If you’re new to racing, or new to runDisney racing, everything can seem confusing and overwhelming. You might be worried about which corral you’re assigned to (or even confused about why people are so worked up about it), how you’re going to get to the race and race events, how to put your bib on, and what the Expo is and what you do there.
The Expo at a runDisney race is typically held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports (for WDW races) or at a resort hotel. A runDisney Expo has three main areas:
The packet pickup area is almost always in a separate room or section. This is where you’ll go to pick up your “packet” which consists of your bib, race instructions, wrist bands for special events (race retreat, post race party, Coast to Coast, challenges, etc) and your race shirt.
You’ll need to bring your waiver with you which you can get from the runDisney website a few weeks before the event. If you forget it, there will be kiosks with computers and printers where you print out another copy. You’ll also need a photo ID. Your waiver will have your bib number printed on it, you’ll need that number to know which booth to go to (the number ranges above are bib numbers). At that booth, you’ll get your bib, race instructions and pre-purchased pins. Sometimes you get your wristbands for special events there, sometimes there are separate booths for that. You need to make sure you know which wristbands to expect so you don’t leave the expo without getting them.
You’ll need to repeat this process for every race you’re running (5k, 10k, half, full, kids races). For the kids races, you’ll need a printed and signed waiver, but your ID is fine, you don’t need a birth certificate (although if your child’s last name is different from yours, it might be a good idea to bring a copy just in case you get a difficult volunteer).
After you get your bib, pins and wristbands, you’ll head over to the race shirt pickup area. That area is separated by race and then by gender and shirt size. You’ll need to pick up the shirt size you signed up for, but if it doesn’t fit, you can usually (if they have sizes available) exchange it for a different size at the Size Exchange table.
You’ll also get a big clear plastic bag and a sticker with your bib number on it. These two items are for you to use if you’ll be checking a bag on race day at the race start. You can also use the bags to carry everything you get at the Expo, but they aren’t very easy to carry. And if you’re running multiple races, you’ll end up with a lot of them. Either knot up the strings so you can sling it over your shoulder, or plan ahead and bring your own bag (I like to use the string bags from prior races). I do save all those clear plastic bags for future trips because they are excellent for packing dirty and/or wet clothes for the trip home.
Whew, now the work is done and it’s time for fun!
The rest of the Expo is all shopping and fun. The runDisney official merchandise area can be absolutely crazy depending on when you go. When it is very crowded, they will control the number of people they allow into the area to shop and will set up a line to wait in right outside. The line-up area is usually marked with tape on the floor.
This is where you can get things like the “I Did It” t-shirts, race themed bondibands, magnets, shirts, jackets, pins, wine glasses, mugs… Pretty much any souvenir that you can imagine. Sometimes the runDisney Dooney & Bourke purses are in this area (although at Princess last year they were in a separate room). Some items go very quickly (the Dooney purses and the jackets tend to go first). Most other items are restocked regularly so you may want to check back if something you want is missing. Prepare for sticker shock, everything in the Official Merchandise area is expensive ($80 for a jacket, $40 for a tshirt). While there are no bargains, some of the splurges are worth it; I know I love my jacket from Tink even though it was painful to pay for.
Take your time, be patient and try not to get overwhelmed. While they do control the number of people who go into the official merchandise area, they do not make you leave after one circuit or after a certain amount of time so don’t feel rushed. Photos of the official merchandise are often released the week of the race, so you may be able to decide in advance what items are most important to you. If there is an item that is a must have for you, you may want to brave the crowds and get there early.
One tip is that if you have an annual pass, you can get a discount on items in this area so make sure to bring it with you! Disney gift cards are also accepted in this area (but not in the rest of the Expo).
And this is the rest of the expo. All the other vendors. New Balance is a major vendor and if you want the highly desired runDisney New Balance shoes you’ll need to keep an eye on the pre-race announcements because the procedures change from race to race.
Other vendors usually include running watches, sunglasses, bondibands, sweaty bands, Another Mother Runner, Raw Threads, Jeff Galloway, medal holders, race photography, jewelry, fuel, running stores, sparkle skirts, compression socks… Pretty much everything you can think of is going to be there. The first step is to check out the Expo map. There is usually a map in the race instructions and also posted in the Expo.
I consistently get lost at the Expo, so this map is the only thing that has saved me in the past. Most vendors are set up to take credit cards (and cash of course). This area can be very overwhelming, overstimulating and very very very crowded. Again, give yourself plenty of time. Leave the family at the hotel if you can. Be patient and polite and try not to get too frustrated! It can be a lot of fun if you go in with the right attitude. One other tip is to set yourself a budget in advance!
The vendor area is a great place to discover and try out new products. So many brands of clothing fit differently that it’s great to be able to either try them on (some places like sparkleskirts have little booths to try items on) or at least hold them up and examine the material and general size before buying. Some vendors provide Expo discounts or samples. If you think you may purchase a photo package, buying in advance at the Expo can get you a good deal.
While those are the main areas of the Expo, there is even more to explore. Every day of the Expo there is a series of speakers. Jeff Galloway is one of my favorites but every speaker I’ve heard has been motivational, educational or inspirational. A schedule is posted in the Expo and is often in the race instructions. Make sure to check it out!
There are often areas set up to take fun photos too!
You can also check out the runDisney booth to see medals for the race weekend and for some upcoming races!
Are you exhausted yet? And the race hasn’t even started! To summarize, my biggest tips for a runDisney expo are:
- Bring your waiver, ID, annual pass (if you have one), credit cards or cash and a budget!
- Plan ahead and decide which booths you want to visit and which speakers you want to hear.
- Leave the family at home.
- Be patient, try not to get overwhelmed and be polite.
- The majority of the people working at the Expo are volunteers so make sure to thank them!