The first stop of any runDisney race weekend is the Health & Fitness Expo! This is a HUGE event in itself and can get a bit overwhelming. Suzanne is here today and fresh from Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. She’s got some great tips (and secrets) on how to navigate the Expo and get the most out of your visit!
You are registered. You are super excited to go get some goodies. Where do you start? First of all, WDW does a great job of marking and directing your stop! First stop is at Packet Pick Up. Be sure to have your ID ready for them to check you in. If you forget your waiver (which is a must) you can print them outside the entrance to the packet pickup area.
The VoluntEARS are so wonderful about getting the participants in and out. We didn’t have to wait very long at all to get your bib, shirt and gear check bag. One of the very nice things that WDW makes sure to do is to have everything you need in one bag. When you leave the packet pick up area, you aren’t juggling 52 things in your hands along with your bib. It is all nicely wrapped in the gear bag for you, which is awesome as well because it means one less stop!
The next best thing is that just a few steps away there was a spot for people to try on their shirts. I, of course, had to try mine on right away. I can’t have a shirt that doesn’t fit. I need to be able to show it off! If yours didn’t fit, you could go and exchange your shirt in just a few more steps. It was really nice to have everything for your packet in one area without having to make 15 stops along the way to get all your Disney goodies. Well played Disney!
Our next stop was to the Health and Fitness Expo. Almost everything that you might need for your race was available. One thing I will be sure to mention is that it is VERY busy and VERY crowded during the expo. If you are interested in getting the PRIME Disney merchandise/souvenir selection, then be sure to get to the expo early on the first day that it opens to get your Disney souvenirs. Literally, I witnessed one man have his shopping basket FULL of pins and magnets. There is no limit to buy on Disney racing souvenirs, so if collecting pins is a hobby for you, try to hook up with some other runners that are going on the first day if you can’t make it. I don’t know if they hold back souvenirs for each day, but based on the feeding frenzy that I witnessed, you better have what you want in your hands and don’t set it down!
One of the bonuses is that there are two Disney race merchandise areas in two separate halls, so if you are interested in getting a souvenir and it is out in one location, be sure to check the other location. When it was time to check out from the merchandise area, even though the line wrapped outside the booth and and down the row, the line moved very fast and the Disney staff was very organized to keep the lines moving.
After perusing the runDisney Merchandise area, it was onto the expo. Keep in mind that the expo is in two locations. If you are looking for running gear, massage systems, or just all around fun items (think tutus), there is all you can imagine. Be sure to head outside as well because there are vendors outside the exhibit halls, too. Located on the outside of the exhibit halls was the awesome, leather-smelling, Dooney & Bourke purses booth! You could smell the scent of the brand new, never been used leather as soon as you walked into the room. The great news was that you could purchase a purse even if you hadn’t pre-ordered one. I was worried that I might have missed the opportunity, but no worries! They had a location. I was able to go in and see the purses to see if I needed to purchase one. I like to see the purses first to be sure it is something I will actually USE. I am so glad that I walked around the outside vendors. I might have missed out on commemorating my vacation with an awesome purse!
The last stop we made was at the Disney Artists booth. I didn’t even know this existed. Right next to runner tracking signups are these great Disney character artists. For FREE (which as you know, very few things are free with Disney), the artists will draw a picture of you in a funny, cartoon-like manner. They are such phenomenal artists and to see what they draw is so fun! In speaking to them, they said that they work for Disney and do different Disney events. They are incredibly talented, and I was super-excited to get my own personal piece of Disney memorabilia.
So, what’s the secret? Get there early if at all possible and if you can, PLAN IT. If you are taking Disney Transportation (which is awesome by the way…no too small yellow school buses for runDisney people… charter baby, all the way), be on the first bus there! If you are an experienced expo-goer, try to plan out the booths that you want to go to first. It makes it much easier to navigate, and you don’t have to feel like a sardine in a feeding frenzy for long. If you are a first-timer, check out all the booths. It is pretty fun to see what is out there in the running world. If you forgot any items like me (who needs gus when you can pack your much needed Minnie ears!), it is easy to pick them up at the expo. However, if you desire a certain type/flavor of an item (nourishment/hydration), you may not be able to get your favorite one there. But at least you won’t be without an item that you need. Yay! Disney to my rescue!
Disney does A LOT of things right (transportation, navigation, people moving, friendliness, course support, etc). They are awesome about moving A TON of people around expertly. Think 30,000+ people over the course of 3 days! They have a variety of vendors for the expo, and they are fantastic about getting wonderful, friendly voluntEARS to help them. Be sure to say thank you to all the voluntEars and the workers at expo and at packet pick up. They will love you for it! If you have the chance to runDisney, DO IT! You won’t be sorry!
Suzanne Berkey is a Disney-loving, motivational speaking, running junkie. She is the chief writing officer aka “The Boss” of The Warrior Within Me blog. She uses her own personal 100lb. weight loss experience to guide others to find their own warrior within them. Why does she run? Because she is finally able to! Check her out at www.thewarriorwithinme.com.