7 Day Journaling Challenge – Day 3

I have decided to take part in a 7 day journaling challenge as a way of writing in a different format to normal. My aim is to write for about 10 minutes in response to the prompt, tidy up any typos then post my entry here. Feel free to join in…

As my eyelids bat open I can already feel that things are going to be perfect. It’s early, yet I wake naturally having rested well in this comfortable bed with its soft pillows and beautiful duvet. Flinging open the shutters, I’m greeted with a perfect view of the Eiffel Tower at the end of the boulevard – just like in the movies!

I pull on my favourite running shorts and a top, lace up my trainers and head out for an early morning run along the banks of the River Seine. The city is beginning to stir and the only people around are the municipal workers who hose the streets down every morning so everything is clean and fresh for the day ahead. I greet other runners with “bonjour” until I begin to feel like provincial Belle from Beauty and the Beast!

Post-run, a lovely hot shower with one of those rainfall heads, then I dress, gather the things I need and head for the station, picking up fresh, warm pain au chocolat and that lovely strong French coffee along the way. 

After mere minutes in a TGV carriage I arrive at Marne-la-Vallée, home of Disneyland Paris. The sun is out, there’s not a cloud in the sky and yet it’s still quiet. Plenty of people to give atmosphere, but not so crowded that I have to sharpen my elbows.

Passing effortlessly through the entrance turnstiles, I walk forward to be greeted by my favourite view – a princess castle, an array of characters to meet, balloon sellers and groups of happy, smiling people. There is music playing and the smells of food drifting from vendors along Main Street.

My first port of call is to buy a pair of Minnie Mouse ears – it’s my rule to buy a new pair for each visit and my collection is growing. After that, it’s time to explore, chatting easily with cast members as my French is flawless today – every verb conjugated to perfection and every tense correct.

Thanks to the lack of crowds, I can walk onto my favourite rides with next to no wait and I easily get fastpasses to take me straight on to those big ticket rides. Every ride photo shows my face full of joy as the adrenaline is pumped around my body and I’m so happy I could actually cry.

I snack on pastries and enjoy a Mickey Mouse-shaped ice cream. Dinner is a character dining experience where all my favourite characters come to my table and pose for photographs. The food is delicious and is accompanied by a nice glass of wine – it is France after all!

Souvenirs purchased, rides completed and appetite satisfied, I find the perfect spot close to the castle to watch the fireworks. From where I’m standing, nobody can get in front of me to spoil my view by hoisting their child onto their shoulders (it was the same earlier in the day when I found the ideal spot to watch the parade) and I gasp as the fireworks fill the sky, choreographed to music which blends both French and English lyrics, and accompanied by the most wonderful projections onto the castle. It’s like a movie screen and every inch is perfect.

When the last fizz, crack and pop of the fireworks has faded away, it’s time to turn my back on the castle and make my way towards the exit. But I don’t have too far to go as this night will be spent in a sumptuous room in the Disneyland Hotel, right by the entrance to the main park. The room will be decorated in exquisite taste, but with a Disney twist and as I settle into my comfortable bed, feet weary in a way that only a satisfying day in a theme park can create, I smile to myself, remembering the wonderful memories I have created and looking forward to the wake-up call I will receive from The Big Cheese the following morning before another magical day in the happiest place on earth.

What would your perfect day be?

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Friday Finds – 25th January

Friday Finds is a regular feature in which I collate and share interesting articles and posts on running/health/fitness which I’ve read recently. Some might be inspiring, some might be scientific, some might provoke debate. All are things I’ve found in some way thought-provoking.

Wow! I feel like I was only just complaining about it being January already and here we are at the last Friday of the month! Where does the time go? There have been quite a few interesting things popping up in my news feeds this week, so here are some bits and pieces to get your weekend off to a start…

Last week I began with Jasmin Paris and her historic victory at the Montane Spine Race and I couldn’t resist starting with a little more on this story. In this piece from The Guardian‘s Adharanand Finn, Paris tells us more about how she prepared for the race and what the experience was like for her. I’m just so thrilled to have a woman accomplish this feat and set the course record. Even more so because her daughter is just 14 months old and Paris was still breastfeeding.

And now, the marathon. This week I came across a report packed with geek-tastic marathon stats and I LOVE it. I find it so fascinating to consider how I as an individual compare to the “average” times and to see how women’s participation varies in different parts of the world. For example, I’ve long been aware that there is near equal participation between genders in the USA, so was a little disappointed to see that we are not quite as close to that here in the UK where we are only a little beyond the average at 1/3 women. Still, at least there has been an improving picture. If you enjoy marathons and you enjoy stats, this is the article for you!

Sticking with the marathon, here’s an interesting piece from Runner’s World about Andrew Jones PHD, the coach who worked with Paula Radcliffe and was involved in the Breaking2 project. What is so interesting about him is that despite being a good runner in his day, he became an expert on marathon performance without ever actually running a marathon. Until now. This piece focuses on what happened when Jones ran his first 26.2 and what the experience taught him.

I was, however, sad to learn that there appear to have been a number of course-cutters at the Walt Disney World marathon earlier this month. I’ve said before that I just don’t understand cheaters – how could you accept a time/medal/race qualification knowing that you hadn’t legitimately completed the course. And cheating at Disney? Well that just makes it a million times worse. I’m pretty sure that every time someone cuts the course, a fairy dies 😦

And finally, we may have thought the UK weather had been pretty chilly in recent days, but it was nothing compared to conditions in Oymyakon, Siberia. In a recent event the “unbearable” conditions led to a distinct lack of finishers. I think I’ll give this one a miss!

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

My Year Of Running 2018 (Link Up)

For the last couple of years I’ve linked up with Courtney @ Eat Pray Run DC to recap my year in running (2016 and 2017). To be honest, it’s one of my favourite posts as I get to think back over all my awesome adventures from the year just gone by. Here’s how 2018 looked…

Best race experience
Hands down the Disneyland Paris half marathon. I know I’ve gone on about it A LOT, but it was probably the best race experience of my life. No pressure to run a certain time, it was all about celebrating my Big Birthday by combining all my favourite things – running, Disney and Paris.

Best run
For this one I’m going to choose the Stirling marathon. My training was really consistent and I came super close (as in, less than a minute) to the PB I set back in 2014. This is probably the best I’ve paced a full marathon and it really gave me a lot of confidence in what I could do.

Best new piece of running gear
I’ve bought several pairs of amazing, funky leggings this year and you would be forgiven for thinking I would choose one of those…but I’m not! The best thing I bought all year was this reflective “vest” which means I’m visible on my runs through the winter darkness but can wear whatever top I want, rather than being tied to the same old “high viz” one all the time.

Best running advice you’ve received this year
To switch from running after work to running before work. I’ve always been an evening runner, but was feeling increasingly pressed for time so began to consider early morning runs instead. With Steve’s encouragement, I took the plunge and have to say it’s been one of the best things I’ve done for my running as it fits so much more easily into my day. I’d be lying if I said I enjoyed getting up early, but so far it’s been worth it for the extra time it creates in the evening.

Most inspirational runner
This year I’m going to choose my friend Tina Muir, founder of Running for Real. The Superstars community she has created on Facebook is so inspiring and uplifting. I’ve made new friends there and love some of the random discussions we have. Tina herself has been a fantastic role model in her decision to stop running in order to overcome amenhorrea and become pregnant. She will shortly be taking part in the WDW half marathon as her comeback race and I’m so excited for her to have this experience (and, admittedly, a little jealous as I’d love to be there too!). In case you missed it, Tina interviewed me earlier this year.

Favourite picture from a run or race this year
Duh! Obviously a Disney one! The hardest part was narrowing it down…

Race experience you would repeat in a heartbeat
Can you guess? Why DLP, of course! I would repeat that experience any time. Good thing it wasn’t a one-off event!

If you could sum up your year in a couple of words what would they be?
Freakin’ awesome! 2018 was the self-styled Year of Me!!!. I set myself some fun goals, and celebrated a milestone birthday with an amazing racecation. There was also a marathon, lots of parkrunning (including in Florida) and the chance to connect with lots of amazing people both online and IRL. Here’s to an equally awesome 2019…!

Want to join in? I’d love to read about your year in running.

The Daily Post – Favourite Place

For this month, I’ve chosen the prompt Favourite Place. I did give this some thought as I wasn’t sure if I wanted to make a simple choice and pick my favourite chair, or if I wanted to choose foreign climes (with Paris definitely under consideration). In the end, I decided on Florida. I nearly picked my comfy sun lounger by the pool, but I think this busy time of year has me craving a little Disney magic!

So here it is. My favourite place…

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Where is your favourite place?

The Daily Post – Costume

I think it’s safe to say you can tell where my head (still) is by my choice of prompt this month! Having recently taken part in a RunDisney event and embraced the opportunity to create a costume, I thought I would consider the evolution of my willingness to don slightly crazy garb for a run…

Running In fancy dress/costume has never particularly been my thing, despite what some of my running experiences might suggest. For a long time the only deviation I ever had from standard running gear (in colours that made me blend into the background) was an annual Santa Run (at which dressing as Santa was key to blending into the background!). But as my attitude to running has changed, perhaps as a result of greater experience (or age, but I prefer “experience” haha!) I’ve been more open to a themed run and, when the occasion called for it, creating some kind of appropriate costume to run in.

At first, I simply got involved in themed runs each year on our parkrun’s birthday. I found some bright colours for the beach party theme (a bit tricky in November!).

I followed that with one of my favourites, creating this little combo for the Superheroes theme.

And made sure to wear my festive finery around Christmas time.

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IMG_9194More recently, I thought it might be fun to give a nod to the Royal Wedding with my choice of hairband. Everyone has a tiara hairband, right?

IMG_6630So when I announced that I would be running the Disneyland Paris half marathon, I was asked a number of times if I would be running in costume. Of course I would! As far as I was concerned, that was the whole point, I mean when else can you run around dressed as a Disney character and not receive at least a few odd looks?

One of my main considerations was to make sure whatever I chose wouldn’t annoy me – 13.1 miles is a long way to be irritated by what you’re wearing and it wasn’t like I was going to “test drive” it on a training run! Santa suits aside, all my other costumes had mainly been created out of actual running kit, with the odd additional accessory (e.g. the cape I borrowed from my sister to be a superhero) added on – but those were for short events where I knew I could put up with any slight irritations.

And so, I did a little bit of looking around online. I knew I wanted to be Belle (gold ball gown version, obvs) and checked out some photos of costumes others had put together as well as researching possible places to get the bits and pieces I would need. In the end, EVERYTHING I wore that day was running kit except for my sparkly skirt, but I bought that from a website specifically geared towards running costumes and since it wasn’t “puffy” I knew it would be ok as I often race in a running skirt. The only thing that disappointed me a little was that I couldn’t get any yellow shoes, or at least not in a shoe I would be happy to wear for that distance.

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Tank/capris from Under Armour; socks by Stance; Adidas Supernova shoes; dual pocket Spibelt (so I could carry my phone, Go Pro and a couple of gels); skirt by Sparkle Athletic and hairband from Sparkly Soul. I sourced Steve’s “Beast” top at UK Tech Tees.

I have to say, I LOVED wearing that costume and would happily have wondered around all day in it if it hadn’t been for the fact that a) it had been raining so I was a bit damp and b) I had a flight to catch! But having enjoyed the event so much I know we will be back again and I’ve already given some thought to possible costume options. There are so many to choose from that I might be a little spoiled for choice!

In the meantime, it’s not that long until the festive season…

Have you ever run in a costume?
What would you wear for a RunDisney event?

Race Report – The Disneyland Paris Half Marathon 2018

This is going to be a long one and full of photos, so put the kettle on, get comfy and prepare for a bit of pixie dust!
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Imagine having a wish: a wish you knew would fill you with magic and joy; a wish so strong you felt envy whenever someone else had that wish come true; a wish you wished for so hard, for years and years. Then one day, that wish was granted

"All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them."It may sound like the plot of a Disney movie, yet it’s how I felt about taking part in a Run Disney event. For years I had yearned to create a costume, run through Disney parks and meet a host of characters. I coveted one of those HUUUUUGE Disney medals and was determined that one day I would achieve my dream. A couple of weeks ago “one day” became “today”.

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My awesome wrist wrap created by Nicky Lopez @ Run Bling

Our day began super early with a 4:30am alarm call so that we could have breakfast at our hotel at 5am (one of the benefits of staying in a Disney hotel was the early breakfast and late check out provided for runners). I would usually associate such an early start with a marathon and spend breakfast time forcing down food (and hoping not to see it come back up again!), but not this time. This time I was excited and, despite legs that had that telltale weariness of a day spent in a theme park (no regrets – it was an amazing day!) I was desperate to put on the rest of my costume and head over to the expo to wait until it was time to get into the start corral.

We actually got to the expo in great time, giving us time to take a few photos, chat to some other runners, admire the costumes and, crucially, join the massive queue for the toilets before we had to head around to our corral.

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As close as I could persuade Steve to a costume. It’s amazing what you can find online!

We were in corral C and we knew we were supposed to be in our corrals about 30 minutes before the estimated start time for our group (corral A began at 7am and we got in our corral just before that so we could experience the beginning of the race. It was about half an hour later before we were to get started, but the time seemed to pass really quickly. The weather was mild, even so early in the morning, with a little drizzle in the air so it was going to be a humid morning.

Since the event had a “villains” theme, the start of the event was handed over from the Disney hosts to Cruella de Vil and her henchmen. It was great watching things get started and moving closer and closer to the start gantry.

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g7EijkMFQk2MlLUJioRZTgAt long last, it was our turn. We were counted down (I started my watch a little before the start line as I wanted my hands free to shoot some film) and I ran across the start line grinning from ear to ear.

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The first part of the route took us under an archway announcing we were entering Disneyland then on into the Walt Disney Studios where we had spent the previous morning. We looped around different areas of the park, passing through “Studio One”, an enclosed area of shops and restaurants where all the cast members were out in force to cheer us on. It reminded me in many ways of the famed “disco tunnel” in the Paris marathon.QH9AnyyQRhWSqTzFLTUA5g

785007481Emerging from the studio, I glanced to my right and spotted the first of the character stops. I had actually wondered about skipping the first couple in order to get ahead for some later stops, but when I saw who it was I realised I was definitely going to stop here after all. I was dressed as Belle and the first character was…Gaston!

AZP7alUrQDSoEx9eIvW99wFrom here, the route took us towards the main Disneyland park, and I did skip a couple of character stops as the lines were really long and they weren’t ones I was massively bothered about. For me, it was all about running around the different “lands” of the park and through the castle.

As we hit Main Street I realised that this section was an out and back – first running away from the castle, looping around the town square then running the full length of the street towards Sleeping Beauty’s castle. This was my iconic moment and I made sure to film, take photos and stop for an official photo to mark the moment.

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780503394We actually ran around to one side of the castle, via Adventureland, and into Fantasyland (pausing only for a photo with Jafar).

788343590It was at this point that I found myself hit with a wave of emotion: I was actually running in Disney, I was running my dream race. The cast members were out in force and they were shouting “allez” in that rising way spectators do in the Paris marathon as well. Perhaps it was a combination of all of these things that made me feel so happy I could burst – I very nearly cried with happiness and this remains a really vivid memory of the race for me as I looped around and through the iconic castle with an accompaniment of Disney music.

Once through the castle, I really was in photo mode. It felt like I was stopping for photos, shuffling a few steps as I put my phone/Go Pro away then immediately stopping again for the next one. During this time I chatted with others and was struck by how well organised these photo stops were, especially for someone running solo (I had told Steve he could run on at his pace. I mean, I was running in Disney, what else did I need!). Our package included a Photopass for the race and our bibs had a barcode on them which was scanned by a cast member before the photographer took our photos. There was also always another cast member on hand who took photos using our own phones so we would have photos right away. I was actually sharing some of these while I was waiting to see various characters so some of my friends on social media could experience the event along with me. I was having such a lovely time that I clocked a 37 minute mile. Nope, not a typo, it really did take me 37 minutes to cover a mile. My goal marathon pace is usually around 9 minutes per mile and I can walk a mile in around 16 minutes, so clearly I wasn’t in much of a hurry at this point!

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788344247Eventually, I made my way out of the park and embarked on the next section of the route which took me out into the French countryside, through a small town and around a reservoir before heading back to Disneyland. I know some people find this part rather random, but I quite enjoyed it. It was good to get my legs moving at a regular pace for a while and have some more consistent running without having the constant stopping and starting (except for stopping briefly to take a photo of each kilometre marker) and the scenery was quite pleasant. The part I found random was the fact that so many runners were in some kind of costume which pretty much looked normal within the magical bounds of Disney, but once outside I couldn’t help thinking that this must look like the weirdest parade ever 😂

Even in this section outside of Disneyland there was some entertainment – bands, breakdancers, cheerleaders – and lots of spectators, so the time did pass quite quickly. Because there were a number of out and back sections it also gave me a great opportunity to look at some of the costumes other runners had put together. Some were really elaborate and I’m not sure I could have run in them without feeling irritated, whereas I had put together something comprised mainly of actual running kit, with a sparkly skirt on top (the sparkly skirt was crucial as I had wanted to wear one of those for ages!).

The last part of the route brought runners over a road bridge from which we could see the traffic entrance to Disneyland, before heading in by the Santa Fe hotel and through part of the Cheyenne hotel (where we were staying. Thankfully I didn’t have to run past my room!).

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GOPR0064From there, we followed the same path we had walked in by before the race that morning, around by the Sequoia Lodge and into the Disney Village which was packed with spectators, shoppers and those on their way to the parks for the day. It was so noisy with loads of shouts and cheers, yet at the same time a little bittersweet as I knew there was hardly any distance left to run. Yes, my legs were weary from being on my feet all weekend, but I didn’t want the experience to end so did my best to keep soaking up every moment.

Bur all too soon I could see the finish line ahead of me. We had retraced some of our steps from the early part of the race to finish behind the Hollywood Tower in the Walt Disney Studios park. I ran triumphantly over the line, collected my medal from a volunteer then walked over to the stage where Sorcerer Mickey was welcoming runners back. Sadly he was on a stage so there was no specific photo op, but I did get a cast member to take a photo and took a few seconds of video.

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IMG_0526There were several Photopass photographers stationed in front of some of the Marvel statues in this area so I got a photo then began to make my way towards the exit to meet Steve. Along the way I collected all my goodies – a bottle of water, an iced coffee drink (it was pretty good), a box of snacks, a banana and a space blanket. There was also some Powerade but I managed to miss that (gutted – blue Powerade is my favourite!).

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fullsizeoutput_27afOnce I met Steve, we had some more Photopass pictures taken outside the Studios before making our way back to the Expo to collect our bags (and take a few more photos because clearly we didn’t have enough already ha!).

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CjCn0Pv9QXyTbfhe%cxgkgI don’t think I ever stopped smiling throughout the race and had such an amazing experience. I had joked to Steve that I might take 3 hours and wasn’t too far off with 2:51:09. Near enough an hour slower than my half marathon PB! I did look at the results just out of interest, and my age category was won by none other than Paula Radcliffe, who is an ambassador for the event, but at 1:23:18 I suspect she didn’t stop for any photos haha!

I, however, stopped every kilometre as I wanted to make sure I had a picture of each marker. They were in keeping with the theme and were quite entertaining.

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UntitledFor me, this event was my fairytale, my chance to fulfil my wish of creating a costume, running through the parks and meeting a host of characters. Some wishes are for a once in a lifetime experience, but I have a funny feeling this won’t be the last time we take part in the Disneyland Paris Magic Run Weekend…
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The Daily Post – It Builds Character

Funnily enough, I’ve been thinking a great deal about characters (or les personnages Disney) of late. So when I found the prompt It Builds Character I knew this was the one for this month.

Tell us about a favorite character from film, theater, or literature, with whom you’d like to have a heart-to-heart. What would you talk about?

My favourite character is Belle from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Many love her because of that scene in the ballroom with the gold dress, but my love for Belle goes deeper than that. First, she has dark hair and is therefore a princess I feel represents me rather than the plethora of blonde princesses out there. As a child I was only interested in dolls that bore some resemblance to me and those were few and far between. Belle would have been perfect!  I know Snow White is brunette, but I’ve always found Belle to be a much stronger character – she’s feisty, independent and knows she wants “so much more than this provincial life.”

Second, Belle loves to read. She finds adventure in the pages of a book that transport her to magical lands and it fuels her innate sense of adventure. I’ve always been a bookworm so this is something else we have in common.

Finally, she’s French – La Belle et la Bête – and I frankly wish I WAS French. I love to be in France, to speak French and would perhaps even want to chat to Belle in French. I can hope!

4B4B6D97-27FC-4879-AB5A-12DF07C54B3ESo if I was to have a heart-to-heart with Belle these things we have in common would be the basis for the conversation. I would start by asking her about books – her favourite stories and writers, the magical tales she returns to again and again, the genres she loves. We could perhaps read some favourite passages to each other and revel in the chance to speak with a kindred spirit.

From there, we would talk about adventure. My adventures are running-related but Belle had a wondrous adventure involving an enchanted castle and a prince who had been cursed. I would tell her about the places I have travelled to, the races I have run and the adventures I still want to have. In return, I would ask her to tell me more about the Beast’s castle, the enchanted characters within and the range of emotions she experienced when around the Beast.

Finally, I would have to ask about the beautiful ballroom in the Beast’s castle, her gorgeous gold ballgown and their wonderful dance together.

IMG_3031I’m a MASSIVE Strictly Come Dancing (Dancing with the Stars) fan and I would be curious about how she learned to dance so beautifully and what it was like to dance with such an unusual partner. I might even share some Strictly clips where that scene was re-created.

In my head, Belle and I would soon be firm friends. And if I was really lucky, she might even let me try on her ballgown for my very own princess moment…

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ilEFsND9Qg6HnRs18UxRZwWhich character would you like to talk to and what would you talk about?