Emma experiences the Disneyland Paris Challenge with Walk the Walk

My final tip – sign up and do it – I am so glad that I did and in fact I registered my interest for next year as I lay in bed on the Monday morning.

Friday... 5k 

On the Friday of the 5k we got up early and went to St Pancras to meet the rest of the team – I was very nervous! Although I had followed the plan, I wasn’t confident I would make the time and was certain I would meet an ultra-fit walking squad who would leave me behind eating walking dust! Luckily before we met Walk the Walk had set up a Facebook group and WhatsApp group so we had been able to break the ice a bit and give each other advice – but still – I was nervous. I needn’t have worried, the group was so friendly, even to the person who had decided to bring the over excited toddler (that was me!).

We got to the hotel and once we were settled, met to head off to get our bibs and find out the timings for the races (as well as meet a couple of team members that had made their own way to Paris). Off we went, we collected our bibs and our T-shirts – so many T-shirts (5 in total) – and get our photo taken, we also managed to get some spectators tickets so my partner and son could be at the finish time, then it was time to have a quick rest and get ready for the 5k.

It was only when we were waiting at the starting line for the 5k that I started to realise this might be a different kind of race to anything I had done before – it turns out the Run Disney events have quite a fan base and from what I saw fans are a lovely welcoming group. Yes, there are some serious runners (but they tend to be in the first group), but waiting in the pen was a good time to check out everybody’s outfit (it’s not just the walk the walkers that dress up!).

Then we were off, the group tries to stay together, but with the slightly different walking paces smaller groups start to appear as you find someone who walks at a similar pace to you – I found a walking partner and managed to chatter my way around the 5, 10 and 21k. Although the park itself is closed for all the races, the staff are out cheering you on and there are mini milestones at every km where you can take photos as well as the chance to get your photo with different characters.

After the 5k, which is the only one during the evening, I got slightly more confident that I could make the time, but knowing that I had to get up early the next morning for the 10k (the 10 and 21k start at 7am and as you need to fit a breakfast in before it means an early start!) it was an early night for me!

Saturday... 10k 

Saturday morning, we were up early (well I was, I left my support team to catch up on their sleep and hope they’d see me at the finish) for a spot of breakfast and it was back to the starter pen. We were there just before the sun went up, again we were entertained by RunDisney TV while the sun rose and we were off, the 10k was again around the park and you are entertained by the staff and characters as you go round, as well as seeing many parts of the park that are usually out of bounds.

This time we managed to cover many important subjects including who our favourite doctor was and managed to get to the finish line within the time (a big relief to me!), the wonderful thing of the Walk the Walk team is that it doesn’t matter when you finish, the team waits until the last person passes the line, and everyone gets the biggest cheer – I don’t think I heard a single conversation about who came where, there was no competition we all just wanted to get ourselves and the rest of the team over the finish line. One of the surprises of the weekend was that when you get your breakfast wearing your race bib, you got given the opportunity to go back for a second breakfast after the race – absolutely wonderful and meant that you never needed to go get lunch!

The rest of Saturday was spent going around the park, my support team had met us close to the finish line and it was time to show my Son the wonder of Disney. I have to admit that mid-afternoon I had to leave them and catch a quick nap (which meant I missed trip 3 & 4 of ‘It’s a Small World’ – but I made up for it later), but then it was back for a team dinner – every night we had the opportunity to meet and have dinner together, there was never any pressure to do this, but it was a lovely way to regroup at the end of the day and see how everyone was doing.

Sunday... 21k 

Sunday arrived with another early start and breakfast, waiting in the pen this time, was a lot more nervous but the level of support was amazing – both within the group and from the other runners. We did get asked a lot of questions about our bra and at the start of the 10k one woman was so impressed that she stripped off to her bra to join in. It also gave us the perfect chance to spread awareness and let everyone know why we were there – I would like to think that more than one person checked themselves that weekend when they might not have. The 21k race was different to the others in that it meant leaving the park – part of the route means going to the local village where the staff all live, as we got there the streets were lined by the staff and locals who were performing music, cheerleading and dancing to cheer us all on. Towards the end of the race I started to get emotional, it was the end of so much training and preparation (and worry) but more than that the team spirit with the rest of the team was wonderful.

Then the finish line, for me seeing my little boy and partner cheering for me just before the finishing line and then crossing it hand in hand with my walking partner was a feeling I will never forget – I had thought I would cry, but we were then pulled aside by the team who had already finished to be interviewed by RunDisney – something I never imagined I would do. After the last race, and once everyone on the team had finished, it was back to the expo to get our final medals (in addition to the 5k, 10k and 21k which you got at the end of each race, you get a 31k and a 36k medal) and team photos – and (possibly most importantly) back to the hotel for second breakfast.

Sunday afternoon was again left to us – and although I would like to say we spent it in the park, I’m afraid all I could manage was hitting up the hotel pool and hot-tub and a bit of souvenir shopping before meeting the team for a celebratory meal. Although we did make up for it on Monday when we took full advantage of the golden hour to get into the park early – at which point I made up for my Saturday afternoon nap by going on the Buzz Lightyear ride 3 times while my partner hit up Space Mountain. All too soon it was Monday afternoon and we had to meet in the hotel to head back to the train station and back to the UK, unlike the journey over where we were just getting to know each other – the way back it felt like a journey with friends you had known for years.

Final thoughts, bits of advice...

If you are doing more than one challenges – ask for a single sponsorship page for the year – going back to the same people just a month after they had sponsored me the first time, didn’t make me the most popular person – although it did prime them when I got back from this one to ask when the next round of fundraising was to begin.

It can be nerve wracking to ask colleagues to come along to your cake sale, but it is a great way to break the ice, and raise awareness about breast cancer. Also, it is a reminder of why we are doing this as more than one person would come to me and thank me (often with a tear in their eye) for doing this.

Ask people for help, I found that often people were either happy to help or would offer to. Sometimes you can find that by helping you, they are helping themselves (they have too much fruit from their garden and want you to take it off their hands to make jam, or love baking but don’t have the reason to.

Take advantage of the meal package and prepay for the evening meals...

... even if you don’t want to eat with the team you can use the vouchers in so many places, you can also pay for lunches, but with the second breakfast after the races very often we weren’t ready to eat again till the evening. The food at Euro Disney can be quite expensive for a snack and so we went well prepared with snacks which meant that apart from our pre-5k race meal we didn’t pay for a meal the whole weekend

There is a photopass...

... this cost is Eur79 (I think) and meant that we could download all the race photos (and photos from the rides) you are able to put 3 bib numbers on it, so you can split the costs between you

Don’t worry about packing clothes...

... with the 2 Walk the Walk T-shirts and the 5 (5!) t-shirts you get when you collect your bib – you really don’t need any more.

Make sure you do a bit of weight training...

... for when you get all the medals – these are impressive medals, and when you are wearing all 5 for the celebratory photos, they weigh a tonne. I am so proud of mine and they have been accidentally left on the coffee table so that everyone who comes to visit can just “happen” to see them.

Make the most of the golden hour on the mornings there isn’t a race...

... the days of the races you may not spend as long in the park as you imagine and the golden hour is a great way to run to the rides you want to see. Also – for the popular rides take full advantage of the Fast passes, it really does cut down the amount of time in queues.

My final tip – sign up and do it...

... I am so glad that I did and in fact I registered my interest for next year as I lay in bed on the Monday morning – but this time I am trying to see if I can register my son for the kids races so we can all go home with a medal!

So... go on... take Emma's advice!

Join the Walk the Walk team for the Disneyland Paris Challenge in 2020! Don't miss out... sign up now

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