Run Disney 2018 Disneyland Paris review

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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


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