Jenni Falconer: A Touch Of Magic

Our woman pounding the pavements heads to Disneyland Paris for a fun weekend of running events

It’s the time of year when there are plenty of races you can take part in before the festive season kicks in. I recently ran the Disneyland half marathon, which I have to say was an incredible weekend. The best part is that it’s a family event, so there is something for everyone.

We boarded the Eurostar on a Friday afternoon, arriving at Disneyland Paris a few hours later. There’s a main Eurostar terminal at Disney, so once we’d stepped off the train, we wheeled our cases straight to our hotel, which was at the entrance to the park – a perfect location for a weekend of running and rides!

On the Friday night, there was the 5k event, which my husband James entered – his first ever 5k race. The great thing about running at Disney is there is no clock – they’re not encouraging racing as such, and although plenty of people were tracking their pace and time on their watches, there is no real race element implemented, which immediately gives a more relaxed feel, making it far less intimidating to first-timers.

Lots of the runners dress up as Disney characters, so James made his way around the course alongside a dozen Minnie Mouses, Jack Sparrows and the occasional Ironman! He said that, for the first time, he forgot he was running and just enjoyed the event.

The 10k race took place on the Saturday morning, before the park opened to guests – the klaxon sounded at 7am. It was cold and dark, but by the time the runners crossed that finish line, the sun was rising and it was 28 degrees.

That afternoon, it was time for the children’s races. It was my daughter Ella’s eighth birthday and she was excited that part of her celebration would be running a 1k kids’ event around the park. She’s generally not very competitive, but she found herself running with another eight-year-old boy called Jude and she wouldn’t let him out of her sight. We were so proud when she crossed that line and she was elated, not just to make it to the end, but also to have not stopped the whole way. She was then presented with a Peter Pan themed medal.

The following morning, it was time for my half marathon. Obviously, preparation for a 13.1 mile race is key, but when you’re at Disneyland it’s fair to say that you’re a little distracted. My pre-race prep included a few trips up the Tower of Terror and dinner at Wild Bill’s Western Show. I’m usually a lot more cautious with my pre-race meals, but the chilli, sausages, chicken and potatoes felt like they were perfect fuel. Plus, we got to watch a bit of rodeo at the same time!

That morning was an early start – I had to be at breakfast at 5.30am and make my way to the start by 6.30am. The race then began at 7am. The route takes you through the park and, just like other runs over the weekend, there were surprise guests along the way, including Rapunzel, Mary Poppins, Goofy, Pluto, Minnie and Mickey, all waiting to greet us at the end. Runners can stop to have photos taken with the characters. It’s such a good way of distracting you from the running! The first five miles go through the park, then you head out to the local village, around a lake and back to finish the race in the Disney studios. There was a huge smile on my face as I crossed that finish line – it was a fabulous weekend filled with my favourite things – running and time with the family.

I recorded an episode of my podcast, RunPod, while I was there, so if you’d like more of a flavour, feel free to listen. The Disneyland Paris Run Weekend will take place in September 2020, and they are introducing the first Disneyland Paris 10k Princess Run in May, so start planning your best costumes!

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