If you are participating in the current Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend at Disneyland, in any capacity, congratulations to you. runDisney, the powers behind these events, do an extraordinary job of tying together otherwise grueling fitness events, the Disney Resorts and wildly popular themeing from popular culture. Everything surrounding your race, visit and vacation will be wonderful. That is, unless you commit the one sin that can detract from your own otherwise wholly delightful experience: approaching the Health & Fitness Expo unprepared.
In terms of securing total enjoyment, Disney requires very little of you. A little patience, sure, a bit of disposable income, but as far as entertainment goes, you almost have to try to have a bad time. runDisney weekends run (see what we did there) essentially the same way. Okay, you’re going to need a little extra patience, as these festivities are very well attended. And you have to get up obscenely early the morning of your race. But the course design, the ChEAR squad, the amenities; all you do is show up and have an unbelievable experience.
Then there’s the Expo. No amount of exceptional Disney-patented organization seems to mitigate the potential, and often realized, pitfall that is the bib and participant t-shirt retrieval. Walt Disney World events have their own confluence of unavoidable difficulties. The following are specific to the Disneyland Hotel Exhibition Hall:
First, do not give yourself one single tiny window in which to get your stuff. When you arrive at the Expo on Friday, mid-morning, and find complete human gridlock, your best option is to come back later. If your itinerary does not allow for you to come back, it is not the fault of the poor Cast Member assigned to direct people who refuse to read the seven to ten signs that would have saved them a lot of trouble. If you come back later, chances are there will be fewer people. If you can’t, join the crush of humanity. At the very least, this will help prepare you for the corral experience that awaits you in the morning.
Second, do not get into the first line you see. On the top level, enticingly near the front entrance, are the lines to register for Runner Tracking. This is an enjoyable addition to the race experience, but if you queue up thinking this is where you get your bib, shirt, pins or any of the other stuff you came for, you are going to be as disappointed as the other thousand people who aren’t listening to the kids trying to tell you you are in the wrong place.
Most importantly, try to enjoy yourself. Everything Disney does, everything they put their hands to, and everything around you is rigidly tailored to provide happiness. Take intentional advantage of that. Negotiating the admittedly crowded convention hall can get frustrating. If you let it, it can get positively unpleasant. Don’t let it. Remember you are surrounded by people with whom you share an interest; people who are purposely engaged in an activity you all enjoy. Then, lining every wall are booths bursting with stuff to make the whole thing easier and even more spectacular. And a lot of it’s free.
Grab a CLIF Bar, try on some new shoes, shop for authentic runDisney merchandise, if there’s any left. Let the crowd take you where it will and explore the place. A special and shameless mention goes to the wonderful people at Dr. Cool athletic apparel and accessories. Stumbling upon them quite at random, at the 2013 Walt Disney World Wine & Dine Half Marathon, is the reason I give for being able to run at all. Having suffered a serious foot injury, I once lost all interest in distance running, if not the actual ability. I am no doctor, and you want to consult yours if recovering from your own physical misfortune, but without Dr. Cool compression wraps I never would have tried racing again. The thought of how close I came to letting something as incredible as runDisney slip out of my life frightens me to tears. You may not find anything as life-shaping as this as you tour the Health & Fitness Expo, but you might. Read over the above tips again, and give yourself a good chance.