How Disneyland Paris Changed My Opinion Of Half Marathons

Blogger Becky Stafferton stood in front of Disneyland Paris purple run weekend back drop holding a blue selfie frame. She is wearing sparkly Minnie mouse ears and a red Disney half marathon run t-shirt and jeans. Her hair is in two plaits.

Me and half marathons have got beef.

I’m sure most of you already know about my big girl’s hissy fit at last year’s New Forest half marathon so I probs don’t need to go into details about it all over again, but if you haven’t then it might be wise to have a quick read of my post ‘Would I Run A Half Marathon Again?‘ before carrying on. Needless to say it wasn’t my finest running moment and I vowed at the end of it to never, EVER run another half marathon again.

However, as the saying goes when you fall off that horse the only thing to do is get right back on it…

And what better half marathon to try out than the Disneyland Paris one right? I mean come on… if I don’t like an all singing, all dancing, Disneyed up to the eyeballs half marathon then clearly half marathons just ain’t for me!

The race makes up part of the infamous run weekend at Disneyland Paris and basically involves running around the two parks and meeting characters along the way. And whilst I like Disney and all that, I wouldn’t say I’m one of those people that go absolutely mad for it, but I do love a costume and I do love a gimmick. Fortunately, because I’d already been to Disneyland Paris on holiday with the family maybe three or four years ago, I knew that this would help soften the blow when I announced,

“Oh by the way kids, mum’s going to Disneyland Paris…            without you!”

I promised them something from the gift shop and all was fine. But I may have initially forgotten to mention about the fact that aside from the run, I was also getting two days to galavant and have fun in the parks with my mate, but what they don’t know doesn’t hurt them 😉

So other than it being probably the funnest half marathon I could think of, why else choose Disneyland Paris to get over my issue?

Well, I’ve been taking part in my own little personal project this year to celebrate turning 40 at the end of next month. I didn’t want all the usual hoo ha like a party, because if I’m honest I can’t be doing with the stress of working out who to invite – there’s always that worry you’ll offend someone if you don’t invite so and so, but you’ve invited that person which means really you probably should invite that person too and then you spend the whole damn thing having to talk to people you don’t even particularly like. And don’t even try to pull a surprise on me… I hate surprises. So being the complete and utter control freak that I am, I took matters into my own hands and announced at the start of the year that instead I would be doing #40daysofholiday. This means I’ve had some AMAZING holidays this year (will be writing a round up of these nearer my birthday) and the Disneyland trip helped ‘use up’ 4 of those days. Plus my very good friend Clare also turned 40 this year and I wanted us to do something fun together that we would remember forever. This seemed like the perfect idea!

Did The Disneyland Paris Half Marathon Work It’s Magic?

Let’s not beat around the bush any longer, I bloody loved it! It was literally the best and most enjoyable run I’ve ever done. And I’m not talking best in terms of the time I did it in, because actually it wasn’t the quickest I’ve ever run, and yes it did feature a rather hideous situation with my friend falling and breaking her shoulder halfway round (I won’t go into any more detail than that, as that is entirely her story to tell), but for the first time in the two and a bit years that I’ve been running I felt in control, rather than the race being in control of me. And believe you me that’s a pretty massive hurdle to conquer.

From the very start it felt different to my last half marathon. Unusually for me I didn’t feel anxious about it in the days leading up to it – maybe a couple of days spent bricking it on rollercoasters helped take my mind off it a bit. But usually I get twitchy about the whole event thing, the big fuss that is made, the large crowds, just the general largeness of everything. But this was definitely different.

I knew I could run the distance. I knew it didn’t matter if I reached a point and felt I needed to walk part of it. I knew that this was about me having fun with my mate, enjoying the experience for what it was.

No expectations.

No pressure.

No biggie.

And that for me was the change that needed to happen. It was entirely a mental thing. And as soon as I got those things firmly cemented in my head, the very second I took away that pressure, everything slotted into place.

That was what I’d been doing wrong.

As a result, I had a smile on my chops the whole way round that 13.1 mile course. From crossing over the start line and heading into the Walt Disney Studios park, running in and out of all of the rides and attractions, seeing the characters lining up for photos, admiring my fellow runner’s costume efforts, and the absolute pièce de résistance… running right through the middle of Sleeping Beauty’s castle!! If ever there was a time when I felt as if I’d made it as a runner, in fact scrap that, a time when I felt as if I’d officially made it in life, it’s that moment when I emerged from the castle and the whole beautiful, magical world of Disney appeared before me.

It was breathtaking.

So this is what it felt like to enjoy running.

There were moments that were tough, I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t. The long stretch outside of the parks where there was nothing but endless stretches of open road and relentless blasts of wind made it feel as if the race would never end. And after my friend had to retire from the race at the halfway mark and I was left running on my own, I’m not gonna lie it was mentally very challenging, especially as I was now surrounded by runners who I had previously overtaken. My hamstrings felt weak and the temptation to walk was strong, but I persevered. Whether through my own determination, or driven by thoughts of “I’m doing this for Clare”, I just kept running. And you know what… even when I thought I had nothing left in me, even when everyone else around me was walking, even when that voice in my head was screaming “what the hell are you doing!!!” I just kept running.

This time I felt so much more educated about pacing and I recognized when I should slow down, when I needed more energy and when to overtake people or to hang back. I just generally felt way more in tune with my body and paying attention to what it was telling me. And I thought that the fact each km was marked by a massive sign would be a problem, that I’d be constantly counting down the distance and driving myself potty with it, but it wasn’t. Whereas last year I’d got to about the 16km mark and thought “oh god there’s still another 5k to go” this time I was all, “oh only 5km to go, that’s a piece of piss.” Plus, and this is a huge plus, not a swear word or even the merest hint of a moan passed my lips during the Disney run, I mean that’s a bloody miracle in itself!

Look, I’m still not 100% sure a half marathon is my all time favourite distance in the world, but this race has certainly changed my mind and I’m not completely ruling out doing more in the future. However that being said, I reckon the dressing up bit helped immensely, ‘cos well I’m just that kind of person. So maybe novelty runs are the way forward for me, but for now I’m happy to go back to running 10k distances. Well, after the Great South Run next weekend that is…. anyone got a Flapjack costume I could borrow 😉


Fancy running Disneyland Paris half marathon yourself?

I’ve put together my top tips and all those essential things you need to know before signing up to the Disneyland Paris half marathon run weekend. From how to book, the registration process, what to expect on race morning, right through to what the toilets are like…. because that is soooooo important!

You can find out more by clicking here – Everything You Need To Know Before Running The Disneyland Paris Half Marathon

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