Hey guys!

So yesterday I got home from my 3rd run weekend at Disneyland Paris, and there is so so much that I'm looking forward to sharing with you all about it! I'm going to try and split it up into smaller reads, so, to begin with, I'm just going to give my thoughts on the event as a whole and will cover the individual races etc separately later.

If you're not familiar with Run Disney, it is a series of running events held across the Disney parks where you can not only earn some amazing race bling, but you get a really unique opportunity to run through the different resorts and meet some rare characters along the way. This is Paris' 3rd race weekend, it is held in mid to later September each year.

This year's edition pretty much followed the format of last year's with the event running Thursday - Sunday and featuring a 5 km, 10 km and half marathon as well as a number of children's races too. For 2018 a new 36 Km challenge was added which gave an additional medal to anyone who completed all 3 races, this was alongside the 31 Km challenge which was added in 2017.

So I should probably start with the positives! Firstly I loved the additional challenge. Though I was surprised I would qualify for both the 31 and 36 Km medals by running the 36 Km it was nice to see the extra 5 Km being recognised. Sure it's not a long race, but with so many races so close together, each extra one you add really makes a difference!

The bib and T-shirt collection was also improved in 2018, as was the challenge medal collection and personally, I really appreciated both of these. In previous years once you arrived at the events expo with all your paperwork you were made to complete a series of pit stops to collect your different bib numbers and different T-shirts. I believe I ended up going to 6 different stands last year to collect everything but this year the 36km challenge meant there was only 1 bib number to collect. Once you had this you were directed to the next stand over to collect your T-shirts which were already packed in a gear bag organised by size. This was so much quicker and a much more pleasant experience, especially when it is busy and warm.

Then came the first indication of the changes to challenge medal collection, once I had my bib and my tops I was ushered straight over to have a photo with my bib as this was linked together so that once I finished the final race I could be verified against my bib before being given my challenge medals. After the fiasco of not having enough 5 Km medals in 2017, I was more than happy to give up a few extra mins of my time for a quick photo to make sure this wouldn't happen again!

Once you finished the half marathon the only medals at the finish line were the half medals and anyone who was completing a challenge had to go back to the expo where their bib and photo were verified to ensure it was the same person and all qualifying races had been completed. You were then put into a queue to receive your medal/s and your bib was then marked as you left to ensure you couldn't go round and claim a second set! I know some people were unhappy with having to go back around and not getting all the medals at the finish line, but personally, I didn't find the walk too long or difficult and thought the process once you got there was really smooth and easy.

The starting corrals were moved this year so rather than queuing along the road that runs down the side of the Newport Bay Club hotel towards Vapiano we were queued around the back of the expo tent behind Disney Village. I really liked the location of this as it wasn't as far to walk in the mornings and the corrals were a comfortable size and really close to the start line. There were some issues with the corrals, but I will address these later in this post.

There were a number of route changes for this year's addition. In particular, I liked that the 5 Km went through both parks, and I appreciated that some of the parts of last years 5 Km course where visibility was poor had been removed! There were still a few falls that I saw or was made aware of during the races, and I hope these instances are being looked into to see if any further changes need to be made to ensure runner safety.

There were also some changes to photo pass this year. Firstly maybe it's just me but it did feel like there were more photographers on the course to take photos of you running, not just with the characters, I can understand why but it is a bit of a shame that there aren't any on the stretch outside of the parks! In addition to this at the character meets each bib was scanned before the photo was taken. I assume this was done to speed up matching the thousands of photos to their rightful owners and I'm happy to report it seems to have worked as we've had most of our photos through already. A nice change from the 2+ week wait we had last year!

Now for the negatives. I really hope everything I'm highlighting here can be worked on and improved for 2019. This race weekend has so much potential and some of these changes are so simple!

First and foremost, corral assignments! This was something that really ground my gears this trip. Corral placement is as much about safety as about being able to start sooner, but this year from what I can understand from the multiple staff members I spoke to at runners relations, the only corrals that were assigned based on time were for runners who provided proof of time of 1 hour 30 or less for the half marathon, these runners were assigned to corral A. Outside of this there seems to be no logic for how the rest were decided. During the registration process runners taking part in the half marathon were asked to provide an estimated finish time, however, this was totally disregarded and corrals were assigned randomly, with the intention of keeping runners on the same booking in the same corral, though even this didn't always happen. Runners taking part in the 5 or 10 km races were not even asked for an estimated finish time or pace. Frankly, this was negligent and dangerous, knowingly putting slower runners in front of faster ones makes the course congested and encourages faster runners to act dangerously in order to overtake slower runners or walkers on the course.

For future race weekends in Paris, I would like to see them adopt the same system as the US Run Disney races, where proof of time is required for all participants, not just those considered "elite". If you do not provide proof you should be assigned the last corral. This would ensure the majority of runners are correctly seeded and would help to avoid congestion on the course where faster runners cannot pass slower ones. This would also encourage proper training as the proof of time needs to be from a chip timed race of an equivalent or comparable distance. For a race that takes safety so seriously with age requirements and medical certificate requirements, it seems a little unbelievable to me that this was overlooked.

The next thing that wound me up was the number of people who totally disregarded the race weekend rules and the staff who allowed this to happen. I saw a number of runners with backpacks on the course, I saw runners who clearly did not meet the age criteria of some of the races, including one who was being carried on an adults shoulders during the 10 Km and to my utter disbelief in the 5Km race we saw a parent with a child in a pushchair/stroller in corral B! The rules are there for a reason and ensure the safety of all runners. I understand these are considered family events, but not only is it extremely dangerous, it also feels very unfair on the people who did follow the rules and as such may not have participated, or may have limited what events they could take part in due to childcare requirements.

Character queues seemed a lot larger this year, and I'm not entirely sure what caused this. On the 5 Km I found that many of the characters weren't that rare, yet the queues for them were still very long and didn't appear to move as quickly as previous years. I understand that the new photo pass process may have added slightly to this, but feel that it would be beneficial to review the process to see if changes could be made to speed up the photo process. I know many people in later corrals who had to make the choice between waiting for a character and potentially getting swept or miss the photo ops entirely!

On the theme of characters, I was also incredibly disappointed that none of the VIPs (Mickey and friends) were out during the weekend in their Run Disney tracksuits. Well, that's not entirely true - Mickey and Goofy did make one appearance over the weekend in Disneyland Park on Saturday, however, despite being in full view of paying guests this meet was restricted to only VIP invited guests and this was a bit of a kick in the face! Previously the characters have been out at the end of the races for quick selfies but they weren't at any of the races this year. To then see them so publicly but still be unable to get a photo was so disappointing. To me, there are two options for how they could be used in 2019, either they could attend the pasta party and have photos at the table like in the character restaurants, or after the races where the finisher boards are in fantasia gardens there could be one character at each so you could pick who to have your finisher photo with.

Finally, the expo was a huge letdown. Honestly, it has never been great but this year felt even more empty! I have never been to the Run Disney races in the US but I have seen photos of their expo and I find it so sad to see ours in comparison. This should be a runners shopping dream, with stalls selling all sorts of equipment, clothing and supplements such as gels etc. This would not only be a huge source of income for the event, but it would also make me want to visit the expo and spend more time there rather than the current get in, get out scenario I find myself in each year. The range of merchandise being sold by Disney is also poor at these events. I tend to buy the race pins each year, and also the half marathon "I did it" T-shirt, but there really is very little else that makes me want to part with my cash. In the US you can pick up magnets, glasses, tumblers a huge range of clothing and other collectables. I really think the merchandise would sell if only a little more was available.

Overall I had a great time this year, I will be covering each race in more detail soon but for now I just wanted to give an overview of my thoughts, I really hope the things I have highlighted here will be taken into consideration, and hopefully some changes for 2019 will come about as a result.

Hoodsie xx

Hey guys!

First of all, I want to thank my good friend Krystal for being the inspiration behind this post, I hope you find it useful!

Packing for any holiday can be stressful, I like to think after so many Disney trips I'm pretty confident with what to pack for a few days in the parks, but Run Disney isn't like a normal Disney trip and the last 2 years have shown me there are a few things you'll want to have with you. So here is my guide for packing for a Run Disney trip, these are things I've worked out I need or have been useful to me over my last 2 race weekends.

Now I'm not going to teach you to suck eggs here, standard things like clothing, toiletries, medication and travel documents are pretty obvious I would have thought, so please don't forget any of these!

The first thing is your trainers, like the tires on a car these guys are pretty darn important. Personally, I recommend getting properly fitted for running shoes, part of the reason I'm posting this now is so that if you haven't already thought about these things, there is still a little time to do so. Any good running store should be able to offer a shoe fitting service for you, and I could not recommend it enough. Typically this will involve you walking/jogging/running on a treadmill in the store while the staff film your feet, it's not quite as weird as it sounds as after a few mins they will get you to stop and watch back the footage with them. When they do this they slow down the footage so they can show you exactly how your feet are moving and how you strike the floor when you run, from here they can advise you on the best type of shoe to improve your running and help you avoid injury! My local running store charges £10 for this service, but they knock this off the cost of any trainers you buy at the same time, even if I decided not to get shoes there and then it's a price I'd be more than happy to pay in exchange for the tailored knowledge and advice.

Anyway, once you have your shoes and you've worn them in over a few weeks the last thing you want to be doing is having the stress and hassle of having to buy a new pair if yours are forgotten, races in brand new shoes are beyond painful and that's without a park day on top! I would always advise either wearing your running shoes while you travel, or having them in hand luggage, that way if anything should happen to the rest of your luggage you still have them!

Next is your race outfits, whether you decide to run in costume or not I like to be prepared and know roughly what I'm wearing for each race day before that morning, my biggest tip here is to road test anything you plan on wearing if it's not part of your usual training attire. Of course, it seems like a great idea to run around the park with giant fairy wings, a tiara or a full Ursula costume complete with tentacles, and yes it is a great idea to get as involved in all the fun as possible, with an exception. Running is hard, running a half marathon is harder, and running a half marathon on a busy race course and possibly after having completed other races the previous days is even harder! Running in anything you're not prepared for just adds a whole new difficulty layer to the situation, and frankly, no one really wants that! Yes, you might look a little odd running around your neighbourhood complete with full Tinkerbell costume, but I promise you, when it comes to race day and you know what to expect, the funny looks from Shelia and her dog from next door will have been so worth it!

Let's talk about supplements next, I actually don't personally run with any extra supplements, I've never used sports gels, I don't really on any particular brand of hydration and truth be told I don't even currently carry water with me when I run! But I can appreciate I'm very much in the minority here and as I've said on every point I've made already, the best race day advice is not to change anything. That said if you're travelling a long distance for this race, or for many people, abroad to race, the chances are you may not be able to source the same supplements you rely on at home. From experience, once you're on the course Disney provide water, Powerade, cereal bars and apple slices along the route at various points. Personally, this is more than enough for me, but I certainly heard a lot of other runners commenting that this wasn't what they had expected or what they were used to. Have a think about what you need to get by and make sure you're able to carry them on whatever transport you're taking. With flights, you'll need to consider liquid allowances if you only have hand luggage, whereas with self-drive and Eurostar you're free to take a lot more.

The next thing is probably useful on all trips not just trips for a run weekend, but runners can often end up with a lot of tech, chances are you're running with your phone or another device for music, you may well also be using some kind of wearable tracking device to show you things like your pace, time and heart rate, so it's time to consider charging! Now on site, Disney hotels are getting better at providing not only a good number of charging ports but also a mix of UK and EU sockets within their rooms, off property, however, can be more of a mixed bag. I have 2 options for possible solutions for you, the first and most simple is to carry your own extension lead with a plug adaptor on the end. This is what I have previously done, I have a 4 way extension lead on a short cable and this is perfect as it means I can charge up to 4 different devices at any one time and only require 1 socket in the room and 1 plug adaptor, for the most part, this works great but in some hotels I have found the power goes off during the night when using a UK plug with a converter, in particular, I had this issue in the Sequoia Lodge. A workaround for this is a new plug I have recently purchased from Amazon, I picked up this Anker 4 port USB plug with interchangeable adapters for UK and EU, this means I don't need any additional converter and can plug it straight into a UK or EU socket from the box and charge up to 4 devices, this also appears to circumvent the issue of the power failing overnight.

An important thing  I wanted to cover was race recovery, part of the challenge of the Run Disney weekends is that you're often running a number of races in quick succession, add on top time spend in the parks and your feet and legs are pretty much guaranteed to take a pounding, you're going to need to be able to recover quickly. Now the health and fitness expo put on by Disney themselves does have some options when it comes to recovery, last year I was able to get a short sports massage free of charge, and it really made a huge difference, but other than that I don't remember there being a huge amount else on offer. Simply put, the best way is to rely on your own provisions, and anything extra is a bonus! A lot of what you can take will be down to how you're travelling and what your luggage limits are, keeping it light the first thing I swear by is KT tape. If you've never used this before its a sports tape that aids muscle recovery by creating extra room for sore or injured tissues to help them recover, I find it really useful and on a race weekend especially when recovery time is so limited it's a must-pack! I use a brand called Rock Tape, pictured below, but this is just a personal preference and there are quite a few brands out there you can try until you find one that suits.

The next thing is bath salts, now this one is new to me and it'll be the first time I've personally packed or used them, again this is all about giving sore muscles the best chance to recover between races. In my experience, all on-site Disney hotels provide a bath with an overhead shower so taking some bath salts means you can sit and soak in the evenings. I'm told by fellow runners that this works wonders on tired legs, so I'm giving it a try for myself this year! Depending on how much room you have and how you're travelling you may want to also think about things like a foam roller or resistance bands to help you stretch off after the races.

Medication is handled a little bit differently in France than what I am personally used to in the UK and you will soon find that even the most basic Painkillers aren't sold in the hotels or resorts, because of this I tend to create my own mini "first aid" style kit complete with painkillers and plasters to save me having to take a trip to an off-site pharmacy, it may also be worth stocking up on basic cold and flu treatments etc if you are travelling a long way.

One last thing is post-race snacks, depending where you're travelling from, snack options in Disneyland may not be what you're used to, so if you have a must-have treat it might be a good idea to bring it with you, last year I took extra sports drinks to have after each race, but you can also consider things like porridge pots and snack bars.

Hopefully this has given you a good insight into what you may wish to bring with you to have a happy and hopefully stress free race weekend! If there's something you swear by that I haven't covered, drop me a comment and we'll get it added to the list!

Hoodsie xx