It’s Disneyland Half Weekend

Well, the race is over now (or at least it should be…), but it’s been this weekend. Two years ago, I ran the half with Seth to get our Coast to Coast (minimum requirement – one half at WDW in Orlando and one half at DL in Anaheim in the same calendar year). While I want to go back to Disneyland sometime when the Haunted Mansion isn’t closed for an overlay, I really haven’t felt a need to go back out there and run – largely because unlike the WDW races where you’re on Disney property the whole time so the entertainment is all theirs, a LOT of the DL races are off property, and I really don’t need to see the warehouse district of Anaheim again.

Still, as people started reporting their travels and posting pictures of fun at Disneyland, I started having FOMO (fear of missing out).

And then I started hearing the reports that shouldn’t have surprised me but always catch me going “Huh?”

Massive lines to get in. Parts being closed due to fire code capacity. Merchandise being sold out – with people buying 5 or more of the same item (and I could almost guarantee if I went on EBay right now a lot of it would be there. And then this morning, tales of corral chaos and people being sent to a further back corral because the one to which they were assigned was full.

Oh boy.

And yes, I’ve got thoughts on these and ways to at least attempt to solve the issues.

First, the lines and overcrowding…
Now don’t get me wrong, I love that race expos are open to anyone who wants to come. I think the public should be able to go to them. But. What’s wrong with having some hours set aside (2-3 at each day’s opening perhaps) that are exclusively for those participating in the event (and ok, in the case of children immediate family – but not great aunt five times removed)? They email us a link to print the waiver for the race in advance. Why not have “participant only hours” where to gain access you have to show the waiver and ID? (And honestly in the wake of Boston, I’m surprised there haven’t been more restrictions and ID requirements put in place.) Then later in the afternoon and evening, open the expo up to anyone who wants to attend. It wouldn’t eliminate crowds entirely, but it would make them more manageable. And also help with the second issue…

Mass buying of merch…
Pretty much anything with Disney branding is megagold on EBay and other such sites. Especially stuff where there is a limited quantity produced. And yes, there are people who will buy stuff from a race they have never done and have no intention of doing. So there are people who will attend the expo and go straight to the runDisney merch booth to buy up stuff knowing they’ll more than recoup what they’ve spent. Example: marathon weekend in January, New Balance unveiled their Disney-themed shoes which promptly sold out…and within an hour of the first reports of the shoes hitting the web, there were pairs on EBay with a starting price of over $300. Clearly there were people there only buying stuff to resell – which blocked runners who were legitimately participating in the weekend from getting things they might want. There were report this weekend of people buying 5 and more of the same item. Seriously…why would you need 5 of a shirt from a race you never intend to run?…oh right, to sell it. Also, the runDisney merch area was one of the first that filled, even before people got through bib and packet pick-up. I would LOVE to see runDisney put especially the event-specific stuff in an area where you have to show your race bib to gain access and race-specific merch is limited to one of each item per person (as in, say for Marathon Weekend you are running the full – you can get one full shirt (if multiple styles you could get one of each), one full hoodie, one full vinyl, one full pin, etc.) and you have to show the bib for your event. There could be a generic runDisney merch area with the “In Training” shirts and general runDisney stuff that the general public could go to and purchase. (Ok, typing that out, doing that could theoretically eliminate the need to have “participant-only” hours) Although I would like to see limits placed on those. It’s only fair. Not everyone can be there at opening moment, and not everyone can send someone racing to the merch area to grab stuff – and it’s not fair that people who for whatever reason aren’t there at initial expo opening have no way to get merch from events they have trained hard for and want to have momentos of. So yeah… Participant-only hours at the expo and/or proof of participation required for access to race-specific runDisney merch and limits on the amounts of identical things. That’ll work. (And yes, obviously it would be one of each per bib, so if a husband and wife were both participating, they could each get their limit. Ditto for kids…if they’re participating in the kids races they’ll have a bib.)

And then the corrals…
Part of the issue will be resolved in 2014 when runDisney will no longer allow corral changes at the expo, but… And yes, the corrals in Disneyland are a cluster. There’s no other way to say it. Two years ago the signage was horrendous and volunteers were not doing anything to monitor the access. They’re not perfect at Disney World, but they are definitely much more organized. A friend this morning reported that one of the corrals was full and people were being forced to move back a corral regardless of what they were assigned. Given what I saw two years ago, that doesn’t surprise me. No one was paying attention to what letter your bib had when you went in, and I know for a fact that Seth and I saw many, many people who should have been a corral or two…or even three!!…behind us, but no one stopped them on the way in. Also, when you have multiple people handling corral changes, each with a bunch of stickers and none checking how many the others have given out, you could easily end up with a corral being assigned way too many people. Which isn’t fair for anyone. Like I said, given that they’ve said there will be no at-expo changes beginning in 2014, this could be a moot point. But in the event that they decide to go back on that, they should have a count of how many spots are potentially available in each corral and only print up that number of stickers. You can have multiple people working the runner relations desk, but to get a sticker they have to go to one location so they’re pulling from the same pool…and when one corral is gone, it’s gone. Also the morning of, make sure you have volunteers at the corral entrances early and that they know what they are doing. Is it fun to tell someone they need to move back to their assigned corral? No. I’ve had to do it before when I corral marshaled a NYRR race. But it makes the corrals safer for all.

I realize it’s easy to sit here and say “this is what should be done”, but honestly I don’t see why these ideas would be so hard to implement.

I’m going in the Friday of Marathon Weekend (the 5K is on Thursday), and I’m hopeful that getting there first thing I’ll be able to get my stuff and get some race merch – or at least a Goofy in training shirt. But honestly, unless they do something to crack down on the chaos and the people grabbing as many of one thing as they can and then reselling it, I don’t know that I’ll come home with anything besides the shirt I get automatically for participating.

We shall see…

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7 thoughts on “It’s Disneyland Half Weekend

  1. I was in the B corral and they definitely had someone checking bibs to see that you were in the correct corral. I found the corral area to be well marked and easy to find. There was plenty of space in the B corral, so I would be surprised if someone got bumped to lower corral. Obviously I can’t speak for the other corrals, but there were no problems that I saw in B.

    RE: merch, this wasn’t a big race for me so I wasn’t terribly interested in buying anything (although I did set a new HM PR 1:59:36 so maybe I should have). My memories, photos and medal are all I really want. I agree with your solutions for the expo. It does piss me off that people buy tons of merch to sell on ebay. It would be nice to see Disney control this better.

    As much fun as it is too run through the parks, the highlight for me was running through Angels Stadium with a few thousand LOUD people cheering you on. That’s not something I’ll soon forget.

    My biggest gripe was that many people didn’t seem to be out there to race, almost as if it was a leisurely weekend jog. I’ve always felt strongly that if you enter a race you need to RACE and push yourself out of your comfort zone. To put it in perspective, I finished in the top 8% overall, where I usually finish around 50% at a typical HM.

    The biggest problem was the heat: 93 and humid. People on the course after the 3 hour mark really paid the price and I felt really bad for them. I went back to my room, showered and changed and went back to the finish area to cheer on the 3+ hour finishers. Those are the runners I have the most respect for: giving every last ounce of energy in the blistering heat and humidity at mile 12. It was an honor to cheer them on.

    It was a fun race and I had a great time. Will definitely be back.

    • Thanks for reading and your comments! I have friends who were supposed to be in D but were refused entry and told it was full and they’d have to move back to E. I know when I ran it in 2011, my friend and I were in probably C, and it was chaos getting over there with tons of people having already entered incorrectly because the area wasn’t blocked off – so they were having to move out and back as we were trying to get in. Big old cluster.

      Disney is not known for races to RACE really – they do draw out people who are just starting. So that’s part of the speed. Also, as someone who is slower, my time for a half may not have broken 2:30:00 yet, but that doesn’t mean I’m not pushing myself. For some people (especially at a race like a runDisney event), those who you see as “out for a Sunday jog” may well be pushing themselves. Unless you’re in their body and have been through all their training, you really don’t know. You say you respect those who are out there for 3+ hours, but the critique of those you see as not pushing it makes those two things a little contradictory.

      As someone who detests baseball, I hate being forced to run through stadiums – the surface isn’t comfortable for me, and I really don’t want nasty clay all over myself. Just a big old red, screaming nightmare for me. At least they have stopped the practice of letting the spectators spray you with water guns. I have another friend who lost a contact one year to that silliness. I really wish they’d have the alternate route they have had to use if there was a game that conflicted with the race schedule open for people who couldn’t give a rat’s patootie about running through a stadium.

      Then again, I run Disney races for DISNEY, so I’ll probably never do one of the DL races again as industrial Anaheim is NOT my idea of fun. 🙂 This East Coast girl (who really doesn’t get the California thing and is NEVER jealous of people racing there with the possible exception of Big Sur) will stick to the Florida ones where truly EVERY mile is magic. (Other than the nastiness through the stadium in the full…I would rather out and back on Osceola than that. Ah well… At least my pace through there is good because I just want out.)

      🙂

      • First, I have to tell you that I really enjoy your blog, I find it entertaining, insightful and exceptionally well written. I genuinely look forward to each new post you put out.

        Let me clarify a few points. My gripes have nothing to do with the speed people are going, but rather their attitude toward the event. I really have a problem with the groups of four people leisurely going four-abreast while sipping their Starbucks. That’s what I mean by the leisurely Sunday jog. It is called the Happiest RACE on Earth after all, and whether you are racing the clock, your family/friends, a goal or personal demons, it’s still a race. The person who has struggled with every single mile over the course of four hours – simply to achieve victory at the finish line – is my hero. They are the people who make our sport great. So, no contradiction – I’m describing two very different people. One of the things I really love about the sport is that it’s accessible to anyone who can lace up a pair of running shoes – end even those who can’t!

        (on that note, I don’t know if Disney enforced the 16:00 sweep at this race. If they didn’t, I’m glad because the heat really slowed people down. It would be a shame for someone to be swept because the heat slowed them down – when they would normally run a much faster pace and thus not be swept.)

        I must say that the warning track of an MLB stadium is about the nicest surface I have ever set foot upon. Like a baby’s bottom. It was a welcome relief from the hard streets of Anaheim. I agree with you on the water gun thing, although I’m guessing most people (myself included) would have welcomed it that day because it was so hot (did I mention it was hot?). But most of the time it would probably just suck if someone blasted me on the side of the head with a Super Soaker.

        As far as the corral thing is concerned, that really stinks. They would have every right to be upset with RunDisney. I guess I’m fortunate that I didn’t run into the same problem.

        Keep up the great work on the blog! I really appreciate the time and effort you put into it.

  2. I am working my way backward through your blog, which I love by the way….

    I wonder if part of the problem with the corrals is a … for lack of a better word … disrespect for race instructions. I participated in the 2013 Disneyland Half Marathon. Although I don’t have my race instructions anymore, but I know that there was a specific time that people were told to be in the corrals – I arrived just before that time and was in the front third of my assigned corral – the problem started closer to the start of the race when the vast majority of the people started arriving and pushing their way into the closest corral.

    If people followed simply race instructions, it would work a lot better.

    I am registered for the 2014 Dumbo Double Dare – and you can bet your flying ears that I will be in my assigned corral before the time they tell me to be there.

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