What I Loved About the Disneyland Paris Inaugural Half Marathon (Race Recap)

2016 has been a great year.  I thought it would be terrible since I turned 30 a few weeks ago but you know what, its been wonderful.  While there have been a lot of great moments so far in 2016 one stands head and shoulders about the rest and that’s the Disneyland Paris half marathon (ok all of Paris but the race was wonderful).

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Being that this was an Inaugural race I had very low expectations of organization, course, characters, merchandise and overall communication.  Based on everything leading up to the race this was an appropriate assumption.  While there where quite a few kinks and frustrated participants I wasnt worried.  I knew I was going to run in Paris, around Disneyland and thats all I needed to know.  Everything else to me was just a big bonus.

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To register for the race you had the opportunity to book packages (bib, hotel, park tickets) last October.  Bib only purchases werent until the following January (which was actually delayed until February).  I didnt want to take my chances at not getting a bib so I booked a package.  There was a lot of confusion on tour providers, pricing and all of that but I ended up booking with Run to the Magic (subsidiary of Great Day Travels).  The booking experience was fine with them but be warned, at least with this travel company, all they do is book your travel.  No frills, no extras, nothing special like I do.  I actually asked if they could assist with making dining reservations since they are UK based and calling Paris for them is a lot easier (internal thinking here).  They said nope and gave me the phone number to call.  Yeah thanks, I got that off the Disneyland website already.  I dont know if this was the same with the other tour providers but that was my experience.

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About 2 weeks before the race RunDisney sent out race info and paperwork to print.  Oh the uproar!  Apparently the instructions said you had to print the page out on a very specific size of paper that is not available in the US.  Many facebook posts later it was determined that its ok to print on standard US paper.  The drama that ensued over a piece of paper was comical.  Me, I just printed out the email and knew it would all work itself out.  Ok, paperwork is set, you know basically where to go to pick up your race packet now its time to travel.

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Once we got to Sequoia Lodge and threw our things in the room (Im not going to write about the room it was beyond basic and not worth mentioning) then headed to the Expo.  When I got there I think there were maybe 20 other people at this tiny little expo.  I picked up my packet, got my picture taken then went to seek out some merch.  Oh, the sad offerings they called merchandise.  There were a few shirts, hats, and ugly headbands.  There should have been pins but when I got there on day 2 all but 1 were sold out.  Granted this was the first race so Im sure subsiquent races will have more merchandise available.  Vendors at the expo were few and very limited merch.  We spent 2 minutes looking around then headed to the parks to finish out day.

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Race day comes and its a 7am start.  Yup you read that right, 7am.  Most RunDisney US races start at 5 or 5:30am so this was a welcomed change.  I headed to my corral and waited for the start of the race.  Fellow RunDisney participants will know there is usually a “dance party” before races in the holding area, a place for family to hang out with you and a well organized family reunion area, not here.  I cant complain too much because it was a small race and it was pretty easy to find Joe after, it just wasnt as easy as the US races.  Race start came and went and was delayed for about 15 minutes due to the course not being 100% cleared by police.  When thats the reason for the delay I never have an issue, I would rather have a safe course.  Granted everyone was freezing because it was about 40 degrees outside but I was happy that meant I, for once, was not going to start a race already hot.

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I have to say one of the best parts of the race was actually the weather.  I never had to pour water on my head/face because I was hot.  At the end I thought about it but with only 1 mile to go I knew it would be fine.  I was worried because the race was starting so late but it ended up being fine.

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In terms of the course, running through the parks was great.  I think we ran through as much of the parks as we could which ended up being around 2 miles in the beginning.  The course then went into residential areas, through a high school track (yeah that was weird), off road around a lake, down cobble stone streets and back down some boring roads until you make your way back into “Disney Village” and run past the resorts to the finish line.  All in all I still say this course is better than US Disney because 90% was flat and the inclines that did happen were straight and not over road curves (which reek havoc on the knees).  While I wish there was more entertainment on the course there were more people out cheering us on then I expected so that was a welcomed surprise.

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As far as the actual running went…well that’s a whole ‘nother story.  All the way up until mile 6 I was doing ok, keeping a pretty steady pace and feeling solid.  Mile 6 goes by and the wall hits me like a ton of bricks.  After that my pace dropped from a 9 minute mile to a 10 minute mile and just got slower as the race went on.  What really killed my legs was the off-road/cobblestone street section.  While it was beautiful, my legs were not prepared for the impact and got fatigued even quicker (this was around mile 8).  Mile 9 I started doing the run/walk method which helped but my mental game was so off there was no coming back.  It makes me really sad because I think my legs would have been fine but my mind was finding everything wrong and magnifying it.  Luckily I never stopped but kept moving even if that was walking.

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My hip was getting so tight I could hardly move it at mile 10 and this slowed me down even further.  I had gotten acupuncture a few day prior but it didn’t seem to help any.  By this time the course was taking us back to Disney territory and I sucked it up and tried to pick up the pace to finish under 2:30 (which would still be a PR for a Disney race).  We got more spectators at this point which always help boost morale.  Then I ran past Joe and that gave me my little last push to the finish.  Which leads me to my favorite moment of the race, which I actually posted on Instagram, was crossing the finish line and confetti went off and Daisy gave me a high five.  Yes the confetti went off every few seconds but I’ve never run through confetti before and it was awesome.   I walked over to get my medal, took a photo and waited for Joe to come find me (like I said the reunion area wasn’t great).

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Overall I really did enjoy the race, it was well put together. Everything ran smoothly, if there were any major glitches I didn’t notice them and we spent more time running through the parks then I expected which is always a positive in my book.  My only complaints about it are that there weren’t as many characters as I was hoping for (but the lines were super short) and the off-road piece was really bad for me personally, oh and ok so this is lame but I hated that the distance markers were in kilometers.  Yes we are in a different country that uses the metric system but when you run past 13km and still have 8km to go, yeah that sucks.  That’s not a Disney thing though so I cant fault them for it.

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I think the biggest disappointment I had was with myself.  My mental game was just off which caused me to have a terrible race.  Yes my hips were not 100% race ready and I hadn’t run more than 10 miles during this training period but if my mental game had been strong none of that would have mattered.  I let my mind get the better of me and my time reflected that.  I had the fitness to get a 2:10 time but ended with a 2:27 and the only person I can blame is myself.  Blame is the wrong word but its how I feel.  I will probably do a separate post all about this but long story short, I let myself down and I need to get my head right before the marathon.  Any tips on refocusing are much appreciated!!!!!

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This isnt a traditional race recap because I’ve struggled with my feelings about it for a while.  I can say now though that it has nothing to do with the race and if I had the means to go to Paris every year, I would do this race again and again.  Unfortunately I dont so this race will only be for special occassions (because I plan on doing it again one day).    I hope you find yourself in Paris one day and are able to participate in this race because it truly was a wonderful experience.  Until next time Disneyland Paris!

CHIME IN!!!  Have you ever run an international race before?  Has your mind gotten the better of you during a race?  Who should I dress up as for my next race?

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