All runDisney race weekends start with a trip to the Health & Fitness Expo. Kristin Cooke is here to take us on a tour of this year’s Princess Half Marathon Weekend Expo and fills us in on all the ins and outs…including some stories from the craziness at opening!
I heard lots of stories from opening morning of the Expo. One girl had a wine glass taken out of her hand and the person ran away right after. A man stood in the checkout line with 3 different boxes of merchandise. Some girls were throwing wine glasses at each other and they broke. Apparently, there was a crush at the jacket table.
Luckily, I didn’t get in town until later Thursday night. So, I headed over to the Expo first thing Friday morning. My sister drove from the resort and we had no problem getting in and parked. We ended up in a gravel lot to the right of the main area.
We walked to the HP Field House to get our packets. The set up was slightly different this year. All packet pickups were on the ground floor. Since I was doing the Glass Slipper Challenge, I picked up my bib and immediately got my picture taken.
I also got my pre-ordered necklace and GSC pin at the same place. In a separate area, I picked up my race retreat bracelet. My sister got her 10k packet in a second area. The shirts for the Glass Slipper were also in this area. After picking up everything, we followed the directions to the Dooney & Bourke pre-purchase area. I had ordered the shopper purse (the largest one) before they even showed the pattern. They dressed up the hallways with princess silhouettes and topiaries. There was no line for the pre-purchased items at all.
The Dooneys were in their own location. I walked right up and got my bag. I think it looks great. I love this pattern. It’s close enough to the original but not too childish to take to work. I had not pre-purchased any other items. There was a tape queue line on the floor. However, no one was in line.
Next to the pre-order area was an official merchandise area. It had a nice selection of items. The only thing that was completely sold out that I noticed was the Princess wine glasses. They had runDisney ones, but no Princess ones. Next to the Official Merchandise was the Dooney & Bourke area. I was surprised to see there were still Dooneys for sale. Either they had a lot more stock this year, or a lot of people disagreed with me about the pattern.
After we finished browsing the official merchandise, we went over to the Jostens Center to the main Expo area. I love browsing Raw Threads and Sparkle Skirts for their latest offerings. They always have a large selection at the Expo. We kept going to the back so my sister could pick up her 10k shirt. The non-challenge shirts are all picked up here. They also had a shirt exchange. There was another section of official merchandise in this area. The offerings we almost identical to what was in the HP Field House.
Right outside the official merchandise was Jeff Galloway. He was promoting his half marathon in Atlanta and the virtual option which could be used while running the Princess half. I had to stop and get my picture with him. He really is a nice guy.
We also tried the samples of different Luna bars. Most of them were really tasty. We saw some other booths doing wheel spins and other giveaways, but didn’t stop. While my roommate picked up some socks from Fit2Run, I wandered back to the New Balance area.
I knew there was a virtual queue for shoes. I was hoping to pick up a pair for my daughter. I bought my son a pair a year ago at the inaugural Star Wars race. After talking to a man at the entrance, he went to the back to look for my daughter’s size. If I had wanted them for myself, I would have needed to register for the queue. Luckily, he found the Ariel shoes for my daughter. I also got the flounder clip-ons at the register. The New Balance area wasn’t too crowded. I think the virtual queue has really helped with that.
I went back to find my roommate and sister. The one other thing I wanted was the discount from MarathonFoto. After consulting the map in the event guide, we realized we would have to go back to the HP Field House. Last year, they had booths in both places. I guess they consolidated this year. As we made our way back, we noticed the crowd was starting to build. Luckily, I was able to go right up to a tablet and purchase the certificate. It was not as good of a deal as last year, but $75 for a $100 certificate is still good. They did have a wait when I was finished as they only had 3 working tablets.
We decided to grab a bite to eat at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Grille. I ended up with chicken nuggets, fries, and a Coke Zero in a bottle as the fountain wasn’t working. They did have a pasta special for the runners which my sister ordered. They were not crowded this year. We were slightly earlier than normal lunch crowd at 11, but there were only 4 other tables in use. Last year it was packed and overflowing. The food was pretty good. The staff were wonderful and cleared our empty plates for us. When we were finished, we went back to our car.
Leaving the ESPN Wide World of Sports, although slightly confusing, was not hard. They had officers directing traffic at the exit. It was frustrating watching them talk to people in vehicles while we waited, but overall it was not bad.
Having not been to the Expo on Thursday morning, I did not see the worst part. In my experience, the Expo was better than last year and the merchandise (aside from the Princess wine glasses) seemed to be well stocked. There were even Dooneys left! I hope they learn from the Thursday fiasco and make changes for next year. Although it will never happen, having the first day for runners only might help. (RAD note: This is a really good idea!) Also, allowing runners to pre-order more items could take some of the pain away. I truly believe most of the bad behavior comes from resellers. Thursday’s issues aside, I think it was a well-run Expo with lots of good vendors.
Kristin Cooke is a running mother of 2 who loves Disney. She is a Database Administrator by profession and started running in 2012 to get in shape after her second baby. Running has become her social activity and stress relief.
You can read about Kristin’s races on her blog and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.