At 5:15 in the morning on Thursday, August 29th, 2013, a Lincoln Town Car pulled onto Hiatus Road in Sunrise, FL, and with that auspicious beginning Boots and I began our journey that would take us from the suburbs of Fort Lauderdale, FL to the legendary Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, CA. The time had finally come: Half Marathon Weekend! We had gone the previous year and loved it. Returning this year was a no-brainer. If you read my review of the 2012 Half Marathon, you could see how much I really loved the experience.
This year I was coming back to run the Dumbo Double Dare challenge: a 10K on Saturday and the Half on Sunday. 19.3 miles in total. This was less about speed and all about stamina. Keeping it going strong.
Let’s skip over the pointless, pedantic, and ponderous air travel details and move straight into our arrival at the Disneyland Hotel. Last year we stayed at the Anabella Hotel nearby, and we really loved staying there as well, but this year we splurged a bit and decided to stay on-property and much closer to the action. I think the fortunes were smiling upon us. Not only was our room ready at 10:30AM, we were given a 7th floor room overlooking the convention center, pre/post race area, even a view of the Finish Line. There was even a framed portrait of Dumbo himself in the bathroom. This was serendipitous!
After getting settled in and unpacked, we walked over to Downtown Disney, had pizza over at Naples, and stormed California Adventure for some fun. Crowds were super-light; we literally walked on to Radiator Springs Racers (single-rider line) with no wait whatsoever. For that alone… dayenu. We spent the rest of the afternoon lounging at the pool and heading over to Cathay Circle for dinner. More on my review of that restaurant in an upcoming Noshing in Wonderland post.
Friday came, which signified the opening of the Race Expo at the Disneyland Hotel Convention Center. Boots and I woke up at 5AM to do our traditional early morning walk around the property. We puttered around the hotel for a bit before heading into Downtown Disney, where we bumped into Sean Astin, Joey Fatone, and their entourage heading towards the Disneyland Hotel. They were on their way to the Disneyland Half Marathon Meet-Up, a first-email, first-served chance to meet up with celebrities, go for a quick run, get some free running shirts, pointers, and other goodies. I had tried to get in on it and failed 🙁 So I did the next best thing: I crashed it.
After snooping and hanging around, getting some free running form pointers and listening to a bunch of the speeches, we skidaddled after the group took off running. Grabbing some coffee and muffins, we made our way back to the room and killed time waiting for the Expo to open up at 10AM. I got a little feisty, and wanted to check out the expo area. Even before the sun rose, I had noticed people were already lining up. Checking it out around 8:00AM, it was absolutely PACKED downstairs. I mean, rows of people deep, waiting hours to be the first ones in. I decided to head downstairs and see what all the hubbub was about.
Check out this scene:
Doesn’t seem too bad, does it? Check out these aerial shots from our hotel room window, at 9:53AM, 10:15, and 10:45:
To quote one Slim Pickens:
This was insane. People were baking in the 90 degree heat for hours just to be the first ones into the Expo. And it was pretty much all about the merchandise. You see, every Run Disney event features limited edition merchandise specific to the weekend: shirts, shot glasses, New Balance “Run Disney”-branded shoes, vinylmation, hoodies, all sorts of neat stuff. And once it’s sold out, you’re kinda SOL unless you plan on paying way-overinflated prices on the secondary market.
So what happens? People come crowding the Expo, waiting hours for the grand opening, in order to get first crack at the merch. Many of them not even runners, but Disney collectors and/or speculators who are ready to snatch up as much merch as they can to make a quick profit. There were reports of people grabbing handfuls of limited edition shirts, jackets, and other merchandise. Elbowing each other out of the way. Wait times of up to THREE HOURS in order to pay for purchases.
This, in other words, is a pretty sad scene. What’s supposed to be a fun and informative time for runners to pick up their registration, get their swag bags and running shirts, browse vendors, meet some celebrities, and yes, pick up some Disney-branded merchandise has turned into a feeding-frenzy for greedy jerks. It violates the very spirit of the weekend and the whole point of the Expo.
My proposal to solve the entire Expo/Merchandise/Greed issue would be to email all registered runners a one-time code. They can use this code on-line, the week before the Expo, to pre-order any limited edition merchandise (limit of 1 per person) for any race for which they are registered. Doing the 10K? You have access to the 10K merchandise ahead of time. Same with the Half, the Dumbo, or the Coast To Coast challenge. That way the people who are really earning these accolades have a first crack at the merchandise. Simple.
I gave up hoping to get in around 11AM and decided to come back later in the day (the Expo was open until 8PM). There was some race merch I was interested in, but NOTHING worth waiting hours for. Besides, I wanted to go have some fun. So we packed up and headed over to Disneyland, and had a pretty swell time (including lunch at the legendary Blue Bayou restaurant, which will be covered in an upcoming Noshing in Wonderland post. I never repeat myself!)
But something pretty awesome happened before all that. As I went downstairs to snap some pics of the lines and check out all the early morning excitement, I took a moment to head inside and update the Disneyland Half Marathon Facebook page to warn them about the insane lines. As I was doing so, a bright-eyed woman walked up to me slowly and said, “Are you… Millhauser?”
I was taken aback, momentarily. I’ve never been approached by a stranger before. I smiled, taking no heed of the slight but common mispronunciation of my surname. “Yes, sure am!” I replied. I’m sure I couldn’t have come up with a better line at the time. But it worked.
She smiled broadly and said, “I read your blog! I love your run recaps!!”
I have never been approached by a Hokeyblog reader before! This was AWESOME!! I tried to contain my excitement at all this, but I also had to tell her that she was the first person to ever come up to me as a reader. Her name was Sarah and we chatted for a few minutes about Disney, running, injuries, all sorts of stuff. In a moment of inspiration, I whipped out my phone, took a picture of us, and promised that I’d include it on the blog. So this one’s for you Sarah; you TOTALLY made my day, because I felt like a pseudo-celebrity for hours afterward, and that was a entirely new and most eminently buttkickin’ feeling!
Plus she photographs so much better than I do.
OK well… I returned to the Expo at around 4:30 that afternoon. The lines had entirely subsided by then; although if you wanted to buy merch, you still had to wait 90 minutes to pay. Hell, you had to wait 15 minutes just to get INTO the merch area. Forget THAT noise. I went downstairs to get my bib, commemorative pins (which I had pre-ordered), and Coast to Coast wrist band. I’d get my Dumbo Double Dare wristband the next day after completing the 10K. Afterward I headed into the Expo to get my swag bag and racing shirts. Boots and I perused the booths for awhile; I picked up a Halo headband for Suz and grabbed some Gu and a new pair of Zensah compression sleeves (which I wound up never using). Later on that evening I went back to finally look at the merchandise — it was only a three-minute stroll from the hotel room, and most of that was waiting for the elevator — but by then everything but the most mass-produced, generic items was gone. Plus there was still a 15-20 minute wait to pay. Feh. I passed on that. Besides, I already had three racing shirts from registering for the Dumbo Double Dare. I was fine with that.
Boots and Ann decided to hit the Vivian Campbell show at the Baked Potato in LA Friday night. I knew better than to go out on a race night, so instead I called it a night early. I had my leftover Monte Cristo from the Blue Bayou for dinner, laid out my running gear, watched some Family Guy and was out like a light by 9PM. Overall it was a fun first couple of days; a little disheartening for a spell there, but ego-gratifyingly cool in others. The 10K awaited me. I was stoked for it.
- Click here for my review of the Inaugural 2013 Disneyland 10K.
- Click here for my review of the 2013 Disneyland Half Marathon.
And here’s the video: