Here's where the excitement really starts to build! Depending on when you get down to Disney, you'll be hitting the race expo up to 3 days prior to your race.
For the newbies, almost every big race has a health and fitness expo prior to race day. It's usually located in a big auditorium and most importantly it's where you will finally pick up your race packet which will include your bib number and any last minute information that you need. Disney holds their Florida race expos at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex and Disneyland has theirs at the Disneyland Hotel. If the race is big enough (and Disney certainly is!) there will usually be lectures and famous guest speakers focusing on health and fitness as well as giving words of wisdom and encouragement for your big day. The expo also has a bunch of vendors selling all kinds of merchandise ranging from official race shirts, other running apparel, running gear, running food, etc. It's pretty much a shopaholic runners dream, so either bring your credit card....or make sure you leave it at home if you want to make sure you don't spend a million dollars!
The hours usually are the same over the years so just to get an idea, the 2011 WDW Marathon Weekend Expo hours were:
Thursday, January 6, 2011 from 10:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Friday, January 7, 2011 from 9:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Saturday, January 8, 2011 from 10:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m
** Packet Pick-Up will NOT be available on race morning! **
Transportation to the Expo:
For WDW January Marathon Weekend, since this race is so big, there are no specific 'host' resorts that you must stay at. Transportation will be provided from EACH Walt Disney World Resort every 20 minutes beginning a half an hour prior to the expo opening and will continue until half an hour after it closes. Most expo buses are located out by the normal theme park buses at each hotel. To be sure though, ask a Cast Member before heading out.
The other races (Princess, Wine & Dine) are smaller so there are specific resorts that offer free transportation. For 2010 Wine & Dine, the host hotels were all 3 All Stars, both Port Orleans, the Boardwalk Inn, the Beach Club, and Old Key West). Be sure to check the runDisney site for each race to see which resorts provide transportation during the smaller race weekends!
Guests not staying on property will need to provide their own transportation. Take 1-4 to exit 65 (Osceola Parkway West). Take a left onto Victory Way and park in the main lot. Proceed on foot to the main entrance.
Disneyland races have the benefit of everything being so close together. Many hotels will offer transportation but with everything in close proximity to Disneyland, most runners just walk.
First stop on your to-do list should be picking up your packet. Packet Pick-Up and the world-class Speaker Series is located in the HP Field House (formerly the Milk House) at the ESPN Wide World of Sports. If you can, try to get to the expo as early as possible because it DOES get slightly crazy! Last year we got there a little before opening and the line was already wrapped around the building!
|Waiting on line to get in and pick up our packets!|
To get your packet, make sure to bring a photo ID and your signed waiver. If by some chance you loose your waiver or forget to print it out, no need to worry. They do have a few computers and printers that runners can use...
|Not that Nate 'forgot' his waiver or anything....|
Once in the HP Field House you'll head downstairs to the main floor to pick up your packet. The floor is divided by race...half marathon on one side, full marathon on the other. There's also smaller areas for the 5k and kids races. Find your correct side and then find the correct booth according to your bib number (which you can find on your waiver!). The volunteer helping you will check your ID, have you sign out your packet, and then give you a big envelope that contains your official race bib, D-Tag (the tiny orange band you have to put on your shoe so that your time is tracked along the course), safety pins, and some other last minute information. If you ordered a commemorative pin when you registered for the race, this is also where you would pick this up.
|Looking down onto the main level of the HP Field House|
If you want to try to move up in corrals, this building is where you'll do it too. Make sure you have a print out of race results for a 10k or longer race and bring it to the Runner Relations booth (I think that's what it's officially called). A volunteer will take a look at your time and adjust your corral accordingly, if applicable. A sticker will be placed on your bib stating the correct corral that you should be in.
Also seen in the photo above, smack in the middle of the floor, is a TINY area that sells official Disney race merchandise . I HIGHLY recommend waiting and don't buy anything just yet. Most of the official race items are for sale in this tiny area but I remember there being a lot more selection when you go into the main part of the expo.
On your way out of the HP Field House, make sure to pass over the D-Tag testing mat. Pretty sure you can't avoid it so don't worry about missing it. As you walk over the mat, a computer will read your D-Tag and your information will appear on the computer to make sure that it is working correctly for race day.
Next stop on the agenda is the Jostens Center where the main part of the expo is held....also known as Shoppers Paradise. :) But before you start running up and down the vendor aisles, there's still some Disney details you need to finish! You already have your race bib but...what about the fabulous official race t-shirt and goody bag?
Take a look at the expo map and all the Disney stuff is on the right side of the map...(This is the general layout for every expo)
|Sorry you cant really read it but just wanted to give you a rough layout!|
To pick up the shirt and goody bag, go to the correct area (half marathon or full marathon) and then go into the correct line according to the size shirt you ordered. Another volunteer will had you the official shirt as well as the bag.
Two years ago we were given those spiffy blue mesh bags that you see the couple holding in the photo. The previous few races however, we were only given a dinky clear plastic bag with the runDisney logo on it. KEEP whatever bag they give you...this is the bag that you need to use for bag check on race day!
Inside the bag is some basic free running swag. I think last year we got a sample of KT Tape, Powerbar Gels, free music downloads, lots of flyers for upcoming races around the country, and I'm sure a few other things that I'm forgetting about already. Don't expect anything amazing!
Now that you've gotten all of the mandatory things out of the way.... start wandering!!! I know it's impossible to read on the map I posted but all of those little squares are vendors...either selling merchandise, informing you of upcoming races, doing demonstrations, taste tests, etc. You can easily get lost in there for hours and come out a few hundred dollars poorer. I usually head to the official Disney merchandise first and then make my way through the vendors.
Any and EVERYTHING that you would need or want will be at this expo. The items range from sneakers, inserts, running skirts, Garmins, energy supplements, headbands, jackets, stickers, etc, etc, etc. Most of the vendors do take credit card payments. I didn't come across any that didn't but I'm not 100% sure. So you might want to take some cash with you. For Disney official merchandise, be sure to ask if there's an Annual Pass discount at all. Last year it was 20% off! Wine & Dine also offered 20% off for Annual Pass holders.
Just wander, have a great time, and soak up the energy! The whole expo has a great electricity about it.
If you want to go listen to any of the speakers that are scheduled, you will have to head back over to the HP Field House where you originally picked up your bib. That's where the stage and seating is set up. Some of the speakers this year are Jeff Galloway, the Hoyt's, and John Bingham.
If you can't pick up your packet yourself:
If you're taking a late flight and/or can't attend packet pick-up for one reason or another, someone will have to pick up your stuff for you. Here's what they'll need:
1. His/Her Photo ID (they have to sign their name for your packet)
2. Photocopy of your driver’s license or Photo ID
3. Your signed waiver
4. Your signed Packet Pick-Up Authorization Form (found on the 'Event Details' page of the runDisney site for each specific race)
Whew! I think that might be everything I can think of to get you ready for the expo! Did I leave anything out?