Disneyland Paris 1/2 Marathon (Part 3 – Race Day)

So, race day. Firstly, having to wake up at 5am for a race is no fun, waking up in a Cars themed hotel room and having somebody interrupt your race-day prep to take pictures even less so, especially when you know the photographer is going back to sleep for another few hours, hence the grumpy/asleep face

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This picture illustrates where mine and Dom’s attitude to the race had differed, he’d raised a load of money for charity, and was going to have a great time. I was now a club runner who was going to set a good time (or at least hoped to), so shorts and vest at 5am it was.

I say Dom was going to have a good time, he looked about as happy as I did about being awake at 5am, only he’d realised he was now going to spend the morning in a Tigger Onesie

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About half five I left the hotel room, and started scoffing down bananas, cakes and whatever else why lying around the hotel room (the hotels were all full of runners, but Disney didn’t think doing a pre-race breakfast shift in the restaurant would have been a good idea) as I walked the mile or so to the start I was joined by more and more runners

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and more

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and more

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It was only when I got to the back of my starting pen I began to realise just how many people were running

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Even though the planned start was over an hour and a half away, I could barely see the start line, so I slowly and gently worked my way forward.

I wasn’t much closer when the first runners went off, what’s worse an hour after the first runners had set off, I’d still only made it to here, but at least now I could see the start.

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As you can see, it was light by then!

The start(s) were also a little bizarre, they were breaking people off into groups or 20 or 30 and doing little countdowns to have a race-start with each group. I’m sure there was a practical reason for it, but just added to my annoyance as I was beginning to realise there was a real chance people would finish before I set off.

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Now, like any sane person, my photos stop between start line and finish line. But this is Disney, this is not home of the sane. The first couple of miles wound through the park (before it was open) which was actually very very cool, but at every few hundred meters they had Disney characters you could have your pictures taken with and people where doing … and they were queuing for the privilege! It wasn’t just the characters, every km had a different Disney themed banner and people were queuing to take selfies with them too! I guess it’s a Disney thing, but I just didn’t see the point of adding 5 minutes to your finish time  just to get a pic of me stood next teenager is a giant Donald Duck costume.

It was pretty cool though. Every Disney ride, shop and attraction had it’s staff out front cheering people on and they were making a real effort,  thought I won’t pass comment on the fact that one of the biggest queues for pictures was actually as we were leaving the park through a maintenance exit and Disney’s own fire crew were there to cheer everyone one! What is it about firemen?

It was round about that point that I’d realised they’d screwed the start up more than I expected, as I’d been passing hundreds of runners, many already having to walk, then (not for the last time that day) I hear “alreet Glenn” from a giant West Yorkshire Tigger. Hang on I thought, even at the 3hr ETA I put on my form (that I was now expecting to smash), I should have been a long way ahead of Dom who was genuinely worried about the 16 min mile sweep vehicle (he didn’t  need to be as it happened). Had they really let blocks D and E go ahead of block C, it certainly seemed so!

Still, I was running against my own watch and setting off with a bunch of people running way slower than me (rather than faster, like normal) was probably exactly the start I needed.

As we left the environs of Disney itself, we headed off into some very typical and rather pretty French countryside. A hand full of marshalls and locals were scattered along the route, but I was generally enjoying the scenery (which was nice, even if it was a dual carriageway Disney bypass road). As with many races there were the odd jobbing bands at various points, but special note goes out to the two didgeridoo players accompanied by a human beatboxer, I lost a good couple of miles contemplating that one.

Whilst the main section of the course was a big loop leaving one side of the Disney site and re-entering the other, there were quite sizable sections that looped back on themselves, allowing you to see the runners coming the other way, several miles ahead/behind of you and whilst a staggeringly high number of runners were in fancy dress, I did spot a few traditional UK club running vests, in amongst the myriad of Minnie Mouses and Marvel Characters. I also saw Dom again, who was moving well, albeit a few miles behind me.

The drink stations were plentiful, well stocked, with little bags of surprisingly succulent slices of apple being a pleasant addition to the power bars and isotonic drinks.

About 9.5 miles saw us re-entering Disney environs again, by looping around almost all of the resort hotels, where I was given a bit of a lift by my wife and son taking advantage of the meandering route by popping up to cheer me along a three different points within about a mile and a half.

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Sadly you don’t re-enter the actual main parks on your return (I understand the logistics of this make it impractical), so after a trip down the main Disney shopping Boulevard, it’s a sharp left back into the far less magical Expo Centre Parking Lot to the finish line, which was off limits to non runners. Again I understand the logistics, but after such amazing support on the way around, having virtually none for the last half mile felt odd.

Still, it didn’t matter to me, I’d done it! I’d got around! I wasn’t in an ambulance or a sweep car, I’d got around under my own steam. Then I looked at my watch, 2:12, MUCH quicker than I expected!

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There were 2 stings in the tail though, the first was in an attempt to make Disney more special that a normal half, they medal they dropped around you neck was more akin to a ships anchor! Trust me, after 12 miles, you felt every ounce.

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Now the second sting, the more observant of you may have spotted, I certainly hadn’t at this stage

It was only after the adrenaline had worn off and I was back in my hotel room, about to jump into the bath ….. I’d forgotten the Vaseline and now both me and my new Pudsey Pacers vest were a bit of a bloody mess.

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So, in summary, it was special to me because mentally after that I consider myself a runner again, rather than a fat lad doing some jogging and the magic of Disney does as a certain something to events, but I can’t see it being one for seasoned runners who aren’t partial to the World of Disney.

 

Disneyland Paris 1/2 Marathon (Part 2 – Disneyland)

So, fast-forward a few weeks and I’m in Paris, up to now, bar one “bad” 13 mile Sunday training run (where I’d fallen apart at 8 miles) my preparation had gone great, well apart from two long days in Disneyland with super-excited three year old wanting to sit on my shoulders for hours on end

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and more junk food in 3 days in than I’d eaten in 3 months. Especially overpriced gimmicky junk food

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Ok, I’ll admit, my inner 9 year old loved eating Jedi burgers watching a live action Star Wars show.

It wasn’t that grueling. I’ve done the two US Disney parks as an adult and rather enjoyed them, but doing them with a 3rd year old is just magical (if very very tiring).

Moments like this
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and this
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were so special to him, that I didn’t mind multiple rides on the teacups, it’s a small world (the most horrible saccharine sweet experience in the world, bar none) and the Pirates of the Caribbean when secretly I wanted to sneak off for a go on Space Mountain.

I did manage to sneak off the day before the race to the Expo centre to pick up my number, race T-Shirt and and wander around a couple of dozen stands selling various bits of running and general fitness paraphernalia.  Wandering through the middle of the exhibition I spotted somebody I recognised giving a talk (in French) to about 20 or 30 people.

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It wasn’t until the TV behind her changed that I clocked who I was looking at.

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What I didn’t realise was she speaks impeccable French, so whilst she had a translator on stage with her, she took and answered most questions just in French. My rather rusty GCSE French couldn’t keep up, I worked out she was very happy and something about doing a marathon with her dad, Had she wanted to book a hotel room with two beds and a bathroom, wanted to know where the beach was or even wanted to know where the monkey is, I may have understood more of what she was saying.

 

Disneyland Paris 1/2 Marathon 2016 (Part 1 – The road to Disneyland)

So, Sarah from Pudsey Pacers asked me to do a write up of the Disneyland Paris 1/2 Marathon and as she’s kind enough to coach the group I run with twice a week, there was no way I could refuse.

Important Note: This got massively long (so big I split it over 3 posts), if you just want the summary. 14 stone and inactive to 12 stone “runner” who did 2:12 my first half marathon since the early 90s. Disneyland Paris is an amazing place to run, but not without it’s drawbacks. The American’s I met afterwards said the US Disney runs are much better organised and feel much more special, but it felt pretty special to me, especially the first 2 and last 3 miles which were through the Disneyland Parks & Hotels themselves.

So, I’ll start with a little backstory, mid June to be precise, I was a 14 stone IT geek with a penchant for real ale, fried food and avoiding exercise. But I was finding out that being the dad of an energetic 3 year is really really tiring, especially when even chasing him up the stairs would leave me out of breath. I needed to get fit.

Now I’d been a very active runner in the mid 80s to early 90s, But that had long since stopped. I’d had numerous attempts to get back into running over the years, but bar a couple of 10ks with woefully inadequate training, I’d never managed it, so I had gone from this

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to this

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After returning home from a day at a beer festival and a little full of dutch courage, I spotted a social media post from my mate, fellow geek and comedian Dom about his entry for the Disneyland Paris 1/2 Marathon. My brain went into overdrive, I’d really wanted to take my son to Disneyland and Paris is an obvious first park to do with him, plus if Dom’s doing it, well he’s even heavier than me and probably does even less exercise (I was wrong) , what’s more I was a runner once, I can get into shape, it’s only June and October is ages off.

So having woken up the next day with a hangover and some very expensive family tickets to Disneyland Paris, a race entry, a wife that would never forgive me if I didn’t get fit in time and about a week to convince a doctor I was fit enough to run (a doctors note stating you weren’t likely to die trying was a prerequisite for registration), it suddenly dawned on me what a stupid thing I’d done. Deciding to do a half marathon in less than 4 months whilst drunk, and unfit is a stupid idea. But the fear of the wrath of my wife and disappointing my son were big enough motivators

So after the disheartening realisation during my first couple of runs that I now couldn’t get around a mile loop without stopping, things slowly started to pick up. Very very slowly, but after a few weeks I found the two mile loop around my village was occasionally doable without stopping to walk, but 13 miles still seemed like an impossible task.

It was about this time that somebody mentioned parkruns to me, knowing I was nowhere near fit enough for any kind of race but missing the company of other runners I gave it a go (with the lovely people of Oakwell Hall) and even though for the first couple of weeks I had to walk parts of the course, I found something that had been sorely missing every other time I’d tried to get back into running … I was enjoying myself.

Soon I started judging my runs by how far I could get without resorting to walking and that soon passed 3 then 4 then 5 miles,  I might be plodding along at 12 min mile pace, but I wasn’t walking. I’d promised myself once I could do 10k in one go, I’d look for a race to enter. However when that day came, I couldn’t find a convenient 10k in the near future, so got brave and set my eyes on the 10 Miler in Lancaster.

Why Lancaster? Why that race? Well, it was where I was living last time I was actively running, I still have family there and the course in question was the location of my proudest moment as a runner (in roughly 1989) when I broke the hour for 10 miles. I knew the course, I knew it was fast and flatish and I knew it would be fun to say hello to some folks who hadn’t seen me in 20+ years.

I ended up doing much better than I thought and found out three amazing things

1. I’d got so used to running with headphones on with runkeeper telling me my splits that suddenly running in a big field without it, I found I went off far quicker than I intended. However it meant that when I worked out how fast I was at half way and that I still felt ok, I pushed on even harder!

2. Jellybeans are a thing (well, a running thing) and they actually work!

3. It gets quite lonely at the tail end and having a marshall ask “do you think there are any more after you” is quite disheartening, especially when you’re doing much better than you expected.

I ended in doing it without stopping (which was a big mental boost as it was 3 miles further than I’d done in training) in 1:45:10, which I was very happy with and I was 154 of 171, which I wasn’t so happy about. Official Results are here.

By now I’d stopped worrying if I’d get around a half marathon without dying and actually started training that includes shorter runs to work on my speed, rather than just my distance, I stopped wearing my headphones for everything bar my long Sunday runs and actually started to look forward to Disney. Also mainly thanks to eating sensibly and calorie counting for the fist time in my life,  I’d lost 2 stone!

I also started to think about hat I’d do after Paris. There was a real risk of me reverting back to being a fat lad on a couch again and whilst the Park Runs were fun (and almost every week was a new PB) they weren’t enough to keep me motivated to go out training alone on those dark winter nights.

As luck would have it, the night before a Park Run, I’d been looking for a local running club and whilst there wasn’t one particularly close to where I lived, Pudsey was probably the closest and not far away. So I was a bit surprised when the following morning PP did a take over the Oakwell Hall Park run. After a couple of minutes talking to some of the runners afterwards, I was sold!

Nothing to see here

Don’t expect to find much here. I’m normally too busy doing stuff to write it up afterwards.

Stuff that is currently taking up my time

  • Being a dad and husband.
  • Getting fit and slim again. I’m back running again and I’m on a serious diet for the first time ever.
  • Taking my lifelong hobbyist interest in Infosec and expanding it to be useful in my day job.
  • Running BRFCS (I’m currently working on a relaunch for the new season).
  • I still have a little free time for gaming and the cinema, but nowhere near as much as I used to.