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!
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.