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I’m sure you’ve heard some horror stories from the runDisney expos, but there is no need to panic! You won’t miss out on the merchandise you want, and you will be able to get everything you need in no time no matter what people on Facebook say about the lines being multiple hours long just to get an “I did it!” t-shirt.
I’ve been to more runDisney expos than races I’ve run with Disney. Living so close and being a runner means that it’s a great opportunity to check out the expo floor and see what new running gear is out, even if it’s the same few vendors every time because I do spot some cool new things with each expo and you never know what you’ll find! Plus, I always like to say hi to Jeff Galloway and see when some of the other local races are going on for the year. So, that being said, I’d consider myself a bit of a runDisney expo expert… so let me help you not stress before race day!
DO prioritize getting your bib first.
I know the runDisney merch is a huge deal (more on that later), but especially if you are in a rush, get your bib first! This way the most important thing you need is done and out of the way. Plus you get a nice big bag to go with your shirts - this is so that way you have a clear bag for bag check on race day should you need it - but it will be very handy to have as you do your expo shopping later. It’s a win-win!
DO set aside some money for the expo and establish some baselines before you head in.
I know this may seem like an obvious thing, but if you haven’t experienced a huge race expo before then it can be overwhelming and easy to impulse buy something! This is especially relevant for the main vendor hall rather than just the runDisney merchandise. With all sorts of cute shirts and cool gadgets available from limited edition Otterbox cases to foam rollers to a bunch of different sneakers, really make sure you know what you need and what you really want. This is a great opportunity to treat yourself to something new, whether it be a gadget or a costume piece for your race day outfit (as long as it’s nothing crazy; be sure to try it on so you know it won’t drive you nuts!) that you were hesitant to buy online.
DO take advantage of all the fun opportunities and freebies at the expo!
These may vary by expo, but more often than not I’ve been able to snag some free GoGo Squeeze applesauce pouches (which I’m hooked on), candy and Moon Pies from the Space Coast Half Marathon table, free samples of Daiya’s vegan pizza and Greek yogurt, free autographs from Jeff Galloway if you meet him (if you don’t have one of his books, he has little cards with info about his half marathon in Atlanta), a bag and 5K sticker from Geico (who has a slot machine style set up that determines your freebie), GIF photo opportunities, and more! There’s so much to do and see at the expos that it’s a shame to rush through the vendor hall just to get your bib and be on your merry way. Give yourself time to check everything out at the expo and see what’s out there; a lot of snacks that I like I’ve discovered thanks to runDisney!
Speaking of freebies and photo opportunities, DO check out what they have on the runDisney merchandise side!
Usually you can meet different characters where you can purchase the official runDisney merchandise and there will be separate non-character photo opportunities available as well. For example, at Wine and Dine 2018, Chef Mickey was meeting and you could also get a photo at the table where Lady and the Tramp shared that famous plate of pasta. For WDW Marathon Weekend in 2019, there was a photo op of a train backdrop with Oswald on top as if he was getting away with all the medals, and you could also meet Mickey in a tracksuit. For Princess weekend in 2018, Snow White and Princess Minnie Mouse met! While the lines can get kind of long, if you’re there early you can always ask a cast member what time they start and plan your day around that. It sure beats waiting at 4 a.m. and hoping you get a good spot in your corral, so it’s a great chance to get a special photo or a character to sign your bib if you are nervous about race day photo ops.
DO invest in a RFID guard for your cards if you don’t want to take out cash.
I’m not trying to fear-monger, but rather just help prevent what happened to me! At more than one runDisney expo, either I’ve been hit or a family member of mine has been… and we know it was from the expo because there were posts from other runners online saying they were positive it was at the expo. My mom even had a lady seemingly accidentally bump into her once, but then the lady wouldn’t back off… and wouldn’t you know, her card info was snagged! Unfortunately, card skimmers are going to be an issue at any event with a large crowd, and the runDisney expos are massive affairs. My fiance and I attend a lot of conventions, so he ordered a multipack of RFID blocking sleeves that are super thin so they won’t take up room in your wallet, and their paper material makes it easy to slip your card in and out. I’ve found these to be extremely helpful and always recommend carrying it or something like it when you’re going anywhere - I’ve had way less card issues ever since!
DON’T worry about getting there first thing on the first day of the expo!
Unless you’re running the first race of the weekend, it’s the day before, and you have no other time in your schedule to get over there, there is no need to worry about being the first in line. Even if you are in a rush because you need to pick your bib up before the race the next day and you can’t go in the afternoon, worry about the merchandise later. They’ve been way better about keeping plenty in stock the last few races in my experience (curse those eBay scalpers!) and every time I’ve gone to an expo in the afternoon after the morning rush dies down, there has still been plenty of merchandise available. Even at the 10th Anniversary for Princess Half Marathon, the only thing I saw fly off the shelves was one or two sizes of the Fairy Tale Challenge jackets. When I went to the WDW Marathon Weekend Expo in January 2019, they weren’t starting to sell out of the Dooney and Bourke purses until the last day and they had plenty of everything!
If you are very concerned about merchandise - I was for the Star Wars Dark Side weekend in 2018 since it was my first challenge, so I get it and have been there! - then DO consider pre-ordering merchandise.
It will save you a little money come expo time and while those nearly-$100 jackets may seem expensive, such is the reality of runDisney merchandise pricing. It is worth noting, however, that you don’t get to see the pre-order merch ahead of time, so if you worry about disliking the design then this may not be an option for you!
DON’T worry about food!
Didn’t snag a dining reservation but worried about having a healthy lunch before or after browsing around? There’s a quick service dining location at the ESPN complex that’s on your way out of the main vendor hall (and you can access it independently as well so you don’t have to go through the whole expo just to get there). I talk about my personal recommendations for Weight Watchers in my Restaurants Guide, but rest assured they will likely have something for you on their menu. The only food I would recommend bringing if you are being health-conscious or following a diet plan would be snacks (however, if you’re just enjoying yourself, then that’s not anything to be concerned with).
Ready for race day?
Good luck on the course! If you ever have any questions, feel free to leave a comment or send me a message - I'd be more than happy to help ease your pre-race (or pre-race expo) jitters!