It’s always exciting to participate in the “inaugural” event for something, and that’s exactly what I got to do this past weekend! We’ve wanted to plan a trip to Europe for awhile, but one of the reasons why we picked this week in particular is because it was the very first Disneyland Paris half marathon weekend. The weekend actually consisted of both a 5k and a half marathon (or semi marathon, as they call it over there), but I did just the half.
We went to the expo the second day it was open and I guess that way good because it wasn’t nearly as crowded as I’d heard the first day was. Of course some of the more coveted merchandise was gone, but I wasn’t as interested in merch as some people. We checked in, browsed around. I got my bib and tech shirt and Jason got a spectator wrist band that would allow him to go on Main Street during the race. There were some booths there but not as many as a Disney World race. Sparkly Soul had a lot of nice headbands out. RawThreads was there but they weren’t actually selling anything, just advertising.
This race started later than typical RunDisney events. Normally the halfs start at 5:30, this one wasn’t until 7 – so it was nice to sleep in a little! They had a breakfast at the hotel early for runners. It was really just fruit, yogurt, and cereal, but it was nice to have something. There were only 3 corrals – A,B,C, and D. Now, this was really my only complaint about the race. The first issue with the corrals was that I was placed in C. Which isn’t a huge deal if that’s the way that things worked out, but I had a friend who was placed in corral B. His proof of time was 2:35 while mine was 2:26. That’s almost ten minutes faster and yet he got to start before me. Just seemed weird but again maybe not the end of the world…
Except that the time between when B started and C started was ridiculously long. I’m not sure they quite understood the purpose of corrals. You could stand anywhere within your gigantic corral. But then when they started they did the corrals in waves, so that only a small portion of B was allowed through and then cut off. If they were going to do it this way they should have just done many more corrals and broken it down by time. It was frustrating and I didn’t start until 7:45. It was chilly that morning and I was so stiff when I started running. It could have been worse though – my other friend, who was also in corral C, didn’t start until 8:15. Such a huge difference when we were in the same corral! I’m really glad I got there early and was able to get towards the front.
The race basically starts right off through the parks for the first 4 km or so. You go through Walt Disney Studios and then through Disneyland. I got to see my husband cheering for me on Main Street! This is also where all the character stops are during the race. Similar to Disneyland in California, they all have to be bunched up in the beginning. Like any Disney race I told myself I wasn’t going to go for time but rather allow myself to stop if I saw something interesting. Because who knows, I may never run in Paris again so I need to enjoy it! And I’m so glad I did because there were some great characters. I personally made 4 character stops. I got Mr. and Mrs. Incredible, the Cheshire Cat and Alice, Robin Hood, and Jasmine, Jafar, and the Sultan. Loved all the rare ones! By the time I finished my characters I was at a 15 min/mile pace which is not something I am used to seeing, but I knew I’d make up some of the time! Here are all the characters I remember seeing, for anyone interested:
- Captain America and Spiderman
- Chip and Dale
- and Mrs. Incredible
- Marie (and according to others her brothers were also out but I did not see them)
- Darth Vader and Stormtroopers
- Cinderella and Prince Charming
- Alice and the Cheshire Cat
- Robin Hood
- Jasmine, Jafar, and the Sultan
I do think there were a few others but I can’t recall them – if they come back to me or I see other recaps I’ll add them in here! Once we left the parks the running was mostly through the village nearby. There were a lot of narrow areas where it was an out and back loop. It was nice to see some of the locals out watching (even just from their windows!) as well as local bands that looked like high school kids. There were a few inclines that I know were rough for some people but with my Pennsylvania training I barely even noticed them – we have way worse hills back home!
I slowly picked my pace back up until I held pretty steady at about a 12:30 min/mile, which is about the best I could hope to do given the amount of time I’d stopped earlier on. There were a lot of water stations and every other one had powerade, which I appreciated. There were also three “nutrition stops” – they had small bags of apple slices and cereal bars, which I thought was awesome!
Around mile 10 we entered back into the Disney area, running past Santa Fe, Hotel Cheyenne, and then around the lake by Sequoia Lodge and Newport Beach. I’m not sure why but the area around Santa Fe just seemed to go on forever. Eventually we were past the resorts and into Disney Village and on our way to the finish line!
Once there I got my two medals – the half marathon medal, as well as the special Castle to Chateau medal for completing a race in both Disneyland Paris and one of the US Disney Parks. They gave us a bag with some snacks, water and powerade, and then I made my way back to the room to freshen up for one last day in the parks!
All in all I really enjoyed the Disneyland Paris half marathon. They had the best character stops I’ve seen at a race. I enjoyed the addition of food stops and there was plenty of drinks. I only wish they had better organized the corrals by time. If I ever had the opportunity I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again! My fitbit has me coming in at around 2:45 with a pace of 12:23 min/mile – measuring 13.35 miles rather than 13.1, so I know my official pace will be a bit slower than that. Update: official time is 2:45:24 with a pace of 12:37. I’ll take it!