Let’s take a break from all the seriousness. I know I need one.

Not to mention I still owe you all a very important Disneyland Paris Half Marathon event recap.

I’ve ran a lot of half marathons. Forty-one to be exact. By far, my all-time favorite half marathons are the runDisney events. If you ask me, which you sort of did by coming to read my blog, this is appropriate. Because, for what you will end up paying to participate in a runDisney event, it should very well be an unforgettable experience.

Thanks to the good folks over at BariLife sending me on this magical adventure, my most recent runDisney Disneyland Paris Half Marathon event definitely became one of my most memorable half marathons. Once I had my bib in my hand, the “every mile is magical” experience you expect from a runDisney event was everything you could hope for and more.

The Avengers 5k on Friday night was amazing.

My boyfriend was participating in this 5k. Since it was his first 5k, I chose to do it with him. This worked out perfectly for us. As a big comic book fan, the Avengers theme of the 5k was most appealing to him. At the start line, we were informed that we needed to save the world from Thanos by locating the stones (kilometer markers) that would complete the infinity gauntlet before he got them.

The course began behind the Disney Event Arena, before heading into Disney Village. Entering Walt Disney Studios Park through the front gates, we were on a Marvel adventure through Studio 1, Toon Studios and then connected through a backstage area to the Disneyland Paris park. Running around the Rivers of America we made our way through Adventureland before returning to the backstage area and following the Studio Tram Tour route to a Marvelous (Did you see what I did there?) finish in front of the Tower of Terror. We finished the 5k in 1:13:22 averaging about a 21-minute mile.

I’m a huge fan of evening events. There aren’t a lot of them. Most events happen in the morning.

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon Weekend - 5k Event

Therefore, the simple fact that our adventure was taking place in the dark, when everything is illuminated, had me feeling like a little kid at Christmas time. The entire 5k was electric and fun. Not to mention, I had someone special right next to me the entire way. What more could a Disney loving runner chick ask for?

Back to Back Races Make for a Challenge

Typically, a veteran runDisney runner is use to multiple day challenges and early morning corrals. However, the evening 5k followed by an early morning 10k was a new challenge for me. With only 11 hours between start times, there wasn’t much time to rest between events. 11 hours might seem like a significant amount of time. But, there are several other factors to consider. First, there is the wait time in the corrals between starts. Then, there is the time it takes you to finish the 5k. Next, you’ve got the time it takes you to get photos afterwards. Additionally, you’ve got the time it takes you to get back to your hotel, clean up and get ready for that early morning alarm.

We started the 5k at 8pm. We had decided to wait and do dinner after the event. Neither of us wanted to be doing a 5k on a full stomach. By the time we got back to the room it was nearing midnight and I was almost certain the spell was about to wear off. My princess like demeanor was about to turn into rags and my boyfriend was about to turn back into a little mouse. That 5am alarm was going to come early. Leaving me about 5 hours to rest my feet, my body and my brain.

Goofing off during the 10k on Friday

The Villains theme of the weekend continued the following morning. The Pain and Panic characters from Hercules started off the event with some morning calisthenics in the corrals. I’ve got to give a lot of credit to the Disneyland Paris Half Marathon weekend event participants here. If you did something like this in the U.S., the corrals would be full of people who are just way too cool to participate. But in Paris, everyone seemed to be able to find their laughing place and follow along with the goofy aerobic moves and funky flexibility drills.

The course began behind the Disney Events Arena before taking your through the front gates of the Walt Disney Studios Park. Next, the course lead through the Toon Studios area to the park entrance area just outside Disney Village where a direct path through the front gates of the Disneyland Paris theme park dropped you off on Main Street and looped you though Discoveryland. You couldn’t help but realize you were running through one of the most magical places on earth as you set off twisting through Fantasyland, passing through the castle and making your way through Frontierland and Adventureland before heading backstage. A short run along the Studio Tram Tour route and suddenly there you were at the Production Courtyard in Walt Disney Studios Park for your finish line finale.

10 “Take it easy” Kilometers

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon Weekend - 10k Event

My approach for this event was to take it easy and save my stamina, or what was left of it, for the Sunday half marathon. I had walked the 5k with my boyfriend the night before. For the 10k I was doing a “Stop and enjoy the moment” interval system. In case you’re wondering what the hell that is, it means you do whatever you want whenever you want.

I ran when I wanted to run. When I felt like stopping and walking for a bit, I did just that. This approach gave me lots of time to collect photos of the different Disney Characters along the 10k route. As a result, I’d be a little less inclined to stop for them again the following day.

Keep in mind, I had been in Paris for nine days prior to the event. In those nine days I had put nearly 95 tourist miles on my feet. An average of 10 miles a day on my feet was taking a toll on me. But, I was making sure that I did everything possible to provide a successful half marathon completion. I finished the 10k in 1:40:26 averaging about a 16-minute mile.

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon – Val d ’Europe 2018

The Disneyland Paris Half Marathon began in the parking lot behind the Disney Events Arena before doping a loop through Toon Studios. Next, it sent you winding around the back side of Walt Disney Studios Park. Traveling through Adventureland and Frontierland runners were on an out-and-back down Main Street and around Town Square. The course lead you through Adventure Isle and wove you through Fantasyland before heading into Discoveryland where you exited the park.

Outside of the parks, the course followed the Boulevard de l’Europe around the resorts into the town of Magny-le-Hongre. From there, it passed through a little residential village, lopped around a small lake and then returned you to the resort area. Next, there was a quick but grand tour of the Hotel Santa Fe and Hotel Cheyenne and then a cut through Disney Village. In the final stretch you ran along the Studio Tram Tour to the finish line in the Production Court of Walt Disney Studios.

My favorite part of the route was by far the scenic tour along the Paris countryside outside of the parks. Because I was participating in all three days of the event, the early miles of the half marathon were so like that of the 5k and 10k that it felt a little redundant. Considering that Disneyland Paris is much smaller than Walt Disney World in Orlando and lacks the space to take runners through 4 epically huge theme parks, I think this is a hard issue to avoid.

“There must be more than this provincial life.”

RunDisney runners should be accustom to the events taking you out of the parks and traveling you along the tree-lined highways surrounding the Walt Disney World theme parks in Orlando. In the Disneyland events in California you travel along the, anything but, “scenic streets of Anaheim” to gather your distance. These are usually my least favorite sections of the routes.

But this was different. Running through the country side of Paris, I felt like I was engrossed in a tale as old as time. All the residents along the course route coming out to say “Bonjour” had me quietly humming tunes from Beauty and The Beast. I literally felt like the entire route had me immersed in a Disney universe. This was, by far, my favorite half marathon experience.

When you consider that the cost of attending a Disneyland Paris runDisney event, is pretty similar to, if not actually cheaper than the cost of attending a Walt Disney World or Disneyland runDisney event; (Assuming you are flying and staying on Disney property.) The experience is by far, one that I’d suggest you take the opportunity to gift yourself.

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon Weekend - Half Marathon

I was nervous and unsure of myself.

Back to my run experience. I will admit, I was nervous on Sunday morning. Before hitting the start line, I had 110 miles on my feet in the last 11 days. My feet hurt, my legs were heavy. My calves were sore and my achilles tendinitis was flaring back up in my right ankle.

I had taken nearly a year and a half off running. My training had been hindered by a broken toe I acquired during an altercation with a suitcase. I left that suitcase sitting in the middle of the floor to “unpack later”. I lost nearly 5 weeks of training to that little incident.

Fleeing hurricane Florence I left Wilmington, NC several days early to ensure I didn’t miss the event. As a result, I didn’t have time to get my last long training run in. I knew I could do 13.1 miles. But, I wasn’t entirely sure I could do it in the required pace time. I had to average at least a 16-minute mile. Since my 10k the day before had me finishing with a 15:59, I was more than a little worried.

On Saturday evening we got word that the weather was about to change. It was going to be cold and raining the following morning. Which meant I had to make last-minute changes to what I planned to wear. I hate being cold. I decided to bundle up. Sunday morning, I threw a pair of running pants under my sparkle skirt and put on a lightweight wind breaker jacket.

The only thing you can do is give it your best shot.

That is exactly what I decided to do. Finishing in the required pace was irrelevant. Bundling up, preparing to get wet, and knowing the weather conditions might slow me down even more, I arrived at the start line determined to finish.

Overdressing caused me to get overheated and took a toll on my time. I lost precious minutes I wasn’t sure I had to spare when somewhere between mile 3 and mile 4 I had to take the time to remove some clothes. This meant going into a park restroom, waiting in line, and rushing into a stall. I pulled up my run belt, took off my shoes, remove my sparkle skirt, yanked off my pants and then put everything else back on.

I wasted time figuring out how I was going to carry the jacket and pants with me. Had thought I’d be taking them off, I would have gone and purchased throw-aways. Certainly, I wasn’t leaving my $100 Nike run jacket and my $65 Star Wars Leggings on the side of the race course. Bundling them up, I hung them over my race belt and took off in search of my finish line. The entire ordeal cost me about 11.5 minutes.

Around the kilometer 13 marker, (about 9 miles in) I started questioning my sanity. I found myself wondering why I wanted to run 13.1 miles. Worried, I began consoling myself with the knowledge that my boyfriend would be waiting to greet me at the 18-kilometer marker. Reminding myself that in another 5 kilometers, I’d see his smiling face. I knew that I’d get some necessary emotional fuel from a hug from someone who believed in me more than I believed in myself at the moment.

Happy 41st Half Marathon to Me!

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon Weekend - Finish Line

That was exactly what was waiting for me at the 18-Kilometer marker. My boyfriend, hugging me, reminding me I’m awesome and what I am capable of. With just 3 kilometers to go, and him now holding my extra baggage, I was lighter on my feet. I finished the half marathon in 3:17:32 with an average pace of 15:04. While it is not the fastest half marathon I’ve ever ran (my PR is 2:24:18) – it’s quite an achievement.

I put it in perspective by comparing it to the 2:56:34 I ran at the Inaugural Disneyland Paris Half Marathon in 2016. I give myself credit for the 11.5 minutes of wardrobe malfunction. That means I ran a 3:06:02 half marathon and averaged a 14:12 minute mile. Given the circumstances and the fact that this entire event was about me finding my love of running again; I’m totally okay with what I accomplished and the time I accomplished it in.

You don’t expect to pull a PR at a runDisney event, or at any event where you’re going to stop and take photos along the route.

I took a total of 68 photos. If I estimate that each photo took me 20 seconds that’s 23 minutes of photo taking time. Which would make my 3:06:02 more like a 2:43:02 and more like a 12:26 average.

When you consider that once upon a time, this princess weighed 420 lbs. and couldn’t walk from the front door to the car without feeling winded; In the end, it doesn’t matter how long it took. I was at the start line and had the courage to even attempt to do it. That is what matters. In my opinion the start line is the big accomplishment. The finish line is the reward.

Pandora Williams author of Desperately Seeking Slender is an ISSA Certified Personal Trainer and Cooper Institute Approved Wellness Coach Trained in Weight Management Strategies. Her training and coaching services are offered exclusively through GoGirl Fitness Studio.

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