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.

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Friday Finds – 7th December

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.

Happy Friday one and all! I hope you’ve had a good week and have some fun (maybe festive?) plans for the weekend. I’m here to share a few interesting bits and pieces I’ve been looking at this week.

To start, a little more on the annual Strava report that I mentioned last week. First, Sport Techie reports a huge rise in popularity for virtual events. I assume it to be testament to the use of social media and various apps that connect runners and cyclists, meaning that where previously someone might have worked out alone, they can now turn that workout into a shared experience.

Also delving into the details (with a US slant, that is) is Martin Fritz Huber for Outside. In this column, he looks at a few of the takeaways from the Strava report, many of which will not be a surprise. What I did find interesting is the massive increase in race participation for women and the fact that in the US women are racing more than men. Could that be the impact of recent amazing performances from the likes of Shalane Flanagan and Des Linden?

Meanwhile, Alex Hutchinson has been writing about the connection between fitness and life expectancy. He reports on some interesting studies comparing fitness gained from working out with the fitness impact of good genes. The results are perhaps not what you might expect, but unless you’re going for some lab-based testing I would still be recommending maintaining fitness through physical activity.

Which connects nicely with another piece recently written by Hutchinson for Outside. In this piece, he is considering the role of VO2 max on health and life expectancy. While VO2 max can be improved, genetics also have a part to play, and a higher VO2 max tends to point towards longer life expectancy. To be honest, I simply feel better the fitter I am so will continue to remain as fit as I can for as long as I can.

And finally, did you catch this story about a recent half marathon in Shenzhen, China? Sadly it made the headlines for all the wrong reasons as a whopping 237 runners were caught cutting the course…by a traffic camera! I just can’t understand why someone would enter a race then cut a chunk out of it. I couldn’t reconcile myself with that and would feel like the medal was a constant reminder of my guilt.

Happy reading,
The Running Princess 

Friday Finds – 2nd November

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.

How is it November! I actually don’t know where this year is disappearing to and I’m definitely noticing the difference now the clocks have changed. It’s looking chilly this weekend so let’s keep ourselves cosy and settle down to do a little reading.

With the New York marathon coming up this weekend and the autumn (fall) marathon season in full swing, a lot of what I’m seeing in my feeds is marathon related. Did you catch this particular gem from last weekend? Venice does have an association with water, but I can’t imagine participants in the Venice marathon expected to be wading through flood waters in order to complete their race. It makes the puddles I encountered in Aviemore look like a mere splash!

Speaking of New York, I came across this piece in Runner’s World about training for NYC taking over the writer’s summer. I just love the tongue-in-cheek way he suggests it’s all doom and gloom….but then reveals that he loves it! Anyone who has ever trained for a marathon can probably relate.

You may also have seen that a new half marathon world record was set last weekend as the previously unknown Abraham Kiptum lowered the mark set 8 years ago by Zersenay Tadese (one of the runners in last year’s Breaking2 project). But what is more interesting is that this same runner, now the proud owner of a world record, was unable to gain a place in the recent Chicago marathon as his credentials were “not good enough” to earn him a spot. This article sets out a few points I hadn’t thought of before when it comes to elite runners having a breakthrough. I wonder how many more undiscovered stars are out there…

While we’re on the subject of breakthroughs, I was fascinated by this piece from Brad Stulberg in Outside about what it takes to have a breakthrough in running or any other aspect of life. If the breakthrough performance is the result of many small, perhaps unnoticed actions, then I am once more reminded that focusing on the process over the outcome is what will ultimately yield results and that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it as sometimes it takes time. What are your thoughts?

And finally, there’s nothing quite like crossing the finish line of a marathon and knowing you’ve accomplished something amazing, but in the days afterwards there are a few things that almost every marathoner does. I think I’ve done just about everything on this list bar the day drinking (mainly because I’ve never run a race that started early enough for this to be an option!). Which ones have you done?

Happy reading!
The Running Princess

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 – Aviemore Half Marathon 2018

It’s been a few years since I last ran this race, but those of you who have been reading this blog for a while may remember that this one holds a special place in my heart, not just because it was the first ever half marathon I ran (back in the pre-blog days of 2009) but it was also where Steve and I got engaged – that was quite a way to relieve my pre-race nerves! Further to that, in 2012 I ran a PB here which proved stubbornly difficult to beat for quite some time – all the way to early 2017 in fact! But for the last few years I haven’t been up there as I had different autumn priorities, and when Steve signed up back in the summer I initially wasn’t sure if I wanted to run the half or the 10k, eventually deciding that it would be worth capitalising on the training I was doing for the Disneyland Paris half and “properly” running a half marathon to round off my racing year.

In the past we have stayed in Aviemore the night before the race, but this time decided we would get up early and head up first thing in the morning. This meant leaving between 6 and 6:30am, times which seem increasingly reasonable the more I run!

It was still pretty dark as we set off on the 80ish mile drive north into the Highlands which meant we didn’t get much chance to appreciate the beautiful scenery. We had the latest episode of Marathon Talk playing in the car and had a pretty easy drive, arriving at the race HQ just before 8am.

The race itself starts at 10am, however the logistics are such that runners are taken by bus to the start (only about 10-15 minutes away) and the course returns us to the MacDonald hotel complex which is used as the race HQ and car park. The buses begin at 8am and the last one is at 9am so we wanted to make sure we had plenty of time to collect our race numbers, go to the loo and get in line for a bus.

s6tVq4+ARuSFinP1VTwu%wWe were up at the start at the Badaguish outdoor centre not long after 9am. It was pretty chilly, but the organisers have a good set up with teas and coffees available (with donation buckets out for those who have cash at the start line) and a sheltered area to gather in. I had a cosy top on that I was going to put in Steve’s bag (we usually do this since he will finish first and can collect the bag before I finish) but had chosen one I was happy to throw away if I just couldn’t bear to remove it soon enough!

We had a cup of tea then got in the queue for the toilets around 9:30, so by the time we emerged it was time to hand in our bag. I was shivering a bit, but didn’t have too long to wait until I got underway and I knew I would be absolutely fine once I got moving.

DtHG+BLvRxaWOtnFMuJoZgAs runners line up there are markers with approximate times on them and I set myself up next to the “sub 2 hours” marker. Realistically I had no idea what I could do, but with a PB of 1:53 and previous long-standing PB (from this race) of 1:56 I was fairly certain I could squeak under 2 hours.

Before I knew it, we were being walked towards the start and past a piper. Steve took some photos as I couldn’t be bothered to pull my phone out and I was instructing him as to the photos to take!

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AFkyVosFSzuzu8JxGouiCAThere was a moment of confusion when we could see through a  break in the trees that the runners at the front had started and, of course, those further back started to run even though we hadn’t reached the start line yet. I never understand this. Surely we’re going to run enough during the race? And the confusion was created by the fact that so many people were running and I could hear lots of folk asking if we had crossed the start line yet, but since we had race chips on our shoes I knew that even though there was no gantry, the start line would be when we crossed a timing mat slightly further on so stayed calm and started my watch as I hit the mat.

The first half of the race, which is net downhill overall, takes place on trails which can be a little narrow at points and thanks to the recent rainy weather there were quite a few puddles. I knew from previous experience that it wasn’t worth worrying about pace in the first half of the race as the chances are you will be way off, particularly with a steep hill at the start of the 4th mile, but will make up lots of time once the course emerges onto the road as it’s pretty much all downhill through the second half of the race. I actually set my watch to show me the average pace rather than the current pace and amused myself with some “runner maths” to try and work out if I was on track for a sub-2.

fullsizeoutput_28faA fun moment came towards the end of the trail section as I became aware of runners backed up around a corner. It turned out that there was a puddle of such magnitude that there was absolutely no avoiding it and people were looking for the best way to approach it. Most were going around the edges (which were pretty squelchy) as there was clearly a deeper hole in one part of it and lots of people were falling down. Not wanting to hurt myself by stepping on something uneven that I couldn’t see (or have an impromptu ice bath), I also went around the outside, but still ended up in cold water up to my knees and with icy cold feet – a good incentive to run faster in the second half to warm up again!

Thanks to my choice of attire I was getting lots of shouts (everything I was wearing was actual running kit, I just thought I would have a bit of fun and embrace the feline theme of running for a cat charity!). Early in the race as we had a brief section on a road I heard a little girl say, “she’s dressed up as a cat!” and as we ran by Loch Morlich shortly before joining the road for the home stretch a spectator shouted, “well done pussy cat!” Most of the marshals also commented on my cat ears and gave me a big smile. It was really nice, if a little unusual!

Once out on the road around 7 miles in it was time to get myself moving a bit faster. My average pace had been showing about 9:27 and I knew that 9:09 would be 2 hour pace. With the slight downhill it felt easy to push on and although it crossed my mind to wonder if I could sustain a faster pace, I dismissed the thought and focused on running to feel. I was passing people and feeling good. I even managed to take my gels (I had one on the trail at mile 5 and planned a second at mile 10 with “a parkrun to go”) without choking myself!

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Splits from the trail section

I was noticing my average pace falling until it dipped under the 9:09 I was looking for and at that point I knew I could keep my legs turning over all the way to the end. An interesting thing about this race is that the mile markers are actually “miles to go” so they are counting you down to the finish. I had noticed in the second half of the race that the markers were a bit off compared to my Garmin and suspected the route was going to come up a little short. Thanks to my knowledge of the route, I decided to trust the markers and keep on pushing as my pace felt ok.

There’s a short, sharp hill to take us from the path we are on up onto the main road and back into the hotel complex, and as I came off the hill I glanced at my watch to see that it read 1:55. I knew my previous best time from this race was 1:56 something, but couldn’t remember what the seconds were. I tried my best to speed up as the finish line was in sight but the last 100m or so are over grass which was a bit soft and uneven so I couldn’t get quite the sprint finish I wanted.

I heard the announcer call my name as I crossed the line and headed through the chute to collect my water, shortbread (such a Scottish race haha!) and medal then return my chip.

NpnukYlNToyy7NRYe2SBdQI met Steve and we headed back inside to sort ourselves out and I took advantage of the opportunity to look up my previous time (1:56:35) and confirm that I had indeed beaten it. My chip time for this year was posted as 1:56:02. Those 2 seconds are a little irritating, but given I had only expected a squeak under 2 hours (and there were some slight holdups on the trail) I’ll take that. This now becomes my 2nd fastest half marathon time and only the 3rd time I have run sub-2. Pretty pleasing for someone who was certain she wasn’t in fantastic form! I suspect the lack of pressure or expectation meant that I ran well, felt comfortable and enjoyed the event. I felt really strong in the second half and looking at my splits that strength is confirmed so I definitely got my strategy right.

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Splits from the road section – definitely a negative split!

UntitledAnd so this remains one of my favourite races. It’s well organised, has a fun route and is very friendly. There are always people there that I know and the sections where there are spectators always have great support. It’s nice to run a race with a more local feel to it. I’ll try not to leave it another 5 years before I go back!

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4wGXTmvsReqkWr+0x7yOkAYou can read about my previous experiences of this race here and here.

Week In Review – Always Have a Plan B…!

The first week of my October break presented an opportunity to press reset and get caught up on a few things. Yes, it would have been nice to go away somewhere, but on this occasion it was good to be at home. With a half marathon to run at the weekend, I took the chance to mix up a bit of training with some decent rest:

Monday – rest
Tuesday – 5 miles
Wednesday – rest
Thursday – 4 miles + Ashtanga yoga
Friday – PT session with Steve
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – half marathon

Start as you mean to go on, I say. I don’t generally like to sleep in (although obviously don’t set my alarm for as early as a school day!) but it is good to have a lazy start to the day and I decided I wanted to spend the first week of my holiday getting back into a habit I had back during my Easter break. So when I awoke I headed for the kitchen to make a cup of tea which I took right back to bed to read for about an hour. The kittens quite liked this and after running around daft for a bit they settled down at my feet for a snooze. Bliss!

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Nothing better than a long lie with Gary!

I then spent some time on the afternoon on my “homework”. I’m studying this with my Advanced Higher class and felt in need of a re-watch of my favourite adaptation of my favourite novel. Such a hardship lol!

fullsizeoutput_28ccOn Tuesday I followed my tea and book in bed with a run – not totally lazy! I set myself up with a kind of “mini taper” into my race so headed out for 5 miles. It was nice to get out in daylight after early morning runs last week, and the weather wasn’t too bad either.

RAHqgPkQRIGW3ynzZZhW5AWhen I arrived home I could spy a red package through the glass and knew exactly what it would be – my annual subscription to the London marathon rejection magazine. At least the running jacket I got with it is pretty good.

zTGJBzEOSzWboebQdiEYVwGiven the numbers in the ballot I didn’t expect to get a place, but until that magazine arrives there is always a glimmer of hope that this might be the year. Still, with 7 rejections (and counting…) I know to have a Plan B in mind for what I’ll do when that inevitable “nope” arrives, and for 2019 I knew my Plan B would be to sign up for the Stirling marathon again. I really enjoyed it this year and liked how conveniently close to home it was, so by the time the day was done, this had happened:

fullsizeoutput_28cfWednesday was another rest day. I had a few errands in town so clocked up loads of steps walking there and back (after some time spent reading with my cup of tea, of course!). At least my mail was more pleasing as I got some new casual leggings – and got photobombed by the kittens when I tried to take a picture!

fullsizeoutput_28f8On Thursday I doubled up – run in the morning and Ashtanga yoga class in the evening. My self-styled “mini taper” called for a 4 mile run and this time it was even pleasant enough to break my shorts back out of hibernation. I do love it when I can still wear my shorts without freezing to death!

IMG_9861Yoga was, as always, great. I had been curious to see how I would get on with the headstand after my breakthrough last week – was it a one-off or could I actually manage the posture by myself? As it turned out, there was no need to be concerned as I once more moved into the headstand on my own. I didn’t hold it for as long, probably because  I rushed to straighten my legs out before I had my balance feeling as secure as last time, but now I know it wasn’t a fluke I’ll take more care to move into the posture more mindfully as I go forward.

Steve offered me a training session on Friday morning (at a time which still allowed me my “soft start” to the day with my book and tea!) so I headed over to the studio. I was reluctant to do anything that would make my legs feel heavy on the Sunday, so we used the TRX and Core Momentum Trainer to do some work on my arms and upper body instead. Somehow I neglected to take a picture during the session, but did manage to take a photo of the coffee I had afterwards. Not sure what that says about me haha!

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The new “cordusio”. I think I ordered it because I thought it was a funny word!

The rest of the day was about as busy as things get during school holidays. First I had my flu jab (definitely want to avoid getting the flu!) and then I had my nails done which meant a good chat with my friend who does my nails.

Saturday, as ever, began with parkrun. I’m not always good at taking it easy when it’s not pacer day, but I was determined not to overdo things and risk having weary legs for the following day. I started out at a fairly steady pace and allowed myself to push on a bit as the run went on (securing a nice Royal Flush Negative Split) but still coming in at a slower (for me) time of 25:44. I had thought averaging 8:20-8:30 pace overall would be ideal so that was perfect.

IMG_9884Steve’s brother was away on holiday, but the Steve and I still went for a post-run bacon croissant before getting the food shopping done (such Saturday glamour!).

5xGLC%9CReanCYiH2wKjugI actually felt a bit “off”, kind of like I was going to get a headache but without actually having a headache. Not sure if that makes any sense, but I could feel my body telling me to have a nap so once home I had some soup then settled down for a nap. I did feel a bit better after that, but decided to take it easy and spend the afternoon watching a film. Time to break out Beauty and the Beast, because sometimes only a Disney film will do.

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As the evening wore on I began to realise that the reason I felt “off” was because my upper back and shoulders were tight and this was travelling up my neck and into my head. I got Steve to work on it a bit and began to feel a lot better. Good thing too since we were getting up early for our race!

We had decided not to stay in Aviemore the night before, and instead get up early to make the journey north into the Highlands – only about an hour and a half away and the roads are pretty clear at that time of day. We were away before 6:30am and got into Aviemore just before 8. I’ll write a separate post with all the details of the race, but it was all pretty familiar even though I hadn’t been up there since 2013.

This was my last serious race of the year. Anything else from this point will be more in the “fun run” category, so I also made it the last hurrah for my fundraising efforts. I teamed my Cats Protection running vest with paw print leggings (actual running leggings) and a hairband with ears (an actual running headband). It got me a fair amount of shouts and made a few people smile along the route!

DrgrJJvKTpCFm6VK7VXaegPost-race we tidied ourselves up a bit and on the way home called in to see a lovely couple Steve trains. They are in their 70s and so fit! I had never met them before but they had insisted we call in on our way home for a cup of tea, and despite being “race fresh” they were perfectly happy to sit and chat over some refreshments for a while and were so kind, waving away my apologies for not being at my most presentable! It was a nice way to break up the journey home and the cups of tea and choccy biccies were definitely appreciated!

The remainder of the day was pretty chilled and I headed to bed feeling really tired from the combination of an early start, racing a half marathon and having the long-ish car journeys as well.

When was the last time you needed to call on Plan B?
Do you ever theme your running outfits?
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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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