Thanks for joining me for another Run Disney trip report. Unlike my previous trip reports – which you can find in the Run Disney section of my blog site – this will only have one part and will consist more of a brief overview and some thoughts. Like many of my other blog posts I’ve split it into sections to try and make it more easily digestible.
Part 1 – Pre-race – Bib purchase, registration and Expo
My bib purchase experience was much less stressful than 2018 for one simple reason, I booked an onsite package. There wasn’t anything wrong with how I did the previous year (staying in Val D’Europe and buying bibs only), but after the mess of bib only sales in 2018 I decided to treat myself for the 2019 weekend. Using my Infinity Annual Pass discount I booked a room at Newport Bay Club from Thursday to Sunday and added my bibs to the package. A neat perk of this is it also allows you to get annual passholder discount on the bibs themselves, which can help a little with the higher cost of the hotel room. I’ll maybe post a full review of Newport Bay Club in future but I had a lovely, comfortable stay. The room was still in great shape, save for one of the small table-like things next to the desk.
Registration was exactly the same as last year. As I was doing the half marathon I once again had to get a medical form completed by my GP. My advice here would be to sort this out as soon as possible. Be prepared to pay anything from £0 to £50 depending on how nice your doctor is.
The expo was, once again, efficient but disappointing. As per 2018 the merchandise was terribly disappointing, even more so after seeing the incredible merchandise at the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. The upside to this was I didn’t feel any need to queue at the expo before opening time to buy anything. I had also pre-purchased my pins and would suggest you do the same if you want to ensure you get the ones you want. Many of them (particularly for the shorter distance races and challenges) sell out early in the weekend.
I had to wait in several queues – 36k challenge bib pickup, 36k challenge t-shirt pickup, get my photo taken for collecting my challenge medals and Castle to Chateau registration. None of the lines were particularly long and moved at a very quick pace. After that there was nothing much else to do in the expo but find my name on the name wall:
T-shirts were provided for each individual race/challenge, with the exception of Castle to Chateau where a very meh non-technical t-shirt was on sale.
Part 2 – Disneyland Paris 5k
The 5k once again took place on the Friday night. The course was also similar to the previous year but allowed for some alterations due to construction work in Walt Disney Studios:
I was VERY fortunate this year, being placed in Corral A for every race. This meant my corral would start just behind runners with additional needs and elite runners. Needless to say this made a massive difference which will become evident as I go through my finish times and character waiting times.
Unlike previous years there was no live entertainment in the actual staging area before any of the races. Everything was broadcast on the big screens from the finish line area in Walt Disney Studios. They tried their best, doing interviews with some of the runners and singalongs, but the atmosphere was completely lacking and it definitely felt like it had been the subject of a budget cut.
Arriving near 6pm had me near the front of the corral (and eventually in the first wave of Corral A). This meant setting off at just after 8pm with a pretty clear run at the course. The start was pretty dull (apart from passing the backstage Brioche Doree I’d heard about from so many cast member friends) and the first character stop was the Country Bears in Frontierland. I’d just met them all (with Clara Cluck for reasons noone can work out) the week before so skipped them and stopped for Bolt and Mittens near Cowboy Cookout:
They were swapping with Koda and Kenai (BROTHER BEARS to people like me) so a pretty good and rare set of characters no matter who you got.
I skipped the next few meets (Dug in Adventureland, Thumper and Miss Bunny in the Backlot Tour), just missed Remy and Emile but was lucky to only have a short wait for Marie, Berlioz and Toulouse. That was it for character meets and I crossed the line in just over 30 minutes and collected my very funky Lion King themed medal:
I liked the course and personally I loved the characters but the race was a bit weird and off theme. Originally it was touted as a Lion King and jungle themed race, but somewhere along the line this changed to furry friends with tenuous Lion King links remaining. Thing is, apart from Simba projections on Tower of Terror which I completely missed, there was nothing Lion King about the race. Not even massive Disneyland Paris favourites Timon and Rafiki made an appearance. Again, not a massive deal for me as I got some fun new characters and liked to the course, but I do understand why a lot of people felt disappointed.
Part 3 – Disneyland Paris 10k
The theme for the 10k was much clearer – Disney princesses. On reflection it was a bit weird doing a princess race this year and then immediately announcing a princess run weekend for 2019. But I guess people can’t get enough of those darn princesses.
I’ll be quite upfront here and say that, for me, this was the most disappointing race of the weekend. 10k races tend to be my least favourite distance anyways – long enough that its hard work but not long enough for me to get into a long distance rhythm.
The best way I could describe the character lineup was uninspired. The characters meeting on the 10k (a / indicates these two were swapping in the same location) were: Belle/Aurora, Cinderella/Snow White, Rapunzel (on a bridge, not meetable), Tiana/Moana, Ariel/Jasmine and Merida/Pocahontas.
This did stick firmly to the theme (and I’ll give them credit for that), but there wasn’t really any particularly rare princesses meeting. I was really hoping for Elena of Avalor, Sofia the First or even Princess Minnie to make an appearance. Alas it wasn’t to be. It got to the stage where I kept skipping all the meets looking anticipating something better. The only character I ended up meeting was Merida – partly because she’s Scottish and partly because she was at the last character stop and I realised there wasn’t anything rarer up ahead.
(picture to be added once the Photopass photo appears on my account)
On the plus side, it doesn’t really get old running through the parks. I do appreciate that they try and maximise the amount of time you get to run in the parks too. Entering the park under the train station and heading straight up Main Street USA is a feeling that will never get old. Being in Corral A was once again a huge advantage, setting off just after 7am and crossing the line in around 60 minutes and 30 seconds. As I noted above my only character meet was Merida, and due to my early start time I only waited a minute or two to meet her.
Part 4 – Disneyland Paris Half Marathon
I was pretty terrified about this race in the days and weeks leading up to the weekend. My training had gone to pot over the summer and I was worrying just how my legs and cardio would hold up over the 21km. In the end I resolved myself to just seeing how it went and not stress about walking parts of it. A PB this would not be.
Once again the race started promptly at 7am and a 5.45am arrival time put me in the first wave of Corral A.
The character experience on this race was a mixed bag. Over the race I managed to do a lot of meets: Pocahontas & John Smith, Angel, Mulan(Ping) & Li Shang, Anna & Kristoff, Woody & Bo Peep and Rescue Rangers Chip and Dale.
Some fantastic meets in there I’m sure you’ll agree! The switches for some of these were also great with rare characters like Tarzan and Jane also making an appearance.
In addition to the character meets there was also a lot of what I would call “standing and waving” characters. This meant characters that would stand in elevated or roped off positions and simply wave at the runners as they went past. On one hand I understand the rationale of doing things this way – everyone gets a glimpse of the characters but it avoids massive queues building up. The downside though is that you’re kind of teasing the audience putting extremely sought after and rare characters (like Milo & Kida, Hercules & Meg) on the course but out of reach for a meet or even a decent picture. Some of these “wave at people” things were also in very silly locations, causing people to stop dead in the middle of a narrow part of the course and become a hazard for those running behind them. Overall though I was happy with the meets that I was able to do. I need to emphasise again though that my fortunate corral placement made this a much easier experience than if you started later.
The section of this race outside of the resort was again a bit of a slog – particularly from about 9km to 15km. Disney try their best to provide some entertainment, and I really enjoyed the dance crews and the bands, but it does still feel a bit jarring compared to the on resort experience. I did also appreciate some of the cute kilometre markings they had this year, all in line with the theme of love (and adventure as I found out later).
My time for the half marathon clocked in at around 2 hours and 27 minutes, with a moving time of just over 2 hours and 15 minutes. That time is about 20 minutes off my half marathon PB and I couldn’t care less. This one was just about finishing and honestly I’m delighted with the time I achieved. It also meant I got to pick up my sweet half marathon medal:
AND all my challenge medals including my Castle to Chateau medal which will be cherished forever. Here’s a few medal pictures to round out the blog (thanks to my friends Megan and Leah for taking the photos and especially to Megan for setting up the epic medal photo):
Part 5 – Final Thoughts
- The race experience was much less chaotic than last year and the waits for character photos were much shorter.
- This positive has a MASSIVE caveat to it. I pretty much only had this experience because I was lucky and placed in Corral A. If you are placed in either of the final two corrals (C and D this year) then be prepared for a late start time and very long lines for characters.
- The courses themselves were good fun. I think the only bit I didn’t like was having to run through the backlot so many times on the half marathon. This was difficult to avoid though given the volume of construction at Walt Disney Studios. It really makes me think though, what are they going to do when the expansion work really gets going?
- Collecting my bibs and t-shirts was a quick and efficient process.
- The character lineup on the 5k and half marathon were a good mix of fun and rare characters. There was also a suitable amount of meets for the length of the run.
- The race medals themselves are fantastic, with the half marathon medal being a particular favourite.
- I GOT CASTLE TO CHATEAU
- The characters on the 10k were uninspired and there wasn’t enough of them. There should have been more character stops and a few rarer characters would’ve been very well received.
- The theme of the 5k was muddled and poorly communicated. This led to a lot of disappointed fans who were expecting a Lion King race and received..not a Lion King race.
- Running outside of the resort still lacks the magic that you’d hope for a Disney race. This is a bigger deal if you’ve done a Run Disney event at Walt Disney World.
- I’m not a big fan of the 31k and 36k medals and feel they’re a backwards step in design from the fantastic 2018 medals.
- The staging area lacked atmosphere and felt like it had been subject to budget cuts from the year before.
As always, thanks for reading, and I’ll see you all for more Run Disney fun in 2020!