The next morning was the Inaugural Disneyland Paris 5K (this is part 8 of our full France report; if it were the eighth installment of a 5K report, that would be pretty comprehensive coverage, to say the least). The race started at 7 am, so we left the hotel at around 6 am, thinking that it’d be a quick 20 minute walk to the start line, perhaps with a 15-20 minute delay to get through security or what have you.
Our thinking here was erroneous, as we assumed we’d be able to walk directly from our Val d’Europe hotel to the start line, which was a pretty short walk (probably roughly equidistant Hotel New York and the start line). Unfortunately, this was not possible due to a single security access point being used for the event. We should’ve known or expected this, but it resulted in us entering through Newport Bay Club and walking around the lake.
Fortunately, security and getting through the Expo to the start line was an absolute breeze, with a surplus of helpful Cast Members and bi-lingual volunteers along the way to help. By the time that near 5K was over and I was in my corral, it was still about 15 minutes until race time, so I stood around and watched the pre-race entertainment.
I was a bit nervous about there only being 3 corrals for the 5K, but fortunately, there were sub-corrals within these, and small groups were released every few minutes. This worked out really well, and despite some tight spaces throughout the course, it never felt all that congested to me. (Although someone in the C corral might disagree.)
The race started adjacent to Disney Village before quickly heading into the Fantasia Gardens outside of Disneyland Hotel.
From there, it was immediately into Disneyland Paris for the first (and best) wow moment of the weekend: stepping onto Main Street during blue hour as the searchlights from Disney Dreams illuminated Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant.
Everyone had the same reaction, pausing almost mid-stride and pulling out phones. You could also sense everyone with the same internal struggle: do I stop in the middle of Main Street to take a photo of this?!
The general sentiment by the time people got halfway up Main Street seemed to be: screw it, I’m just going to stop here.
I don’t think anyone really minded the slower pace up Main Street, and around me at least, people were stopping in waves, almost relieved that the people in front of them had stopped because it gave them justification to do the same.
Rather than entering Sleeping Beauty Castle on the approach, the course veered right towards Discoveryland. A stage set up for Halloween was the first of many character meeting locations, this one home to a variety of villains.
Since I’m irrationally obsessed with ‘making good time’ even though I don’t train for these things or even enjoy competitive running, I didn’t stop for this (or any other) character meet.
Around this point, I spotted the first mile marker, and I recall thinking, “I’m making great time!” It took a few seconds for it to click that I was in Europe and that “mile” marker is actually a “km” marker. In my defense, it was still early and I’m not very smart.
The course continued through Discoveryland, then headed backstage where a TRON corridor was set up and there were some backstage facilities, before entering Fantasyland.
This area was pretty character-dense, and I’m sort of kicking myself in retrospect, because there were almost no lines for anyone.
Continuing on through Adventureland and Frontierland, one thing was noticeable: a ton of Cast Members were out, in costume, to cheer on the runners. So many that this had to have been a coordinated effort.
Running through the castle is the magic moment of a lot of runDisney events, and it was certainly special, but didn’t trump the feeling of stepping onto Main Street for me.
The best photo I captured of that ‘moment’ was with my phone (above). It’s ironic that this has become one of my most popular photos ever on Instagram. Goes to show that a fancy camera isn’t really important when you mostly share low resolution photos…
The race headed backstage before entering the Walt Disney Studios Park. I have to say: if there’s a “good” way to experience that park, “on the run” is most definitely it. I highly recommend it whether you’re participating in a runDisney-sanctioned event or otherwise. 😉
It was somewhere around this point that my Canon G7 XII died, so I had to resort to using my iPhone to capture photos of the rest of the run. A few fleeting photos don’t really do it justice, but a lot of effort was put into this course. Both in terms of entertainment and photo backdrops, it was all really well done.
The course was fantastic. Any course you’ve never run has a certain new-ness factor that makes it more appealing than something you’ve run countless times, but even factoring that in, this course ranks as one of best or the best 5K I’ve run. It really benefitted from Disneyland Paris’ compact resort footprint.
I really have no complaints about the Disneyland Paris 5K. The only one I can think of is that there wasn’t a “challenge” medal for doing both races, but I knew that in advance. In hindsight, I partly wish I had only done the Half Marathon, as I think it would’ve packed more of an emotional punch had that been my first experience running through Disneyland Paris and seeing the castle. Hindsight is 20/20, though. Had I not done it, I might be writing a section here expressing regret at not getting the 5K medal, seeing a certain character, or just experiencing race weekend to its fullest.
On Page 2, we’ll cover the rest of the day in Disneyland Paris…