I started off 2013 by running in the WDW Half-Marathon in January. I knew that if I completed that (it was my first run of that length), that I would than want to do the Disneyland Half over Labor Day weekend, as completing both of these in the same calendar year earns the Coast to Coast medal.
Injuries prevented me from training for the WDW Half the way I intended, but I did complete the race, and so set my sights on DL.
But wait — there’s more! runDisney announced that this year, in addition to the half-marathon, there would also be a 10K race added to the weekend lineup. And, if you chose to run both the 10K and the half-marathon back-to-back (the 10K on Saturday and the half on Sunday), then this earns you the special Dumbo Double Dare medal.
My initial thought was that, with only a single half-marathon under my belt, running a 10K and half back-to-back was something that could wait. But then a friend pointed out that you only get one chance to run an Inaugural event — and this would be two, the inaugural 10K and the inaugural Dumbo Double Dare. So when registration opened up, I jumped right on it … which was a good thing, as the Dumbo was sold out in just a few hours after registration opened.
Notice how I conveniently skip over all the training and preparation. Just like I did I real life. (That’s not entirely true, but my longest long run coming in to the weekend is a little over 10 miles in July. After that, things got hectic with buying and selling houses, preparing for a cross-country move, attending the D23 Expo, and miscellaneous other things that always seemed to be more compelling than going for a run).
Friday August 30th was Expo day. The only must-do task for the day is simply to pick up a race bib. But like many (perhaps most) people on Friday, I wanted to hit the Expo (merchandise area) before the registration — after all, they aren’t going to give my race bib away to someone else, but someone else could grab the last limited-edition runDisney shirt if I didn’t get there early.
Just about everyone I’ve talked to, or seen post online, agrees — the Expo was a disaster. I’m not sure how, given that runDisney knows exactly how many registrations were sold, they could be so completely unprepared for the crowd that appeared this morning. Maybe they thought the crowd would spread out over the two-day expo — but by their history of constantly running short of high-demand items, they have guaranteed that everyone who can is going to show up at opening before the merchandise is gone. And this fustercluck will only reinforce that behavior for the next Expo.
The lines were disorganized — ask where the end of the line was, and you’d frequently get people pointing off in opposite directions. The merchandise line and registration line were jammed together so it was difficult to discern which was which. Nearly all of the line was outdoors in full sun, and it was quite hot.
I lined up nearly an hour before the Expo opened, so I was in pretty good shape. After we were admitted to the Expo hall, I made my selections fairly quickly and proceeded to get into the checkout line — which was comically poorly thought out. After switching back and forth a few times, the line outgrew its designated area, and extended across the show floor. Now, all the people trying to get into the hall to shop had to cross the checkout line to do so — really poorly planned. An area was set up for speakers right in the middle of the floor, as if someone tried to locate the most inconvenient place for it and was successful. The checkout line crossed this area as well, leading to complaints from people trying to see and hear the speakers that the line was noisy and distracting.
Getting in early meant I made it through checkout in about half an hour. In the early afternoon I heard the line was over two hours, and at some point they actually closed the shopping floor to allow the cashiers to work through the backlog of people trying to check out.
A lot of this stuff could have been put online ahead of time rather than turning the expo into a free-for-all like your worst Black Friday nightmare. The lines could have been sized appropriately and laid out more intelligently. Limits could be put on purchases — I saw many, many people heading to the checkout with armloads of shirts. I mean, they’re really nice shirts and all, but nobody needs 10 of them. If the shirts, pins, hats, and other merchandise was made available online for purchase, runDisney would probably sell far more of it, and pocket quite a bit more money. There would then be no reason for the eBay resellers to clog the expo buying up dozens of items for resale, and it would turn into a better experience for everyone.
So, roughly 90 minutes of standing in line (to get into the expo and to make purchases), and I have a few shirts to show for it. I still haven’t done the only must-do task for today, which is pick up the bib, so I head to that line next. While I was in the Expo the lines have grown, and the organization of the lines has descended into chaos. I got into the line I was directed into, only to have it stopped cold while some other line was merged in and went ahead of us. Someone in front of me was livid, insisting the people in our line had been waiting longer, but having just gotten in the line myself I have no idea if that was true. (I certainly hadn’t been waiting long at this point). I didn’t time it, but I’m sure I spent less than an hour in the registration line. Probably not a lot less, though.
Once the line actually made its way to the actual registration area, things started to hum along more smoothly. The single registration line fed into dozens of individual lines — first you head in the general direction of your event (5K, 10K, Half, or Dumbo), and then once you’re in the right area, there are different registration lines based on your bib number. (If you followed instructions and printed out your waiver ahead of time, then you had your bib number … if you didn’t, then you went to the penalty box in the middle where workstations were provided for you to print out and sign your waiver, then head off to the appropriate line).
After this, still not done. Now the line leads out of the registration area, and back into the Expo hall … this time to pick up race shirts. Fortunately this area of the hall was nothing at all like the runDisney retail area — it was organized and moving quickly. Once again you sorted yourself out based by event, and then again by shirt size. Once I found my line there were only about 10 people ahead of me, after less than 5 minutes I had a bag (that I’ll use at the bag check if I have anything to check at the races) with all 3 of my shirts (10K, Half-Marathon, and Dumbo).
I’m excited for the upcoming runs, but the debacle of the expo is not getting the weekend started off in an appropriately magical way. I’m glad I went early as it seemed to only go downhill through most of the morning. Reports indicated that the registration lines weren’t nearly as bad later in the afternoon, but I didn’t hear whether the expo merchandise area ever recovered after their afternoon shutdown.