Outside the beautiful Disneyland Hotel
I hadn’t been since 1996, when the park was a couple of years old and suitably far removed from Paris per se (in reality under an hour, but thousands of miles away culturally).
Then, it was quite the novelty for Britons relishing the thought of having the Disney experience, without having to transport their offspring 4,400 miles away.
This was easily reached within a couple of hours.
Parisians now concede it does indeed make for an enormously fun afternoon and snap up annual passes in droves.
Britons are a tad more leisurely, taking a day or two, arriving via Eurostar at the gates.
Despite this accessibility, the lure that sealed the deal for me was the half marathon and an endorsement from two running buddies who’d completed it the year before.
So on a balmy September eve, I arrived to a fanfare of fireworks bursting from behind Sleeping Beauty’s castle. I’d already left the real world behind, helplessly drawn under Disney’s spell.
Outside the beautiful Disneyland Hotel; a grand dusty pink Victorian pile with ornate fountains, vast lobby and grand staircase, guests sport costumes of all sorts from Cruella de Vil to Snow White. All were in running shoes, displaying medals for the 5k race, the first of three of the Magic Run weekend.
I spot world record holder Paula Radcliffe, already showered and in jeans while others still roll over the finish line. She’s one of the Magic Run weekend ambassadors and brings her family who all take part in either the three adult races; 5k, 10k and half marathon or the kids’ races; the 100m 200m and 1k.
I keep my legs moving by walking miles through the park and studios.
All were in running shoes, displaying medals for the 5k race
I skip the Tower of Terror to take a gastronomic spin as seen from the eyes of rat on the Ratatouille ride. To calm my pre-race nerves and post-ride tum, I climb aboard a frigate to sail the Caribbean’s waters finding myself in shoot-outs among boisterous rum-fuelled pirates counting their loot.
Outside, I greet Mary Poppins and Bert, complete with impressive East End accents. And despite our ages we’re not in the slightest embarrassed waving at Mickey Mouse and Peter Pan.
The night before the race, I fuel up on a huge plate of stupendous pasta and drink as much water as I can stomach.
It’s dark as I leave the hotel at 6am to merge with another 9,000 runners heading silently to the pens in Walt Disney Studios.
After an hour Cruella de Vil, snug in warming faux-Dalmatian fur and red gloves, waves us off, warning us to beware of villians.
Jane proudly displays her medal
There’s a misty velvety purple light as we cross the gantry amid much fanfare. Along the way, as we gingerly negotiate the smooth bricks of Main Street, we stop for photos along the way with characters such as Maleficent and Mickey Mouse.
Everyone’s a character here. Superheroes are run with princesses and mermaids along the wide Boulevard de l’Europe. I laugh at a woman in a Spider-Man outfit take a nature-break dash into the field of pale corn while a man in a Cinderella frock waits patiently on the verge.
Perhaps they got dressed in the dark. We jog through the village of Magny-le-Hongre, as pristine as Disneyland itself with streets lined by pretty two-storey shuttered houses, and trot around a small lake where I narrowly avoid toppling over a park bench along a gravel path.
Finally, we arrive back in the park, taking the backlot route past dinosaurs and the remnants of a bombed out City of London before passing through Sleeping Beauty’s salmon-coloured castle and onto the finishing straight.
A grin spreads across my face as I approach the line, just as has been there for much of the last 48 hours. I am not alone as I declare this to be the world’s happiest half marathon.
For the rest of the day, I strut proudly with my hefty medal featuring Mickey and Sleeping Beauty’s castle banging against my chest. In fact, I’m feeling so invincible I tackle the Big One; Big Thunder Mountain Railroad roller coaster.
With white knuckles, closed eyes, I let myself be thrown about at great speed. Out into the light, the adrenalin pumping, I realised it was far less traumatic than I thought.
That old Disney magic.
Disneyland Paris Magic Run Weekend 2019 (run.disneyland paris.com) will take place on 19-22 September 2019. Disneyland Paris (08448 008 111/holidays.disneylandparis.co.uk) offer a two night/three day package from £1,092 (four sharing). Price includes two nights at Disney’s Hotel Santa Fe, three day park hopper tickets and return travel from London St Pancras, Ebbsfleet or Ashford International via Lille.