July 18, 2017
In September a team of 22 Too Fat to Run ladies are off to EuroDisney to take part in a weekend of themed races, so we have experienced Disney race enthusiast clubhouse member Jessica Guth here to give us the low down on everything you need to know.
The magic of runDisney is as difficult to articulate and explain as the magic of the Clubhouse. When you’re in it, it is obvious that it is the best thing ever, that there is something very special about it but explaining what that is and why is much harder. It’s the atmosphere, the support, the amazing logistics, the magic… In this post I tell you a little bit about my runDisney Journey and offer some insights/thoughts and advice. Sorry it’s long!
I’m an accidental Disney Runner. In fact I’m an accidental Disney nerd. Disney wasn’t a thing for me when I was a child. I was too busy reading serious books turning my nose up at Disney princesses and their fans. I went to Disney World Florida for the first time in 2005 because my girlfriend and her mother wanted to go and I thought I’d be an idiot to turn down a week in the sun in January! In 2012 my best friend died and we wanted to do something to remember her by and raise some money for the British Heart Foundation. She ran a bit and she adored Disney so before I knew it we’d signed up for the Disney World Half Marathon for January 2013. Only one problem. I couldn’t run a mile. Well, I tried but I hated all of the training and didn’t get beyond 10k. On half marathon day I made it, just, in about three and a half hours. I stopped running but something stayed with me.
In 2015 I was at the heaviest I’d ever been and I doubt I’d ever been so unfit. Running had helped with both before. I’d hated it but it had helped. I asked Kath to help me start running again. We did, every tentatively. I hated it. I started looking for a new programme to see if that would help and came across the RunDisney website – I looked at the 10k training programme and read about the Jeff Galloway run/walk method and it somehow made sense. A few runs in and I no longer hated it and an idea had formed. We signed up, via the Runner’s World VIP series, to the Dopey Challenge. At this point we didn’t really think we’d do Dopey, we just thought that training for Dopey would help us manage the marathon but would also give me the option of dropping down and just doing the half if things didn’t go well – but training did go well and the closer we got the more sure we were that we wanted to have a go at the Challenge. Anyway, we completed all 4 Dopey races (5k, 10k, half marathon, marathon) and that was that, I loved it all, even the bits of the marathon I hated. I am a runDisney convert, a self-confessed (if slightly reluctant) Disney nerd. I have now done Walt Disney World, Florida Half Marathon, Dopey Challenge (Florida), Disneyland Paris 5k and Half Marathon, Disneyland, Anaheim 10k and Half Marathon (although I had to stop at 5 miles on that one) and I am half way through my second Virtual Run series. We are also gearing up for Dopey 2019.
So what advice, thoughts, tips, frustrations and magic can I share about Running Disney?
- Getting a place can be tricky! Some events sell out ridiculously fast but there are other ways – travel agents have packages, TooFatToRun had a Disney Paris package – get ready to sign up for this next year! For Florida and Dopey, Runners World do a VIP challenge.
- Stay on Disney property if you can. It’s expensive but it just adds a little sparkle as well as making race day(s) easier because Disney organise transport etc.
- Every Mile is Magic – but some are more magic than others! The races all go through the parks at some point but on the half marathon and marathon distances you also spend a significant amount of time outside of the parks. In Florida those stretches are quite dull. In Anaheim they weren’t much more exciting and in Paris they were marginally more interesting. Disney do their best with characters on course, great mile markers and music and entertainment. The parks are what give you the energy though – soak it up
- Toilets – there are loads in the general start area and on course but not that many near the starting corals. You can use the ones in the parks and in both Florida and Paris they had shorter queues than the porter loos but that may have just been random when we came through
- Talking of queues – you need patience at runDisney events. The way they handle logistics is quite phenomenal but you have to queue for everything.
- Expo and Packet Pick Up – Florida and Anaheim had this down to a fine art – queue for packet pick up, queue to pick up T-shirts, queue to have picture taken, done. Paris was a little more chaotic: queue to get 5k bib, queue to get half marathon bib, queue to get 5k t-shirt, queue to get half marathon t-shirt, queue again to exchange size, queue for photopass…. They may have figured it out for next time. The expo is always busy and it’s also always overpriced so set a spending limit so your credit card doesn’t explode
- Toilets – there are queues but not as bad as at some other events
- Pictures on course – popular characters can have very long queues by the time you get to them. Your call if you want to stop – if you have your own camera/phone with you, you can often find an angle that means you don’t have to queue but you also don’t get the perfect shot with the character
- Finishers’ photo – worth standing around for a bit though!
- Oh and while we’re thinking about waiting around – you’ll have to be in your starting section early and unless you’re very speedy and are in the first couple you will be standing around for ages. Factor this in. You may need a jumper or something that you can discard once you get going, you may need to think about an early toilet stop (We stopped at the first loos for Dopey – less than a mile in which worked great) and you may need to think about when you eat
- In fact, when to eat is a problem for many Disney runners – the races start early – stupidly early in Florida so you need to figure this out. I ran 5k and 10k on empty just making sure I was sensibly fuelled the day before and very very hydrated. Half and full marathon fuel was bagel and peanut butter for me before heading out to the start – so probably roughly 90mins – 2 hours before I set off running.
- Disney races are pretty good for drinks stations and will add additional ones if the weather requires it. Paris had apples as fuel which I’ve never seen elsewhere but certainly in terms of water you don’t need to carry your own and I think they also have powerade.
- Disney runs attract all sorts of runners and this can sometimes lead to frustrations – I saw a punch-up in Florida during the marathon because someone had run into someone who hadn’t given way or something. So if you’re slow like me, stay to one side so people can pass. If you’re slowing down to walk, raise your arm and shout ‘walking’ so people around you know. It works and avoids collisions. Also be prepared for people to stop suddenly in front of you to take pictures – particularly in the parks and particularly when you turn a corner that brings the castle into view. I nearly caused a domino effect crash when I ran into the back of tinkerbell who had stopped suddenly to take a picture of Cinderella’s castle.
- You’re at Disney, chill out. Nobody runs these races for a PB – or if they do, why? There is so much to see, so much to smile at. It really is magic. Why try go fast and miss it? This is particularly the case in the parks – there are some narrow sections – why raise your blood pressure and heart rate trying to pass people here, just relax into the pace and go with the flow – if you want to make up time, use the boring sections referred to above.
- Disney Pace is 16minute mile pace. That’s the requirement. It starts from when the last person crosses the start line and then a lovely group of ladies referred to as the Balloon Ladies keeps that pace – if you are passed by the Balloon Ladies you are in danger of being swept. Just keep going and stay with them as much as you can!
- If you’re doing a Challenge, train for back to back days of running. Sounds obvious but so many people don’t and then really struggle on day two (or three or four!). Also, don’t race your 5k, just don’t, whether that’s the only one you’re doing or the start of your adventure. In a way it’s the most fun run of them all because it’s almost completely in the park and there are characters everywhere, just have fun.
- Don’t rely on getting email communication from Disney when they say you will. You will get everything eventually but it might be last minute! Key things you will need are Waiver form, ID and for France the medical certificate. If you have those you can pick up your stuff. You should also always enter a proof of time by the deadline given. If you don’t enter anything you will start from the back and they enforce the starting corals. If nothing else getting a few corals ahead buys you a little time before the Balloon Ladies become an issue!
- Most importantly – believe in the magic, give yourself up to the moment and never ever stop smiling!
Sadly we do not have any further reduced price tickets but you can still get involved and join in with the fun in September