Disneyland Half Marathon EXPO 2013 Recap: A Dumbo Debacle

2013 Disneyland Half Marathon Logo

Dear Disney, I regret to inform you that this was hands down the most stressful and disorganized EXPO I’ve ever attended.

In this detailed recap, I will outline how this EXPO earned the “Dumbo Debacle” title, how RunDisney can improve future Disneyland Half Marathon weekends (since I have no idea if this experience is a regular occurrence at ALL Disney events) and how you runners or fast walkers looking to do your first Disney race can learn from my experience. Feel free to skip to the end for summaries on Disney improvents and tips for future Disney participants since this is a lengthy post.

Parking

Problems started just after we (mom, grandma and I) got off the freeway. We were attempting to go to Downtown Disney (DD) to park, but were redirected to pass the entry to DD from Katella Avenue (heading north on Disneyland Dr since we were coming from the south), all the way PAST the entrance to do a U turn at Ball Rd.  Only entrance was off Disneyland Dr south bound. Plus lots of people were cutting the R hand turn only lane, creating lots of traffic to get into DD. Once there, they handed out parking tickets and gave us an additional 10 minutes to the actual ‘start’ time of the ticket, I suppose as an attempt to expedite the process instead of using the machines. HOWEVER, people were just driving around and around trying to get a spot. Why they couldn’t just tell us it was full and direct us to the parking structure I do not understand. Fortunately we lucked out and found a spot after 5 minutes (with some issue).

EXPO

Bib Pickup

UTTER CHAOS! HIGH HEAT + NO SHADE + NO LINE ORGANIZATION left us to comiserate with people around us about the chaotic situation.  NO queues composed of temporary line dividers to create a maze for people to wait in an organized manner. Instead, there were multiple lines converging to the bib pick up below the EXPO (underground parking lot).   There were about 3 people making a poor attempt to direct lines, but there was NO enforcement and NO coordination to even try to remedy the multiple line situation.  Once we got closer to going underground, there was a 1/2″ faint green tape ‘maze’ on the white concrete to delineate a queue (like people couldn’t easily cut that way or even see such a faint color on a bright day).  The worst part was that nobody had any idea we would be standing in the sun for so long.  One woman left a comment on my FB page in response to my disappointment in the bib pick up line that she had her 5 month with her and that it was hard to keep him shaded and hydrated while in line. Ridiculous!

Bib Pickup

Once we got underground, I headed straight to my bib range booth and the lady told me I had to go to Runner Relations first in order to change my corral number, which didn’t make sense because online it said to pick up my bib before doing that. After I got into the long Runner Relations line and talked to an official lady walking by, she told me I had to pick up my bib first! JEEZ!!! I went back and told the volunteer an official person working told me I had to pick it up first and only then did I finally get my bib.  Apparently not all the volunteers had been informed of the correct process. It wouldn’t have been so bad on its own (since my bib pick up line wasn’t long), but it just added to the day….At least my mom and grandma held my Runner Relations spot in line 🙂

GOOD NEWS is that I moved up from Corral F to Corral C!!!! Woot Woot! Yay for my awesome Big Sur 9 miler time, I made that corral by 2.5 minutes! There is not a chance I’ll finish under 2:25:00 but at least I can start earlier!! THAT line was WORTH the wait!

Shirt Pickup

Shirt Pickup

After the bib pickup, we had to walk back up a different ramp and head straight to the back of the EXPO to pick up the shirt.  I ordered a S, not realizing it was unisex, so the shirt itself is too big and the head hole is barely large enough to fit my head through, I don’t understand the sizing on that…. They did have a shirt exchange booth, but they ran out of XS long before I even received my shirt. Fortunately my mom has a surger sewing machine and she can taper in the sides and make it a Vneck for me! The length is a bit on the long side, but I’d rather have it too long than too short, so the length will stay the same.  We all joked after we were driving back that my mom should bring her surger to the event on Sunday and charge $5 to get their shirts altered! Most of the participants are women anyway and would appreciate it!

The EXPO

First thing I did after I got my shirt (and found out I couldn’t exchange it for a smaller size) was hit up the Sweaty Bands booth to get myself a 13.1 headband! I chose red with white polka dots with 13.1 in small black lettering 🙂 Then we wandered around. Next stop, Pro Compression. My mom bought a pair of sleeves and a pair of Marathon socks for a smoking hot deal! Some people were wearing flashing lights that go on shoes and my grandma was drawn to them, so we went to the Nite Beams booth to pick up some items.  She ended up purchasing some of those flashing shoe lights, flashing shoe laces and batteries. My mom bought a neon yellow cap that has LED lights imbedded in the front of the bill and red lights on the velcro adjustment for early morning walks. We also walked around to get some free samples, Cliff bars, Jelly Bean Sport Beans and my mom won a free bag for answering a question correctly! Plus she picked up a 13.1 sticker for me!

Big Sur Marathon MedalsI noticed that Big Sur Marathon had a booth promoting their events in both April and November and decided to head over to the lonely looking rep and tell him how AWESOME and EFFICIENT the Big Sur EXPO was in April.  The whole Disney experience has made me greatly appreciate previous EXPO events even more… I also informed him that I prefer the fit of their shirts and the material because they are lighter (Asics makes the shirts).  For the price of Big Sur (also a costly race) I feel like I got more for my money, experience and all.

Official Disney Merchandise: First of all, I had no desire to get any Official merchandise (I’m on a budget), which is a good thing since people had to wait HOURS in line just to pay (1-2+ hrs). Plus most of the stuff was picked through in a few hours (according to anecdotal information from people who went to the EXPO first).

The Loot

Disney EXPO Loot

*****

Summary

Seriously, this experience has made me reconsider doing Run Disney events in the future.  I do understand there is a learning curve, as I have gleaned MUCH from this experience, but the bottom line is that it was a mess.  Truly I am thankful that my grandma and mom were there because I would have flipped a s*** otherwise. This is the 8th year this event has been offered and I have no idea if this is a regular type of experience or not, but I hope this was the exception rather than the rule… I was stressed nearly the entire time from waiting in so many lines and we were all just SO exhausted afterward. Hopefully those doing Dumbo Saturday morning have enough time to recover!!! And I’m PRAYING race day is more coordinated!!!

Suggested Disney Improvements

  1. Traffic: Inform people that have to drive to the EXPO that you will be redirecting traffic to enter from Ball ONLY on the online RunDisney information.
  2. Parking: Tell us that the Downtown Disney parking lot is full. Or offer us an equivalent alternative for parking with validation in the parking structure for EXPO participants only (rather than paying daily rate).
  3. Line Organization: You are EXPERTS in the park for dealing with lines, apply the same logic and methods for the EXPO rather than letting hundreds of people try to figure out what is going on (temporary line queue mazes PLEASE).
  4. PROVIDE SHADE for the parts of the line that are in the sun, or WARN us in RunDisney Information for EXPO weekend that participants may be subject to waiting in hours in the sun and to bring a hat and sunscreen.
  5. Shirts: Offer female AND male shirts, so sizing is less of an issue (though I heard this may already go into effect in 2014 and beyond, if so THANK YOU!)
  6. Run Disney Merchandise: Instead of having limited staff and creating 2 hour purchasing waits, INVEST in purchase devices via smart phones with an app/device like Square. People can pay either at designated registers or go up to people working in certain areas of the Official Run Disney area. Make booths within the area like the EXPO and have people pay on the spot using smart phones. Or something! Maybe offer official run disney merchandise online available for pre order/pay and just pick up at the EXPO!
  7. Better Location: Having the park open, Downtown Disney open, offering an inaugural race, having limited parking for all those things and small exhibit hall that can’t accomodate a great flood of people, please just have it at the Anaheim Convention Center across the street. It would have solved some of the aforementioned issues at least.
  8. Limit Registration: If you can’t accommodate this many people, make the event smaller.

Tips for future Disney Participants

  1. Be patient.
  2. Bring a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen and water because you never know…
  3. EXPO first: if you want official merchandise, skip the bib and shirt pickup and get your official stuff as fast as possible.
  4. Less Wait: if you are only interested in picking up your bib and shirt, wait at least 4 hours after the start of the EXPO. It was less chaotic by then.

Anyone else go through a similar EXPO experience? Any other tips for new Disney participants?

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6 thoughts on “Disneyland Half Marathon EXPO 2013 Recap: A Dumbo Debacle

  1. Sorry you had so many issues:( we stayed on site last year so I never had to deal with parking.
    I do not recall having to wait outside for anything either. We went inside and got our bibs and all.
    The merchandise lines are always long and crazy at RunDisney events. We just always end up coming back to the expo around dinner time if there is anything I want to get.
    Hope the race is great! Wear sunglasses for sure!

    • Good to know its not the norm, I was hoping that wasn’t the case because my mom and I were thinking of doing the 5k with the Tinkerbell events in January. There will be another inaugural event that weekend as well….the Tinkerbell 10k. Hopefully they learn from the madness this time around! At least they will have a 3 day expo that weekend: Thurs, Fri and Sat since the 5k will be Friday morning. And I’ll be sure to bring my sunglasses!

  2. Sorry to hear you had such a bad experience and I really hope it doesn’t completely turn you off from Disney races! I’ve done a lot of them and I have never seen anything like yesterday morning. I think everyone just decided to come right when it opened and they got really overwhelemed! I’ve always found their expos to be very organized so it was a surprise to see the disaster yesterday.

    • I’m less annoyed this morning, since the experience is over, lol, but it was definitely stressful yesterday since it took us about 2 hours just to get a bib, change corrals and pick up my shirt. Normally I like to get to expos early, but maybe when there are inaugural events I’ll wait until later to go. As long as the race event goes smoothly tomorrow, I’ll be more inclined to do another 🙂

  3. I have done all of the Disney halfs and totally agree with your assessment. It was crowded, unpleasant, staff was rude, and generally a big disappointment. I was making similar comments as yours as I walked through the expo. The expo cost for the vendors is outrageous and this limits the expo participants to primarily big companies. The fun of an expo is seeing all of the “little” businesses. This years fees were so high And didnt get my money’s worth at ll. Sure was a disappointment. Sorry Disney, you lost your magic this year!

    • Yes, Disney totally dropped the ball on this one and was wholly unprepared for a great flood of crowds on Friday. My mom and I were thinking of doing Tink 5k (before this experience) and I would HOPE that they learned from this event to have some sort of crowd control opening day of the expo since they are adding new events to that weekend as well. Even though the expo was disappointing, I was at least grateful I didn’t run into any issues race day. How did your race go?

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