Disneyland Paris Inaugural Half Marathon Weekend - Part 3, Half Marathon
Somewhere along the way the race was renamed the Inaugural Disneyland® Paris – Val d’Europe Half Marathon. Or Semi Marathon, as they say in France. Val d'Europe is the area that surrounds Disneyland Paris, and we would be running through it for over half of the race.
It was a fantastic event. Maybe the most I've ever enjoyed an Inaugural runDisney event (Disneyland's Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon is way up there, too.) The race organizers, the cast members, the community, the volunteers all came together to give us a marvelous experience. Thank you to all of you!
Going into the race we really weren't sure what to expect in terms of on-course support, water stops, and nutrition. And given recent events in France, security was a concern as well.
I'm very happy to report that none of that was an issue. While perhaps there wasn't quite as much entertainment or cheering crowds, those that were there were enthusiastic and very supportive. And there were plenty of well-stocked and staffed water and nutrition stops. As for security - it was very different seeing pairs of armed guards all over the course, but I felt safe.
The race course was terrific. We had even more park time in the Studios than we did for the 5K, and about the same in Disneyland. The first 5K was basically parks, and then we had 1K backstage before going out onto the roads in Val d'Europe.
It was a beautiful area, and I very much enjoyed the views as we ran through the countryside. We saw parks:
And even corn fields.
We were never that far from Disney and could often catch a glimpse of Space Mountain or the castle in the distance and even hear some music.
It was very nice that for most of the last 5K we were back on Disney property, where we ran through several of the Disney resorts. Hotel Santa Fe:
Newport Bay Club:
We finished by running through Downtown Disney, then ducking backstage around the Studios for the final kilometer to the finish line.
The weather was perfect. There was rain in the forecast but thankfully it held off until the afternoon, and for the race we had clear skies and temperatures of about 55-60. There was a light wind at times. It was very comfortable for running.
I was very pleased to see that the race organizers had learned some lessons from the 5K and made some changes to address a few issues. There were screens and speakers in the corrals that morning, so we had a much better idea of what was happening up front.
At the character stops, the handlers let runners in line know when a character would soon be going for a break, and when they would be coming back. And they let us know if a different character was coming out to replace them. That was much appreciated.
They pulled the PhotoPass photographers from the castle ramp, which really eased congestion when we went through it - we barely slowed down.
The Disney characters were still at the finish line, but they were more away from the line - it wasn't the bottleneck that it was the day before.
Once again, the race organizers did a great job of giving us character photo opportunities along the course. And very different characters than we had saw during the 5K. The number of character stops was about the same as for the 5K, but there might have been even more characters - some of the stops had four or five different characters associated with them! Some of the groups:
Mad Hatter, March Hare, White Rabbit, Cheshire Cat(!)
Dug, Carl, Russell/Baloo, King Louie
Remy/Marie, Toulouse, Berlioz (Aristocats)
Aladdin, Abu, Genie, Sultan
Cinderella, Prince Charming, Belle, Prince Beast (by far the longest line I saw so we didn't stop)
We also saw Chip and Dale, the Incredibles, Spider-Man, Darth Vader, and the Sheriff of Nottingham. I think Remy and Spider-Man/Captain America were the only repeats from the 5K. That's quite a lineup.
We got a slightly earlier start - had our race breakfast at the hotel and were on our way to the corrals by 6:10. I was concerned that it might take longer to get through the security check, but it was again very efficient.
We learned from the way the 5K started to try to get further forward in the corral. We were in Corral B for this one, so that helped a lot. There were over 10,000 runners registered for the race, so it was about twice the size of the 5K. There were four start corrals instead of three.
As I mentioned before, we had video monitors and a PA system for the half, so we were able to hear the announcements when they told us they would start us in waves - I think they said 32 waves.
It was another cool morning - about 55 degrees - but there was a light wind and it felt a little colder. I'd remember to wear my gloves this time! With arm sleeves, trash bag, and gloves I was comfortable while we waited.
The race started 10 minutes late - no explanation as to why.
We were near the front of corral B and started about 10 minutes after the official start of the race. We were at the front of a wave, and that was nice.
This time we went into the Studios first and to the Lights, Motors, Action stage at the back of the park.
There weren't lines at the kilometer signs as there were the day before. 21 of them for this race.
We ran through the Studio 1 building that's just inside the Studios' entrance. It was strange to be running inside.
Since we were closer to the front of the race the character lines were much shorter, so we were able to make a number of stops. But one not-so-good change between the 5K and the half: CMs were apparently instructed not to take photos with guest cameras. So we all had to get someone else to take our photo if we wanted one with our own camera. Everyone was willing to do it, it was just awkward to pass the phones back and forth.
The CMs were still out in force and enthusiastically cheering for us, though!
We went the opposite direction through Toy Story Playland this time and into the Ratatouille area. I was hoping that Remy would be out again, but I didn't see any character stops. Unfortunately I missed it - it was behind the line of cheering cast members nearer the Fastpass distribution area. I found out later that in addition to Remy that stop alternated with Marie and some of the other kittens from The Aristocats! I was really disappointed that I missed that.
We'd run a little less than 3K when we entered Disneyland and ran down Main Street.
In Discoveryland there was a line for Vader and the Storm Troopers. It was the longest line we waited in - about 8 minutes. While we waited for that I took this photo of Lee. The Vader photo was only taken by the PhotoPass photographer and I REALLY hope it comes out - it should be a good one.
In Fantasyland we had our first experience with the CMs telling us that characters would be leaving. The March Hare and White Rabbit were out, but the CM told us they would be leaving in four minutes. The line was short, so we knew we should have time. But when the Mad Hatter came out (less than four minutes later) they pulled the other two, so we missed getting them - but at least we had a photo with the Mad Hatter.
The Sheriff of Nottingham was out on Adventure Isle (some people saw Robin Hood, also). That was a new one for me, I think.
When we were in the parks the kilometer markers were themed to the area of the park that we were in. (No race clocks on any of the kilometer markers like we're used to seeing here.)
After we left Disneyland we ran backstage for a while - this backstage road had traffic circles on it, and there was a gargoyle statue in each one! Surprisingly this was the only Hunchback character that we saw during the races.
At the 6K mark we left Disney property for the surrounding commune of Val d'Europe. About 3.7 miles on Disney property to start the race, most of it in interesting on-stage areas - very nice.
We ran around a number of traffic circles that day.
At one point we ran about half a lap around a high school track. That was nice and cushy. Felt good.
There were two nutrition stations - one at about 7.5K and one at 15K. Different than what we're used to - they offered cereal bars and apple slices. We split one of the packets of apple slices and they were quite good. There didn't seem to be too many takers for the cereal bars, though.
There were a number of teams of runners who were pushing a disabled person in an interesting one-wheeled sedan chair. One person in front rickshaw-style and one in back pushing. They swapped out fairly frequently. Despite the chair they were moving pretty fast - most of them passed us.
There were a number of bands along the course - most of them seemed to be high school bands.
And this was a very unusual group. The long tubes are didgeridoos. Their name was Pranavibes.
11K - over half way! When we weren't in the parks the signs were themed to different Disney movies.
One part of the course I didn't like so much - for about 5K we were on an out-and-back, which meant that we saw people on the other side going on the opposite direction. Not so bad when we were the ones further along, but a little disheartening when we were still going out and watching those on the other side of the road who were almost 5K ahead of us!
About kilometer 12 we ran through a village. There were quite a few people out to watch us, including a very enthusiastic cheerleading squad.
At about 13K we ran around a small lake. We started on a gravel path, which then turned into a packed dirt/gravel track. I heard a number of complaints from runners around me in this section, but I enjoyed the change in surface.
At kilometer 17 we were back in Disney property. I liked the way the markers at Hotel Santa Fe and Hotel Cheyenne matched the theme of those resorts.
Running along Lake Disney - a little over a mile left to go.
The wind had played a little havoc with the 21K sign. CMs said that it was only 100 meters to the finish from there, but it felt longer than that to me.
Again there were characters at the finish but runners weren't allowed to line up like they had the day before.
Lee and I both got our Challenge medals from the smallest race volunteer I've seen - isn't she adorable?
The signage for the Castle to Chateau wasn't clear - I passed by it the first time, and had to backtrack a bit to get to the entrance. I was also quite surprised that no one was marking our wristbands to make sure no one received more than one - it seemed like it would be possible to do that.
Really beautiful medals! And the one has that special word on it: Inaugural. :-)
It was still under 60 degrees and a little chilly - I was surprised that mylar sheets weren't being distributed. I'm not even sure they were available at the First Aid tent, since I didn't see anyone who had one.
This time our post-race snacks were a banana, cereal bar, peanuts, and a dried fruit/nut mix.
There was still no entertainment in the Family Reunion area and the lines for photos at the photo backdrops were long.
We were both getting a little chilled so we headed back to our hotel. We had to cross the race course twice to get there, but the runners had thinned out enough that it didn't take too long. I had a really good race and felt really good - but it's always very nice to be done.
A few souvenirs from our trip to France!
This was a terrific race weekend. Totally exceeded all of my expectations. Congratulations to everyone involved, and a heartfelt thank you from me as well. I hope this race weekend will be around for a long time. While I'm not planning to run it again next year, I would certainly like to run it again in the future - maybe the 5th anniversary?