Sunday, November 11, 2018

Run Disney Half Marathon 2018 Paris

Last year, my mate Jo & I lamented our schedules because it was the second year they'd started putting on running events at Disneyland Paris (something that already has a huge following at the US parks) and it was the 25th Anniversary year so bound to be a good weekend. Alas, between her shifts and my new job/relocation, it just wasn't viable. We vowed to make it happen for 2018 and when entries opened up in the spring, we started plotting our adventure.

We booked ourselves onto the Half Marathon event (there are 5k, 10k and combined challenge options on offer too, but they'd mostly sold out) and I started scouting AirBnB and Eurostar options. Hurrah. The theme was announced as Disney Villains which is right up my street and as spring turned to summer, we got excited.

We opted to jump on an early Eurostar train into Gare du Nord on Friday before our run on Sunday. The RunDisney events are based around an expo- nothing is posted out to you in advance, instead you visit the parks (there's an area with shops and restaurants which you don't need a ticket to access) and collect race numbers and the all important t-shirts, and there's also an opportunity to buy merchandise and other bits and pieces. Now, race expos can be a day out in themselves, for anyone who's done RideLondon or similar, you take yourself out to the ExCel centre on the docks, and the space is filled with brands doing deals, activities, giving things away and generally giving you lots to see and do (as well as collecting the important stuff.....). I had high expectations for the machine that is Disney....

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To say the Expo was disappointing doesn't do justice. Collecting numbers and t-shirts was super efficient, we headed to the relevant number range desks for race bibs and the race specific stations for our t-shirts, through a HUGE merchandise stand, and that was pretty much it. A stand selling customised hair bands (think Mickey/Minnie ears, tiaras on hair bands), a physio stand and a travel agent, and that was pretty much it. It was a big space, but there was little to do. We quickly made our exit and had a mooch through the shops outside instead. To say Disney could have made more of the expo is an understatement. We'd travelled to be at the event and we had money to spend, Garmin are a sponsor of the event, but even though Jo was really interested in potentially buying a new one, there wasn't an option. We thought there might have been activities or other brands around, we also thought we might be able to buy tickets to go into the parks proper too, which brings me to my next point...

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RunDisney entries are EXPENSIVE. There's no two ways about that. You have to want to do them and enjoy them for the fact that they are set in the parks (and surrounding) and they're very much part of the Disney franchise. But... I think it's pretty criminal that entry doesn't include a park ticket and worse still, there's no deal or discount on park entry either. It left us a little jaded because if you're going to go to Disney and run, you can be damn sure we wanted to do the parks on one of the days!

So... Race Day...

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We headed to the start line via ├╝ber because train strikes (YAY) before dawn and got into our pens. It was all pretty well organised and the stage was set with Disney Villains in keeping with the theme.

And after a steady, phased shuffle toward the line, off we went...

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The first 8 or so kilometres of this run are in the Disney Parks, you get to run through studio sets and past characters. those first few kms flew past as we stopped to grab pictures and enjoy the run- it is Disney after all.

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The first five done... every kilometre has a marker with a different villain

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And then there were ten....

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Once out of the parks, the route heads out towards suburban villages and a loop around a small lake. On the map this route looked kind of boring, but it was brought alive by live bands and dancers along the way, a buzzing atmosphere as runners traded on where they'd travelled from and other races, the 15 km marker came up on us really quickly.

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Almost three quarters of the way...

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The only point at which it's acceptable to shout 'you're nearly there'

The last few kilometres take you back into the Disney complexes, running through the back of the hotels was a bit odd- some residents had come out to have a party with us, but it was pretty quiet elsewise. The good bit came as we headed further in with streams of runners who'd already finished cheering us on and people starting to enter the parks as the open.

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So the Good:
It's a pretty unique opportunity
If medals are your thing, these are pretty damn cool
The t-shirt is awesome
Lots of water stations
Great entertainment

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My favourite villain...

The Less Good:
Value for money is questionable for s destination race- it's a pricey run for what you don't get
The theme was lost on the biggest race of the weekend (the half)- who puts Mickey on a villain themed t-shirt?
No goody bag at the end (I'm a big believer in the goody bag)
Expo had nothing much going on

Would we do it again? Well, Jo is eyeing up the full challenge weekend for 2019 and beyond. I think I can get her involved on the Castle-Chateau challenge at some point. BUT this is a big ticket event and it's one to save up for and next time I'd definitely go a bit more crazy on dressing up and throwing myself into the Disney Experience.

Did you even do Disney if you don't do a parade?

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We stayed in an AirBnB studio apartment 5 minutes walk from Chessy station. It's 2 stops and approx 10 mins from Marne la Vallee station for Disney, but there are loads of bars and restaurants as well as an enormous shopping centre with a supermarket in it too. Travel to Gare du Nord from Chessy took approx 45 mins by local train, cost around €7.





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