instagram for a while so it was great to finally meet up and spend this race with her! We tried running a bit more towards the end but our legs were very heavy.

I was so happy I caught up with friends on this race. I knew I’d pushed the past two days quite hard and the first couple of miles of this race. I really didn’t need to especially this morning as I had to wait anyways and it set me back a lot and meant I caught up with everyone who was Run/walking or meeting a lot of characters.

After 13.1 miles I finally arrived at the finish line, where someone decided to stop dead in front of me and jump, so I doubt I have a finish line photo as the photographers there didn’t even seem like they were taking photos either!

I collected my medal and took a few photos of sorcerer Mickey on the stage. I loved that they had characters out on the stage at the end but would have loved if they had an organised post race meet and greet.

I finished at a moving time of 2:40 but an elapsed time of 3:30 including the characters stops and I was actually super happy about that. My first year at Run Disney was a fluke, I met most characters and ran it in 2:27 and have never been able to recreate that since due to the popularity of the races.

Post race we had to head back to the expo (luckily on our way back to the hotel) and grabbed our 31k & 36k challenge medals!

The medal collection organisation was much better than last year and glad it took us back to the expo to find all the t-shirts they were selling at half price, so we all grabbed a t-shirts.

Sore legs and tiredness meant we spent the rest of the day laying in bed and filling ourselves with food! We still had all of Monday in the Parks to enjoy before heading home so was in no rush to do anything. Staying in did mean I got to bump into my favourite RunDisney youtuber RezRuns in our hotel. Check out his channel for really useful videos on the RunDisney experience.

This weekend was a good reality check for me, I love how much my running had progressed recently but I need to remember it’s not all about time. I’m training for Dopey challenge and I sure as hell won’t manage to run it all at a 9 min mile and meet characters in that time too so I need to work on a game plan for Run/walking Dopey!

Aside from the races I had a fun weekend with my girls and quite a relaxed Disney trip. We’ve all been to the parks before and didn’t have much we desperately wanted to see or do, so we didn’t actually spend much time in the parks but a lot of time was spent relaxing, eating and drinking at the Disneyland Hotel and the time spent in the parks was less rushed and chaotic.

A few issues I had with this weekend and the Disneyland Paris Magic Run Weekend:

  • The Corral placement was a mess. They only ask for proof of time if you can run under 1:30, and as they thought too many people lied about their time they randomised the rest.
  • Due to the above they were letting a lot of people change corrals, meaning people who hadn’t trained and were put in E being bumped up to A/B by complaining/lying.
  • Rather then advising groups who wanted to stay together RunDisney France were moving people up Corrals to be together, or giving people stickers to move them down. Those stickers were then used to move people up instead of their given use and a lot of people were using the corral letters on the bibs from those only doing the 5k/10k and sticking them to their Bibs to bump up their letter.
  • Character stops – the lines were too long, they swap characters out for different ones every 30 mins which means that you end up getting stuck in a queue for a long time if you are looking to meet certain characters. They should have the same characters out throughout like the Florida races.
  • None of the themed characters were out on the course. It was very disappointing that on a Hercules themed race you could not meet any of the characters, hence why the line was so long the next day at the Half.
  • The photopass system of scanning your bibs this year made the character lines take even longer, and I bet this year we will still won’t get our photos any quicker. The course photopass people didn’t seem to be taking many pictures or paying attention half the time and again they weren’t very many of them.

Overall I find the organisation of the Paris races horrendous. I would love to carry on doing these every single year but I may have to forgo doing the challenge next year (depending on the theming) as it is a lot for one weekend and a lot of money to spend to be disappointed once again. I feel like we’ve all given constructive feedback the past two years on these races and they aren’t really listening to us.

I am very much looking forward to doing the Dopey Challenge now, I can’t wait to be over in Florida where the races are far more organised and fun. We have 100 Days to go until our next Florida holiday and 15 more weeks of my training plan to Dopey.

The medals have been released for Dopey this week and are so encouraging after this weekend in Paris.

I hope you enjoyed reading, and if you are thinking about doing a RunDisney race I hope this insight to the experience is helpful. If you have any more questions I am happy to answer them in the comments or over on Instagram or Twitter.

Here’s the links to all those mentioned in today blog post!

Leah

Emma

David

Mel

Lucy

Alex

Saskia

Sophie

And an extra special shout-out to all I met along the way and those who worked hard to make Disney magic this weekend! ✨

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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.