I honestly cannot believe that the Disneyland Half weekend has been and gone!!
For me (after 8 months counting down post-registration day), it was a 14 hour plane ride to get to Anaheim for weekend that began with the Runner’s World Welcome Event on the Thursday morning. I have noticed that this sort of event hasn’t been offered for the other races, with the exception of the Wookie Welcome Event at the Star Wars Half – however that seems to follow the way of the Pasta in the Park event than this.
A little background info – This event did sell out at registration time, however the amount of spots offered was anyone’s guess. The event guide mentioned packet pick up opening from 4am for the 5:30am event, and to arrive early as they were expecting quite a few people.
While I stay rather close at the Disneyland Resort, I tell you, my hotel on Harbor seemed quite far at 4am in the morning, with no one else (except for the ‘locals’) around. I decided on using the route as a ‘warm up’ run and ran right through to the Disneyland entrance sign – satisfied that the boundary was enough to keep me safe (Disneyland has a magical force field right??).
There weren’t too many people around at 4:15am, the registration tables were set up and once the name was marked off the list (and waiver presented) we received an armband to collect our event gear (sponsor swag, Runner’s World Mag and RunDisney tech shirt – no bag though). The armband also served as our ticket into the early merchandise entry.
At packet pick-up the staff mentioned that they were expecting 400 people (as per ticket allocation), there certainly was not 400 at the event.
As soon as it hit 5:30 we were guided to the Paradise Bay viewing location inside the park. It was showtime. Standing around were all the RunDisney ambassadors including Sean Astin and Jeff Galloway who were extremely approachable. We only had a short amount of time to mingle, as the event got underway – giving us so many feels as they played the 2013 Half Marathon weekend highlights on the World of Colour fountains.
And then Mickey came out (by this stage I was cheering!!!).
After the welcome got underway it was time for Runner’s World to do their thing. The two editors led a dynamic stretch session that I could really feel. These stretches weren’t anything that I hadn’t done before so I just put it down to the fact that I’d been sitting for a good 14 hours the day before.
After the stretch we then went for a run around the bay (around 0.4 miles). It wasn’t fast and it was tricky to carry the gear bag with all my stuff while running. What was interesting were the audience response to the run. There was certainly a mix of people and while most were in running gear, there were a few who were in jeans and sandals and weren’t prepared for any exercise whatsoever.
Following the run was a panel Q&A with Runner’s World, Tara Gidus (Nutrition) and Jeff Galloway with questions ranging from run/walk method to injury prevention and nutrition pre-race. It was a short session, as the questions seemed to dry up from the audience. From there it was off for a ride on Soaring Over California – which is always a great ride to go on (and no crazy one hour queues at 6:30am!). We could only thank to cast members who had to get up SUPER early to accommodate us!
Once off the ride, we were funnelled out of the park and headed over to the expo. Given we were super early, we were held in the packet pick-up section of the Disneyland Hotel Conference area in the switchback queues, before moving up to the Expo level itself. There were plenty more people joining the queue with their armbands than what had appeared at the event.
Thank goodness for the mini Clif bar that was in the packet as we were certainly getting hungry by this stage!!
Once inside the RunDisney merchandise area we were given an hour. There were no scenes reminiscent of Supermarket Sweep – everyone was quite calm while they went about their purchase. Checkout was in another room and again, there were no huge lines – it was all very manageable and very very tame!
It was great to really have a think about what I wanted to get, without fear of selling out. I decided to forego the pins as I had pre-ordered at time of registration. I knew that I risked having a different set, but as I’m not an avid pin collector it was ok. In the end it turned out fine, the pre-order pins were exactly the same as the set at the merchandise booth (although they did have the medal pins too).
All in all, it was an ok event. I’ve summed it up with pros and cons below.
- Entertainment – loved the use of World of Colour to project the 2013 Disneyland Half weekend highlights. It certainly got me super excited for all the races in the subsequent days. And Mickey!
- People – I met such awesome people at the Welcome Event, whom I caught up with multiple times over the weekend.
- Running around the bay – it was only a short run, but any extra excuse to run through a closed California Adventure will do!!
- Q&A panel – loved that any question was answered, no matter if you were a running veteran or a running newbie. All staff/ambassadors were approachable and really friendly which was awesome!!!
- Organisation – from the packet pick up through to waiting for the expo, the organisation was efficient and got us where we needed to go.
- Lack of communication – there was definitely a lack of communication on the part of RunDisney concerning this event, and it was evident when people turned up. Apparently an email was sent out a day before (wouldn’t have helped me) with the same info in it as the event guide, however they needed to highlight that there would be a short run and to be prepared. Even at pickup there was confirmation that there wouldn’t be a run. Obviously with this a few people did turn up in attire not suited to running.
- The bag issue – This was a big sore point for many people who attended. Looking at the event there is a highlight calling for a RunDisney bag with the swag. Now we all got the swag but the bag became a RunDisney gEAR bag, and we were told that was it. A lot of folks weren’t happy at all with this and it became a talking point (overheard at the RunDisney booth at the expo) across the weekend. Most of the poor RunDisney staff had no idea, nor had any weight when it came to escalating the issue – it was horrible to see attendees not in the Disney spirit (and becoming quite ugly) when it came to this. A visit to the solutions tent helped me out greatly, no yelling or getting upset needed!
- Lack of extra Disney magic – I don’t know if it’s just because we were at Disneyland (I’m sure an event like this would have been awesome as it was elsewhere) but just reading up on all the old meet ups showed that there was an awesome concept there that didn’t quite translate to the newly ticketed event. Understandably they did have significantly less people at the older ones, but the magic was somewhat missing after Mickey came out and welcomed everyone. Perhaps another chance to meet with Mickey and another character (Stitch??) after the Q&A would have worked. Given this was a new (ticketed) event I’m sure there will be plenty of changes to come!!
- 6am – This was the time where everyone wasn’t paying attention as they were trying to get a time slot for the New Balance/RunDisney shoes Virtual Queue.
Did you attend the Welcome Event? What were your thoughts?