/ Monday, January 20th, 2014

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I flew down on Wednesday, January 8th for the Walt Disney World® Marathon Weekend presented by Cigna® events with a friend.  After grabbing our rental car, the first stop was the Expo.  Not the hotel, not lunch, not a park… we were on a mission!  Friends had said we were crazy to fly in the day before the races, but life happens, so Wednesday it was.

The ESPN Wide World of Sports venue is pretty easy to navigate.  Parking is cast member assisted.  It’s kind of a long walk from the parking lot to the different areas, but given the complex, there’s no “fix” for this.

My prior knowledge for packet pickup was Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend and Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10 Miler Weekend.  I had never been to the big race weekend.  I went with my prior knowledge.  I headed to the same set of doors I have used in the past.  I was told that the packet pick up was in a different building.  Okay, “maybe” I should have read the race instructions.

So, off we went!  As we entered, we were greeted and given the details.  Dopey Challenge, Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge, and Walt Disney World® 10K packets were downstairs. Walt Disney World® Marathon, Walt Disney World® Half Marathon, and Family Fun Run 5K packets were upstairs.  While my friend was “Dopey“… I was doing the 5K, 10K, and Half, so I had to go downstairs and upstairs.  This was an annoyance, but I tried to let it go.  We took a funny photo with digital stickers, which runDisney emailed to us, and we were off to get packets!

photo sticker me

photo sticker michelle(I should mention that we hadn’t eaten lunch, and it was after 3pm.  That may have had an impact on my overall experience.)

We were told to go down the main stairway.  Great! Easy to pop down, grab packets, and pop back up!  There were maybe ten people remotely near us at any given time.  The place was pretty empty.  We waited behind one person in line for my friend’s Dopey packet.  My 10K pickup was the same speedy service.  There was even a runDisney store in this area.  We were excited to shop with no crowd at all until we realized why there was no crowd.  There was no Dopey merchandise at all.  There was no Inaugural 10K merchandise either.  There were very few items other than “I Did It” t-shirts, glasses, and runDisney accessories.  The Expo, which was open for four days, had sold all of the Dopey merchandise before we got there.  Expo had only been open for five hours.  Oh well… moving on…

Our second stop was the upper level for the remaining packets I needed.  The main staircase had a handful of people walking down.  We were told, quite strongly, that we were NOT allowed to use that staircase.  It only goes “DOWN”… umm… okay… We were sent to the other end where a cast member pointed us down a hall to the “UP” staircase.  This staircase had no cast member.  It was wide enough for one person at a time… I’m not kidding.  People from the upper level were walking down (shock) the stairway, so it was a squeeze.  We survived the staircase and picked up the remaining packets.

Now, I have not done January races before.  My packet and shirt were always in one place before.  On this day, we had to go to another building to get the shirts.  So, off we went, knowing the vendors were in the building with the shirts!  We quickly got into the second building and waited in short lines to get our shirts.  If you haven’t done a runDisney event before, don’t forget to try on your shirt before you leave the area!  They are more than happy to exchange it right then and there!

I was disappointed that a few of the vendors I’d seen at the other race weekends had opted out of the January Expo.  There were, however, plenty of vendors to visit!  From fuel to gear to clothing… there was something for everyone!  I wanted to try on the New Balance® shoes while I was there.  I had read the process online before coming down.  I knew I had to make an appointment.  I decided to stop and see how busy the area looked.  I asked someone working in the New Balance® store if I could know, before making my appointment, that my shoe size was available.  There was no reason to make an appointment if I couldn’t get the size I needed.  He said yes, they knew their stock.  Great!  I knew the Expo was open late, so I went to grab a few items on the floor.  Then I was going to head out to get an appointment.  Someone working the event overheard us chatting.  They told us that there were no appointments left for the day.  Well… that was that… I was running the next three days and didn’t see myself getting back to the Expo.

We stopped at the larger runDisney store in this building.  There was more merchandise here, but it was a lot of the same from the other area.  The Marathon and Half Marathon jackets were there… and they were tempting.  There were some runDisney “in training” things we had not seen before as well.  In the end, I passed on the merchandise.  I was thinking I might find something in the parks I’d like more.

There was more to do at the Expo than shop.  There were speakers on a range of topics.  Many topics were Dopey related, as you might expect.  From diet and hydration to stretching and running intervals, there was a speaker for everyone.  Jeff Galloway, the Official Training Consultant for runDisney, was meeting people throughout the day.  There were even fun photo ops free of charge.  We got a photo booth sheet of pictures as a cute memento.

I spoke to many people over the course of the weekend about their Expo experience.  Dopey participants loved that most of their items were in one place.  They did, however, have to get their 5K shirts with everyone else.  Odd… but whatever.  Many people who were doing one race, like the Inaugural 10K, loved the uncrowded space made by breaking up the packet pickup areas.  So, everyone seemed pleased with their experience.

If I was to review my experience… I’d say it was okay.  Not great, not bad… but only okay.  I found the packet pickup quick, but tedious.  The Expo itself had most of what a runner would be looking for, but it was missing the vendors I wanted to see.  There was merchandise… if you didn’t want Dopey merchandise or an appointment for the shoes.  Next time, I may fly in earlier, go for the shoes first, and bring food! (I was really hungry!)

(Photos copyright Disney.)

So, what was your experience? Did you have elbow to elbow crowds?  Did you get “the shoes”?  What other Expo advice would you give?  I’d love any tips or tricks!


Liz has been visiting Walt Disney World since she was five years old.  She is always looking for a nook or cranny of Walt Disney World as yet unexplored.  When not in Walt Disney World, Liz is a teacher in the Chicago suburbs. 



3 thoughts on “Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend 2014 Expo”

  1. This was my third WDW Marathon Weekend Expo and it was very similar to previous experiences. They need to spread out the packet and shirt pick ups to spread out the crowd and yes it is some walking, but I found it to be organized at least.

    There is a learning curve. I showed up mid-day on my first expo and discovered it is worth it to just brave the lines at open. The lines are not horrible, there are a ton of cashiers and you can get the merch you want. Let’s face it, as Disney fans, we are used to the lines for merch.

    I very much dislike the way the merchandise is run. I think it should be exclusive to registered runners at least part of day one. The reason the merchandise runs out is because of online re-sellers. They do hold over stock to following days, but it is still a bad overall experience. Same with the shoes. There were so many re-sellers with the shoes, people like me who wanted to buy them to wear that weekend had a hard time. I was there an hour before open to make an appointment. The appointments are open ended, no aprox time is given. They texted me 4 HOURS after I signed up! I had already left and was at work. I had to drive all the way back after work to get my shoes.

  2. cindy alford says:

    I read the directions the day prior to expo open for the NB shoe process, so I took all the kids and my hubby. His job was to stand in line for the appt (which was 2 hours long!) but met another runner in front of me that has since become a FB friend, so cool benefit! Meanwhile, I took the girls (we 3 were running) and got packets, shirts, and swapped shirt sizes. Ate lunch at the expo. Got an appt, but it would be for about 4 hours later. I returned to the room, came back at 3 hours, and NB staff worked us in within 5 minutes due to lots of no shows. Our NB staffer was awesome and took his time with us… no pressure to hurry,hurry,hurry. It was a great process, just lengthy.

    I also agree that registered runners should have access to merchandise (NB shoes) first… there were several people in line with me that were buying the max # to resell on ebay. We acutually wore our shoes in the parks that weekend. This was my first race, but felt that the packet pickup was organized, speedy and efficient for the tens of thousands of runners that were coming in. lots of people got in line for the shoes at 6am… craziness! But oh so cute shoes:)

  3. Liz Driscoll says:

    I love the idea that only registered runners be allowed to shop day one. This would keep lines down significantly. Great idea!