September 26, 2017
Now I wouldn’t exactly describe myself as a Disney fanatic…don’t get me wrong I loved Mary Poppins and Bednobs and Broomsticks as much as the next kid who grew up in the 80s, but I’ve never really had any burning desire to go to DisneyLand, and you won’t find any cute Disney branded clobber in my wardrobe.
However as most parents will know, avoiding Disney is kind of impossible with little people in the house, and despite my best efforts it didn’t take long for my daughter to get completely obsessed by everything to do with Frozen.
So what about Disney Races? Any desire to do them? Well no not really. When I looked at them before it all just seemed like a big expense and logistical palaver to travel so far for a cheesy themed race, so to be honest I couldn’t really understand what all the hype was about…I mean some women rave about these races, doing Dopey and Castle to Chateau challenges and all of that.
I now know EXACTLY what the hype is all about.
My alarm went off at 5am, and I dashed out of my bed in my Woody (from ToyStory) themed hotel room, and into the bathroom so that I didn’t wake my sister and our two kids.
10 minutes later, my knees were taped, my costume was on and I was heading down to breakfast. It was still dark, and a little strange to see so many Disney characters milling around in the restaurant fuelling up with pastries and croissants…Aladdin walked past as I sipped my tea, trying to warm myself up as it was a little chilly, and then 8 women dressed as Minnie Mouse.
No one batted an eye at a size 18 woman topping up her juice wearing a one piece superhero catsuit.
The half marathon was the last of a series of runs held over the weekend, 5K, 10K, various kids races…and it was due to start at 7am. As I walked towards the start area with two lovely ladies from The Clubhouse we could see lazers in the sky and hear music and the voices of two french presenters…it was all very exciting.
The start area was very organised, and before I knew it I was in my starting coral and waiting patiently to start. I was probably there for 45 minutes before I got across the start line, but it didn’t feel like it. The atmosphere was brilliant, watching all the various costumes crossing the line on the big screens.
I didn’t feel that great in myself to be quite honest.
I was shattered.
Disney is not for the faint hearted.
I’d walked 40K steps in the previous two days, and spent the night before with my 4 and a half year old on my shoulders so she could watch the Disney Illuminations and Fireworks, surrounded by about a billion other families….so my spine felt like it was compressed and I had quite severe lower back pain as I made my preparations the night before.
My fuelling hadn’t been great either, and my tummy felt a little delicate.
But I was under no pressure. I knew the race would be relaxed, there would be walkers and lots of people stopping for photos.
Going across the start line was pretty spectacular. I felt strong the first mile or so which took you around the outskirts of the park and through the Disney Studios. Daylight was approaching and Disney staff were lining the streets cheering us on with calls of “Allez, Allez”. My pace was steady and I was enjoying myself.
The first character I saw was Spiderman…well I saw the queue first.
I had decided not to queue up for photos, as I said before I’m not a massive Disney fan…and the thought of stop starting the whole way round seemed nuts. I did however manage to get some sneaky selfies and photos of the characters as I passed and this was enough for me.
Around 2 miles in (I think as its all a bit of a blur) we ran up main street and this was the most exciting part of the race for me…I can’t describe how electric it all was. I felt like a small child.
Every corner you turned there was something new to see, new music playing, new characters to see. Running through Adventure Isle and being chased by pirates, stumbling across Snow White and her Prince…it was truly magical.
The queues for photos for the characters proved just how much this experience means to some runners, a bunch of my ladies queued for 45 minutes to get a photo with Minnie and Micky…I remember seeing the line of runners snaking round the bandstand, and got a sneaky picture with them in the background instead.
I reached the 5K mark in around 45 minutes, which was good going I reckon, I was feeling strong. The sun had come up by now and although it was a brisk morning I felt neither too hot nor too cold. My worries about my Mrs Incredible costume were unfounded, it was actually perfect for running in.
After about mile 4 and a wee dalliance with two storm troupers we headed out of the park and along a few miles of quite boring roads. There were drink stations and a bit of entertainment, but after the excitement of the park this bit did feel a bit dull. I had a few walking breaks here. As many people did.
The route then took us into a lovely french village where we ran round a lake. There wasn’t a huge amount of support but enough to make it interesting. There was a big team of child cheerleaders which was a lot of fun to run through and an adorable little girl dressed as Ariel who was getting as much attention as the real Disney characters back in the park.
It was along this section where the route doubled back on itself that I started to see all my Too Fat to Run ladies. They all looked like they were having a blast and I felt like a proud mummy seeing them out on the course.
I also bumped into Team Wonder a bunch of women from Swindon Shin Splints, one of whom I featured in our Runner of the Month series. We had met briefly at St Pancras and I loved seeing them around the park in their various costumes.
There were so many highlight from this race, the setting was spectacular there is no two ways about it, but it was also the runners that made it so special. Some lovely moment for me was,
Spotting a rather dashing Mr Incredible running in the opposite direction and shouting out
Mr Incredible, where you been all my life?
There were a heap of incredibles on the course including this lovely french girl Eugenie who asked to have her picture taken with me.
Another fab memory was chasing Mauri and Moana who were running at pace while playing How Far I’ll Go on a stereo…I had to get video footage of this because they seriously looked like the real deal, her hair flowing in the wind and him with tattoos across his naked torso. My daughter rose couldn’t believe it when I showed her the footage.
There were also the team of Meridas, from the film Brave wearing kilts and long red locks.
An older man with a white beard dressed as Obi Wan Kenobi
I’m sure I spotted Mr Bean somewhere as well.
And lets not forget the fabulous bunch of women dressed as Mary Poppins, but the supercalifragilisticexpialidocious version in her white dress, hat and parasol.
I reached 10K in about 1 hour 30, which I was quite surprised by. I felt strong the whole way round. No leg pain, no tiredness, no blisters, no chaffing.
The route then took us through some of the Disney hotels, and I came across Egle…one of my ladies, and we run about two miles together. We were following a run walk strategy, running the downhills and areas where there were crowds. Running through the hotel Cheyenne which is themed like the wild west was brilliant, and another of our ladies Craigie Lee was waiting to cheer us on.
As we reached the lake by Disney Village we could see loads of runners who had finished. We knew we were close. In the excitement I lost Egle and forged ahead. I felt strong. Running through the village where the route was cordoned off. I spotted another of my ladies who had finished and took this awesome photo.
The final stretch took us back through Disney Studios, and one section had a live feed showing us running past on a massive screen…that was brilliant, waving at yourself. And then I could see the finish line…but not before seeing a bunch of characters giving out hugs and posing for photos.
The last 100 meters was brilliant…I picked up the pace and finished strong.
Being awarded my medal was an EPIC moment, the medal itself is EPIC…it was over. I had run 13.1 mile in a catsuit in 3 hours 23 and done it with ease. I felt amazing and as I exited the park…who did I bump into, my sister, my nephew Rio and my daughter Rose…who were delighted to see me in my outfit.
And after some hugs all round and a quick outline of how awesome it was I headed back to the hotel to get showered and changed, to head back for a final few hours in the park with my family.
Sitting here writing this race report and going through all the photos and videos we collected between us I realise how lucky I was to get to review this race, and to help a bunch of my wonderful women to make this life changing trip too.
I can’t say it transformed my view on Disney 100%, turning me into a super fan but I will write more about that in a second post which will talk about our Too Fat to Run road trip more generally.
But as a race series I am not sure anything will ever compare to this.
This race is MAGICAL…as cheesy as that sounds, it just is.
23 of us travelled out with tour operator Run to the Magic who’s discounted package included Eurostar, Accommodation, Park Tickets and guaranteed race entry. I would like to say a massive thank you to them for trusting me to get a group together, and for giving me the opportunity to take my family with me to review the weekend.
If you are interested in joining a 2018 trip, fill in your details here and I will be in contact as soon as the 2018 packages go on sale.
Look out next week for a more detailed review of the whole experience, and next month I will also write a review with top tips if you are thinking about doing this race next year…it will probably be called something like 10 things you need to know before signing up to EuroDisney race.