The pre-race health and fitness expo is a necessary part of each race. Runners must pick up their bibs, their race packets and any race merchandise they may want to purchase at the Expo, normally held for two days prior to the race. I am not a runner, but I have attended two pre-race Expos with my daughter for her to pick up her necessary items – one at Walt Disney World® and one at Disneyland®. To say these Expos are an over-whelming experience is an understatement!
I briefly discussed my first experience at a pre-race Expo held at Walt Disney World for the last Princess Half Marathon in a previous post – runDisney ChEAR Sqaud. I stated in the post that I was overwhelmed by the experience.That Expo was held at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort in the ball room. That experience was heaven compared to my more recent experience at the pre-race Expo held in Disneyland for the Disneyland Half Marathon and the Dumbo Double Dare Challenge!
The pre-race Health and Fitness Expo held at Walt Disney World, although crowded, was well organized, efficient, sufficiently staffed – a well-oiled machine! We arrived, picked up my ChEAR Squad packet, picked up my daughter’s race packet, shopped and were gone from Coronado Springs within 1.5 hours – most of this time spent shopping. Check out lines were handled efficiently and quickly. Since this was my only experience attending a pre-race Expo, this is what I expected would happen at Disneyland – to say I was disappointed, over-whelmed, exhausted and totally amazed at the behavior of some people and this pre-race Expo, would be an understatement!
We all understand that Disneyland does not have the benefit of space that Walt Disney World has – however, they were well away of the number of runners that MUST go to the Expo. They are well aware that few runners travel alone – they often come with friends and family which adds significantly to the numbers. If your space is limited maybe someone should have thought that it might have been a good idea to be a little more strict with who enters the Expo – let runners ONLY in between certain hours so they can pick up their race packets quickly and efficiently without hours waiting in line only to learn they then have to move to another line in a different part of the building! – limit number of people that come in with each runner – the suggestions are endless on how Disneyland could have handled the most recent Expo in a much more efficient manner. I actually spoke to a runDisney representative at one point that told me “we never expected this number of people and aren’t prepared to handle it” – are you kidding me???? They know how many people are registered for the races – and that most are not there alone – why would you be unprepared for that number of people?
And, I ask you this – what the heck does people pushing and shoving to buy merchandise have to do with Health and Fitness – the name of each runDisney pre-race Expo – Health and Fitness Expo? I guess if you come out in one piece you are considered healthy and you get a good physical fitness work out fighting through the crowd! Let’s call them what they are folks – I have been to two – yes, there are a few great booths for the health conscientious and yes there are a few seminars for runners – but basically they are a place for people to spend money – lots of money!
Here is how our morning went on Expo day:
- Get in line at 8:15 a.m. (already hundreds ahead of us) for the Expo that opens at 10:00 a.m. When the doors open and we finally make our way into the expo merchandise area (less than half the size of the merchandise area at WDW last February with the same number of runners) the crowd is shoulder to shoulder.
- Within seconds I lose my daughter and both friends – I find my way to a rack of runDisney car magents and within 2 minutes I am pushed, shoved and practically knocked over for a car magnet! I watch with amazement as people grab handfuls of car magnets as if their life depends on it. I continue to look for my daughter – and find she was smart enough to make her way to a rack of shirts to choose one and immediately got in the check-out line.
- The endless check-out line – we waited approximately 30 minutes – by the time we checked out – the people behind us were in a check out line that lasted 3 to 4 hours. While waiting in line to check out, I watch a woman at the check-out counter have the Cast Member bring her ALL the runDisney Dooney and Bourke handbags from the rack. The woman proceeds to check ” placement” on each bag for the entire 30 minutes we are in line. The woman proceeds to buy 12 runDisney Dooney and Bourke handbags – now, don’t get me wrong – she could very well have been purchasing these for friends, for Christmas gifts, for any number of reasons – however, chances are all 12 of those handbags were on eBay that night – this woman was not a runner – this woman bought all the handbags and left none for a runner to purchase as a momento of their trip.
- I watched several people grab Dumbo Double Dare shirts off the rack by the handful – not one look at size – no Dumbo Double Dare shirts left on the rack for a runner to purchase as a memento of their accomplishment – the crowd of people feverishly buying these items in bulk (no doubt in my mind for re-sale) forced Disneyland to have to close the merchandise area for several hours to re-stock because the crowds would not let them through with new merchandise.
Now 2.5 hours into the process, we still had to pick up race packets on the opposite end of the room. It took 30 minutes to snake our way through the crowds to – guess what – more lines to pick up bibs. These lines moved fairly quickly, however, we then had to move outside into another line that snaked into the basement of the Disneyland Hotel to pick up packets. After what seemed like an eternity we made our way into the basement and were confronted by even more lines based on bib number. After about another 30 minutes the group decided we would try to come back later for packets hoping the crowds would die down. We didn’t feel this was a problem since the Expo would be opened all day. Well, another surprise – they would not allow us to leave unless we picked up the packets. We were told it’s now or never! Are you kidding me? They actually held us hostage and refused to let us leave telling us that if the packets were not picked up now – we would not be able to get them. So, again we wait in line only to be told that once done here, we now needed to go pack upstairs to claim the remaining piece of the runner packet puzzle – ARE YOU KIDDING ME?????
At this point I tell my daughter and friend that I refuse to go through the process of waiting in another line – I’m going to sit at a table outside of Goofy’s Kitchen – come find me when you are done! I buy a cup of coffee, have a 20 minute phone conversation with my husband, chat with people at other tables and an hour later – here they come – finally done! It is now 12:30 – just over 4 hour process to just get their necessary race items – would we have liked to shop for more race merchandise – absolutely – but impossible!
So, we all now know that based on this last experience, I will never go to another pre-race runDisney Expo! If for no other reason than to leave at least one space free for those that have to be there and deserve to be there. We also know that Disneyland can take some serious lessons from Walt Disney World when it comes to the organization and efficient running of the Expo – perhaps using the Anaheim Convention Center DIRECTLY ACROSS THE STREET would be the first step to having enough room to handle the number of runners. Perhaps limiting the number of non-running people that come to the Expo with a runner would also be a good idea – perhaps setting a limit on the number of items purchased so that everyone that has stood in line for hours has the same opportunity to purchase a momento would be a good idea! Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps – the suggestions are endless – perhaps (hopefully!) Disneyland will learn from this experience! Not sure why I felt over-whelmed at the Expo for the Princess Half Marathon in February – compared to my last experience in Disneyland – it was a piece of cake!