So, you think you are ready to runDisney and log some magical miles of your own? Well, we are here to help. Once you have selected the runDisney race, that you want to run; successfully registered; planned your Disney runcation with care; saved up your travel funds; and made it to either Walt Disney World or Disneyland, you still need to overcome one obstacle before you can toe the line at a runDisney race: you must survive the runDisney race expo!
Ok, fine, we are being a little bit melodramatic, runDisney expos aren’t that scary, but, they can be a little bit overwhelming to first timers. So, whether you are a first timer or a returning runDisney veteran, here are some tips for a successful runDisney race expo experience.
#1) Know where to go.
For Disneyland races, expos are generally held in the ballrooms (and underground levels) of the Disneyland Hotel.
Once you get to either location, runDisney usually provides ample signage and costumed cast members to provide directions and answer any questions you may have.
#2) Know how to get there.
For Disneyland races, if you are staying on or near Disney property, you can simply walk there. Otherwise, you may want to look at options such as Uber, taxis, or public transit. Of course, Disney will always accept your money if you want to drive yourself and pay to park.
At Disney World races, special event bus transportation is provided, free of charge, to all guests staying at “host” resorts. (Check out our discussion of transportation options here). You do not have to be a registered runner to take these buses, so yes, your family and friends can ride to the expo with you. Also, you can take shuttles to and from any resort. So, if you are staying at, say Beach Club, and want to go to the Magic Kingdom after the expo, feel free to take a shuttle to directly from the expo to one of the monorail resorts and enjoy the Highway in the Sky directly to the main gate from there.
#3) Pick your time to go,
Let’s be blunt (aren’t we always?). If you want specific event merchandise, you may want to join the running of the bulls, which is the crush of fans who get to expos before they even open to wait in long lines and nab the merch of their choice. For the inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend, the lines started early and runDisney played teh Star Wars movies to entertain the waiting fans. If you really have your heart set on specific runDisney event merch, you may want to get to the expo early, otherwise they may be picked over. If you do not care, you can wait and go later where all lines, especially the bib pickup lines, will be much lighter.
Also, runDisney expos always feature a great lineup of guest speakers, and they publish the speaker schedules in advance online in the event guide. If this is your thing, make sure you do not miss any speakers and plan your expo time accordingly.
Now if only Casual Runner would get a speaking slot…hey runDisney, how do we make this happen?
#4) Allow yourself enough time to be there.
One of the easiest mistakes to make during a runDisney runcation is to not allow yourself enough time to do everything you need and want to do. Simply put, do not book a breakfast at Ohana for 8am, plan on being at the expo in ESPN Wide of World of Sports when the expo opens, and still make your FastPass+ for Toy Story Midway Mania at 9:30am.
Be sure to leave suficient time for transportation to and from the expo, at least and hour to collect your bib and race shirt, and any additional time for speakers and/or official event merchandise (which should include lines to get into the merch area and to checkout once you make your selections).
#5) Pick up your bib.
This should be obvious, but do not expect to just walk into a runDisney expo, grab your bib and walk out. First, these expos are spread out, and in Florida can take place in 3 different buildings at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex. So you need to allow some time to walk to the designated bib pickup area. Once there, you need to wait in line based on your bib number (which you can and should look up on the runDisney website in advance). Second, it goes without saying, that you need to pickup your bib before the race, which usually means the day before the race. So be sure to make your travel plans accordingly.
Third, remember the waiver. All runDisney races currently require a signed paper race waiver to be completed and submitted when you pick up your bib. While they provide computer terminals at the expos to print your bibs, save yourself some time and print them out in advance. This will also ensure that you have your bib number. As lines are sorted by bib number, make sure you get in the correct line, or you can end up wasting a lot of time.
You and your running buddies may be required to wait in different lines based on your bib numbers. Save yourself some time and split up, but pick a place to meet up after you get your bibs as the cell coverage may be spotty if the expo is crowded and the networks are overwhelmed.
#6) Confirm that you have everything in your race packet that you need.
Every runDisney race has different items that come in your bib packet, and these can even vary from year to year. So, before you leave the bib pick up line, make sure you have everything that you are supposed to, including:
- Bib (for all events and challenges; if you enter multiple events, you may have multiple bibs)
- Safety Pins
- Tickets for any special parties or experience you booked
- Event guide/program
- Gear check bag and sticker/label
- Any special race premiums, which do occasionally pop up in runDisney bags, especially during anniversary year events.
#7) Smile! And have your picture taken for race challenges.
Race challenge participants used to require runners to wear bracelets to denote their completion of individual events. Now, runDisney takes your picture, usually immediately after you pick up your bibs. Make sure not to miss this or you may have to do some back tracking at the expo. Why do they take your picture? After each leg of a challenge runDisney will confirm that you match your photo on a computer and verify that you completed each leg.
Also, runDisney always sets up neat photo opportunities somewhere at the expo, which are brilliantly themed to the particular race event. Be sure to take the time to snap some fun pics of you and your running buddies.
#8) Pick up your race shirts
Race shirts are always in a different area than the race bibs. Let’s be honest, expos are huge money makers for runDisney, and so they want you to visit all of the vendors who paid good money for table space. Thus, they put the shirt pickup area in a location that makes you walk past the vendors. Smart, huh?
Just don’t forget to go get your event shirt, which may be in a different building, before you leave the expo. This is also where you usually get your gear check bag.
#9) Visit any vendors you want to check out
Speaking of vendors, there are a lot of them, a lot of them. runDisney expos are routinely among the largest expos you will encounter in terms of square footage and the number of vendors. Check out the event program, which usually has a full list of all vendors with maps telling you their location. The same goes for speakers. Full schedules are available online and in the event guide, so make sure you check this out in advance.
#10) Enjoy the parks!
This, after all, IS a runDisney runcation. So make sure you leave plenty of time to get out and enjoy the parks before you call it an early night and get up, ready to run some magical miles!
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