September 22nd to 24th , saw the second Disneyland Paris Half Marathon weekend take place. Set up last year as the first runDisney race outside of the US; this year its been rebranded as the ‘Magic Run Weekend’, consiting of a 5k, half marathon, kids races and new for 2017 a 10k. Having thoroughly enjoyed the inagural runs last year, and Disneyland Paris being one of our favourite family holiday destinations, we had no hesitation signing up again.
An early flight Friday morning meant that we were all checked into the hotel by lunchtime, so time to head over to the expo (situated in Disney Village) to pick up the running bibs. Numerous forms and wavers are needed to pick up your numbers and its a fairly painful experience having to visit different stands for each of the races, then another stand for the complimentary run t-shirts (why this can’t all be done in one place is a mystery). Luckily with the expo having opened on the Thursday, it was fairly quiet, and despite a mix up with my son’s 5k number didn’t take too long. A nice touch was the addition of a wall with the name of all the runners over the weekend.
Disneyland Paris has recently been fully bought out by the Walt Disney Corporation, and the changes are already noticable. Following a massive refurbishment programme, rides such as Peter Pan, Big Thunder Mountain and Pirates of the Caribean have all been updated, and the park is looking the best I’ve seen it for many years. Combined with the 25th anniversary celebrations, now really is a great time to visit. Despite it being the race weekend, the Friday was still fairly quiet in the parks and we were able to get a lot done. It was then back to the hotel for an early dinner ready for a 7.00pm start for the 5k.
To accomadate the new 10k race, the family 5k has been moved to the Friday evening, with a new course just within the Disney Studios park. Both my kids had struggled with the early morning start last year, so the new time was already proving successful. With the start situated just out the front of the Sequioa Lodge hotel (where conveniently we were staying); we lined up in our pen, excited to get going. Running with 2 kids of different ability and wanting different things from the race, poses its own challenges, but we had agreed before hand to run quicker than last year, only stopping for a few character photos (one of the unique aspects of runDisney races). Set off in waves, we eventually got moving around 7.15pm, the course intially passing through Disney Village before entering the Studios. To try and stay ahead of the crowds (we were in corral B), we started fairly quickly slowing as we entered the Studios. Running at night added a whole new dimension to the race, it was great to see the park all lit up, and the support from cast members along the route was fantastic. Bearing in mind this was a family race, some sections of the park were a little too dark, and the character stops were a unfortunately a bit disappointing. Overall though a massive improvement over last year with the evening start and the finish being within the Studios park.
Saturday morning and time for the 10k. With a 7.00am start, I left the hotel just after 6 (an advantage of staying onsite); leaving the rest of the family fast asleep. Having submitted a sub-1.30 half marathon time when registering, I was fortunate enough to be placed in corral A, which meant crossing the start line pretty much on time. The course intially headed into the Studios before looping round and into the main Disneyland Park, bringing you up main street (still one of the highlights), and back through the castle. In fact I was very impressed with route, with almost the entire 10k taking place in one of the 2 parks. With the half marathon the next day, I’d decided to run sensibly, even stopping for one or two character pictures (the other adavantage to being in corral A is that the stops have little or no queues at this point). The 10k was again untimed, but I was happy to stop the watch at around 45mins. A great race and a welcome addition to the weekend.
Just time for a quick bit of breakfast and a few rides before the kids races on Saturday lunchtime. Based around Lake Disney in Disney Village; this year the races had been cut down to a 100m, 200m and 1K; with both our kids in the 1k. Last year was chaos, and I’m sorry to say this year was no better. Too may kids (and accompanying adults) were in each race, and being set off in small groups meant that any timing schedule had quickly gone out of the window. We’d gathered for an 11.40 start (meeting at 11.15), but it must have been around 12.30 before the 1k started. Kids races are generally badly organised, but I’m sorry to say this is one of the worst we’ve experienced; topped off by them running out of medals so that some kids were given the following days half marathon medals at the end.
A few basic improvements would have a massive improvement on these races:
- moving the 100m/200m to a different area – such as where the 10k/HM start from; to allow races to be run at the same time.
- seperating the adults from the children – it just leads to too much congestion.
- limiting the entries to those done before hand – no on the day entry would mean its easier to plan for the number of races (and medals!) needed
- setting specific wave start times for each race – e.g. you’re in wave A for the 1k, so come along for a 10.30 start; wave B a 10.40 start; wave C a 10.50 start etc.
My daughter will have turned 13 next year, so won’t be eligible to run. However without some improvements I’m not sure we’d bother with these again, which is a shame.
Once again it was an early start for me on Sunday morning for the half marathon. The course had again changed slightly from last year with more time in the parks during the first part. The first 8k are spent looping around in and around the Studios and Disneyland Parks, before heading out for 6k around the local villages, returning round the Disney hotels along the river and round Lake Disney before finishing in the Studios. Just a few small changes have made a massive difference, much like the 10k, I thought it was an excellent course, showcasing the best of the resort. Due to their nature, I don’t see the races as PB material, but I was interested to see what time I could run the Half in to judge my current fitness levels. Despite the time target, however, I couldn’t resist a quick photo with Mickey and Minnie along Main Street, especially as there was no queue (once again courtesy of being in corral A). The sections away from Disney are the hardest, with little support, and not much to look at, it’s a case of ticking of the miles (or KM). They do their best by adding bands, DJs and cheerleaders at certain points, but it’s not the same as being in the Parks, and it’s a welcome return as you head back towards the resort. Passing back past the hotel also gave Ruth and the kids a chance to give me a cheer before heading back to finish breakfast. I loved the finish in the Studios, for all the races, and hope they keep this going forward. It also inspired me to finish in 1:35:56 (203rd out of 6,576 finishers), slightly quicker than last year and pretty much bang on what I’d targeted. As well as the Half marathon medal, there was also a separate challenge medal for those completing the 10k and HM.
Overall impressions; loved it! These races are rapidly becoming my favourite of the year, the changes made since last year have been a massive improvement, and apart from the shambles of the kids races, they seem well organised and run smoothly. Of course it’s helped by the fact that as a family we love (and regularly visit) Disneyland Paris, and the fact that the weather was once again superb. But for anyone with a love of running and/or Disney, or looking for some fun races I can’t recommend them enough. I’m already pricing up for next year!