This year Disney Land Paris held their first EVER RunDisney event – a thing that I never knew existed until now! RunDisney seems to have run in America for years, with various events taking place in both parks, and the first ever Disney Land Paris event appears to have been years in the making! I was privileged enough to stumble across it before it booked up, and took myself and my parents for a weekend in Paris. And last year, when I booked it, I thought ‘well, I can run 10km now, this time next year 21km should be no problem!’. That, I think you’ll find, is optimism at its peak. A serious bout of depression and anxiety, a discovery of 2 extra ribs and pure exhaustion later, I showed up at Disney Land having only recently managed to get myself up to walk-running 5km. Yep, I was doomed!
The day began at 4.20am when I got up for an early breakfast before dragging my parents out to the running expo because I didn’t want to be late. I had purchased an emergency belt with a water bottle, as I knew I wouldn’t have able to hold onto a bottle for the entire run, popped on my old running shoes because the insoles in my new ones still cause me cramp, and pinned my number to my top. I was ready to go! At 6am they let us into the corrals. I was in corral C – even in my optimism last year I knew that I wasn’t going to be fast, and had put myself in with the slowest runners! There was a stage right next to the start line with various people coming up and talking about the event, but it was quite hard to hear from where I was standing, at the front of corral C. And it was cold!
In very un-disney-like fashion, the event kicked off 10 minutes late, and those of us at the front of corral C watched the elites, corral A and the entirety of corral B, which stretched back for hundreds, if not thousands, of people, leave before we were moved to the start line.
Then it was time to go! The sun was slowly taking its hat off to brighten up the day and I, along with several hundred others, began the mammoth event.
Running through the village and into Disney Studios was really exciting, and I felt reasonably energetic and excited, though I made sure that I paced myself. That’s the one thing I’m probably really good at is pacing myself, because I know my limits! Round a corner and ‘oh, there’s Captain America and Spiderman!’. The next corner was far more exciting for me as ‘IT’S THE CHIPMUNKS!’ I adore Chip and Dale, they’re my all time favourite characters. We ran through the stage for the car show, and the route of the tram, and progressed into Disney Park through the main gates. Spectators had been able to collect wristbands to allow them to stand on main street and watch the runners. It was so amazing, in both lands all the staff were out, super early in the morning, cheering us on and supporting us! Up the top of Main Street I found my parents, cheering loudly and enthusiastically. I ran on, past Cinderella and her Prince, stopping for a snap with Alice outside the maze, as well as Baloo. I was determined to stick to under 10 minute kms though, so I skipped a few characters and went on my way.
Leaving the park about 5km into the run, I knew the hard part was only just starting. I stopped for a toilet break and then continued on my way. There were bands placed at various points throughout the run, and so much cheering and support you felt invincible. Until you reached km11. From which you could see km 16. And the first part of km 11 was a steep downhill. All you could see was the ones ahead of you running back up the hill. I was tempted to stop there! But I knew I could manage the downhill. So I kept going. At this point I was optimistic that I’d be able to maintain my 3 minutes running 1 minute walking rotation. On the way back up to 16km I agreed with myself I could go down to 1 minute run 1 minute walk. By 18km I was walking as long as I had to and running as short as possible. My hip hurt. I had severe blisters developing on my feet. I was hot and tired and really really really hungry! Just after 19km I could see people running on the other side of a small river, and I looked over, knowing how far away that was, and just thought ‘I can’t do this anymore. I just can’t.’ At that point, I started repeating to myself what my Camp America Director told me several years ago. I can do anything I put my mind to. Anything at all. And I kept moving. I couldn’t stop, I knew I wouldn’t start again! I just kept going. And 19km became 20km. I saw my parents, waving and cheering, and I called out to them that I was going to run over the finish line, and I kept walking.
And you know what? I did. I rounded the corner to see the straight line up to the finish line and I ran. Well, hobbled energetically. I DID IT! I, Hannah Tindall, with very little training, a bad back, depression and anxiety, blisters and a bad hip, managed to complete a half marathon. It took 3 hours 16 minutes and 22 seconds according to the official timings, with an average pace of 9 minutes 19 seconds per km. I can 7112. Out of over 8500 people! I wasn’t last. I didn’t get picked up. And I did it!
This was the hardest thing I’ve had to drive myself to do. To keep going when the only person you’re going to let down is yourself. To push yourself to the limit and then keep going for another 2.1km. To run when all you want to do is collapse.
No one can quite believe I did it. My parents were shocked, my boyfriend speechless and my best friend not surprised at all (I feel that she recognises and acknowledges how stubborn I can be!).
It hurt. I am still limping 5 days later. And I may never run that distance again. But I am so incredibly proud of what I have achieved. If I can do it, anyone can!