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Disneyland Paris Half Marathon Weekend Event 2018 Recap

Desperately Seeking SlenderLet’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.

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon Weekend - 5k Event

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. 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.

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon Weekend - 10k Event

10 “Take it easy” Kilometers

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.

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon Weekend - Half Marathon

“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.

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 LineThat 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.

Make #YourBariLife the best it can be.

Visit the BariLife Website for all your Protein and Vitamin Needs!


Taking Back More Than My Run

Six months ago, in the beginning of April I told you that I was breaking my silence and returning to blogging. Alongside that, in the “This is #MyBariLife” blog, I announced that thanks to the good folks over at BariLife I was going to get the opportunity to not only find my voice again, but to try to gain back something else that I had lost over the course of the last year and a half, my love of running.

Motivation is a strange thing. Different things motivate us at different times in our journey. There was a time that running was like therapy to me. It provided me an emotional connection to my father, it provided me a way to release emotions that I didn’t know how to deal with. It provided me moments of quietness and solitude that allowed me time to process my emotions and work thought them. Moments that I rarely remember to take and often underestimate the importance of.

Even on some of my worst days, I had the motivation to run.

Because any time I ran, I felt better. But, then that changed. The time, money and solitude that running provided me became the source of drama and confrontation in the relationship that I was in, and slowly, because I started associating negative things with running, I became less motivated to do it.

When BariLife came along and offered to give me a redo by allowing me to go back to Paris and gave me a second opportunity to participate in the Disneyland Paris Half Marathon Weekend event, I found that some of that motivation again.

As I said motivation is strange. It changes. This wasn’t the same motivation I once had. I wasn’t really motivated to run. I was motivated to try to find my motivation again. I was empowered by the opportunity to go on an adventure where I could try to find what I had lost.

I was inspired by the fact that I had the opportunity to travel to a different country and run a half marathon there instead of just running some local event in town.

I found inspiration and hope in the fact that I had a chance to redo an experience that hadn’t turned out quite the way I wanted it to the first time.

I felt driven and compelled by the fact that I had the opportunity to share this adventure with all of you. I was moved by the fact that sharing this adventure might help inspire others.

Motivation is a constant internal conversation with yourself.

I’ll talk about that more in my upcoming race re-cap. The little conversations you have in your head when you must convince yourself to keep going even when your body is tired and you’re struggling. Those internal conversations with yourself are literally one of your most powerful self-motivating tools.

It might be the conversation you have with yourself at mile 11 when you’ve hit a wall and you’ve got to push to finish. It might be the dialogue you have with yourself a 6am when you don’t want to be awake, you don’t really want to go for that training run and you must talk yourself into doing it and remind yourself of why your there.

The way you speak to yourself, the conversations you have with yourself during your training and during your runs, are important. These moments, where you are the only one that can say the thing you need to hear to help yourself keep pushing are the times when you must be your own biggest fan.

Those conversations my friends, that is the stuff that motivation is made of.

I have learned something through this return to running that I want to share with you. I had lost my motivation to run because it had lost so much of the positivity that it once had in my life. But, I allowed that. I allowed negativity into my head space during my runs. I decided what I was thinking about and what I was feeling. I decided what conversations I was having internally when I ran.

Motivation has two i’s in it.

I’ve learned that when it comes to running and my own personal motivation to do it, I must own those two i’s.  I must remember that this is something I want to do and that I am the one who controls my experience. Those are my i’s. I want this. I control this.

If I focus on the negative things going on in my life when I am running, then I can’t blame anyone else but me for the negative things I associate with it. But, if I focus on the positive things, remind myself that this is about me, about me living the best version of #MyBariLife possible, then it can be what it once was, a time of respite from all the negativity. A time of escape where I focus on myself and what I am going to do to continue making my life after weight loss the best that it can be.

I’ve always said, tell yourself you can’t do something, and you won’t. Tell yourself you can, believe in yourself and do everything you can to achieve your goals and you won’t be saying “I can,” you’ll be saying “I did.”

At every single Disney run event I have ever done, I’ve purchased the souvenir t-shirt that says, “I did it.” Every one of those shirts has signified that I accomplished the distance.

This time was different. Every run before this, I had the passion and the love of running already inside me when I started training. When I reached the finish line, the celebration was in the fact that I had accomplished the distance or put another half marathon on the books.

I didn’t know it yet, but this was about way more than running.

As a sexual abuse survivor (see my previous blogs in which I discuss this) , I have lived a great deal of my life telling myself that I won’t allow what others did to me to be what defines me. I’ve worked very hard to make sure that the life I live is mine and that I do not give them the power of allowing their abuse to be a determining factor in how I love and in how I experience relationships and intimacy. Some days that is harder than others.

What I realized, in the last five months as I tried to take back my love of running, was that I had to apply the same survivor mentality. I had to stop letting the last year and half define the experience for me. I had to stop letting what I had gone through influence how I experienced something that should be good, healthy and positive.

It was about how I define myself. It was about how I talk to myself internally. It was about breaking out of the victim head-space I was stuck in and living the life of a survivor again.

I thought I was going to Paris to take back my run. I thought I was on a mission to experience the joy, positivity and emotional high that running had once offered me. But this was about way more than running. I was going back to Paris to take back my control. I wasn’t just looking for my love of running again. I was looking for that part of me that refused to let negativity and past experiences control my life and define who I am. I was looking for the “You can knock me down, but I get right back up,” inside me.

I’m very happy to tell you that I found myself again. I even know the exact moment it happened. I’ll tell you about that in my race recap. But I did it. I found my internal strength. I found the “I am the author of my own story. I decide how this story ends,” in myself again.

I know that for so many out there, something similar happens. You have weight loss surgery, you change your life. You make healthy lifestyle changes that work for you. You’re happy. You’ve got life by the balls. You’re thriving. Then something happens. Life smacks you right across the face. You feel wounded. You feel beaten. Right there, in that moment, it’s hard to find the inspiration to get back up. The longer it takes you, the harder it gets.

But I’m here to tell you that just like my story, yours doesn’t end there. Each one of us has that come back in us. Sometimes it is hard to find. But it is in there. Inside of you. Just like it was inside of me. Whether your bounce back is in nutrition, fitness, or emotional wellness is irrelevant. You’re stronger than what life has handed you to deal with. You can change the end of this chapter. You can write a happier ending. You are the author of your story.

Through this opportunity I found the I in my motivation again. The “I did it!” shirt and the medals from this event, mean something even more profound to me than any other’s before. I found my run in Paris just like I wanted to. But, I found it by finding myself.

Every time I see the medals and the “I did it!” shirt, I see that accomplishment. I took back #MyBariLife and I really hope the message you hear in all of this, is that no matter where you are right now, #YourBariLife is yours to do what you want with.


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.

Make #YourBariLife the best it can be.

Visit the BariLife Website for all your Protein and Vitamin Needs!


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Author: Pandora Williams

Author of Desperately Seeking Slender

This is #MyBariLife

BariLife has decided to send me back to Paris to represent the WLS Community as I attempt to find my love of running again.
Please take the time to visit their website and check them out!

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