Race Recap: 2012 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend, Part 1 Health and Fitness Expo

Follow along with “Adventures by Daddy” correspondent George Gensler as she takes us to all the events of the 2012 Disneyland Half Marathon weekend including the Health and Fitness Expo, Cars Land 5K, Kid’s Races, and the main event, the Disneyland Half Marathon.  We’ll also be auctioning off a Disneyland Half Marathon poster and commemorative pin set for Give Kids The World.  So keep reading for part I of our three-part series about runDisney’s 2012 Disneyland Half Marathon weekend; for all who come to this happy place…

Article by George Gensler

Friday – The Health and Fitness Expo

I was already signed up for the Disneyland Half Marathon (I am not giving up my legacy status, as long as I can help it), when I learned that the Cars Land 5k Family Fun Run the day before the half marathon finished in Disney California Adventure’s new Cars Land.  How could I resist?  I decided to run the 400m with my 8-year-old niece, because, as I always say, in for a penny, in for a pound.

That may seem like a lot of running (16.225 miles) for one weekend, but in 2010, I ran every Disney race, starting with January’s Walt Disney World “Dopey Challenge” (the Family Fun Run on Friday, the Donald Duck Half Marathon on Saturday and the Mickey Mouse Marathon on Sunday, for a total of 42.4 miles in three days), so this would be a breeze in comparison.  Well, maybe a run uphill against a headwind, rather than a breeze, but still easier than following it up with a marathon.

If you’re not familiar with runDisney events, each major race is usually matched with a family fun run and kids’ races.  These shorter events have a different theme every year and, as mentioned above, this year’s theme was Cars Land to commemorate the recent opening of the new Cars Land area of Disney California Adventure.  The kids’ races are similarly themed, matching the 5k theme.  The kids’ races are divided by age, ranging from a diaper dash to 100m, 200m and 400m events.  Occasionally runDisney kids’ races include the mile.  runDisney also offers options for the spectators with various levels of ChEAR Squad packages that range from newsletters to t-shirts, clappers, and even a special set of bleachers at the finish line for the highest level of ChEAR squad members.

Knowing that the expo opened on Friday, I flew in Thursday night for an extra day to get over the flight.  I stayed at the Disneyland Hotel to take advantage of Early Magic Hours and hit up Cars Land.  This may be a race review, but I will throw in as a bonus that Cars Land is excellent; Radiator Springs Racers is fantastic; the food is great; the merchandise is clever and fun; the theming is spot-on; and I can’t wait to go back!

Back to the expo . . . runDisney has years of experience organizing races and expos and this year’s was as good as any other I’ve attended.  We headed under the convention space of the Disneyland Hotel, passed over the Half Marathon logo, past running silhouettes of various Disney characters (almost the Fab Five, but with one of Donald’s nephews in place of Minnie), and entered the bib pick-up area.

The large space accommodated the crowds well and, along the first wall, there were computers and printers for those (like me) who had forgotten to bring their preprinted (or not) waivers.  A nice touch was the placement of coolers of water and cups on tables around the room.  Booths lined the remaining three sides of the space with pick-up areas for the 5k and kids’ races facing the half marathon pick-up areas and GetTravel (runDisney’s travel sponsor), ChEAR Squad, and issue resolution booths on the third wall.  In the center of the room were testers for the B-tags that will record the runners’ times.  It took less than 15 minutes to gather all of our bibs and per-ordered merchandise, including commemorative pins and necklaces, and then we headed upstairs to the main expo space to pick up the t-shirts and goodie bags and wander around among the sponsor and merchandise booths.

Disney is the king of the queue and we were directed along the side of the building to enter the expo space inside the hotel, rather than at the door closest to the goodie-bag and t-shirt pick-up area.  We were there during the work day on Friday, so the lines weren’t long at all, but I could see how that path would really help control crowds.  The t-shirts were lined up by size (you can only pick up the size requested during registration, but there were tables to the side where you could attempt to change the size), so it was easy to get your shirt and your goodie bag and then move into the sponsor booths.  runDisney used a bib with a tear-away t-shirt tag, marked with the requested size, so your bib doesn’t have an ugly mark on it to indicate you’ve picked up your t-shirt.  For some people that doesn’t matter, but I have saved all of my bibs and don’t like it when they’re marked (though I do have some bibs autographed by elite runners, very different in my mind).

Just outside the expo floor, there were two photo ops: one for the Disneyland Half and the other for the Cars Land 5k and Kids’ Races.  The line was really long for the half, so we just stopped at the 5k backdrop.  On the expo floor itself, there were sponsor booths, merchandise booths, and a theater-like space set up for seminars by various running experts, including runDisney’s coach, Jeff Galloway. Some of the most notable booths included:

  • St. Joseph Hospital: mini health exams
  • ABC Television: game to win prizes, plus new program screenings
  • Fond Memories Graphic: finisher plaques
  • Lasting Commemoratives: offered a free poster to runners
  • Geico Insurance: plinko game (I won a Geico gecko Pez dispenser!)
  • The Stick: I came into the weekend injured and they gave me advice

There were also booths with running nutrition (hooray for free samples), such as Jelly Belly Sport Beans (they also had bags of regular jelly beans for children), Clif Bars; and Nuun Hydration; booths with running apparel, such as ASICS, One More Mile, and Running Skirts; booths with running accessories, such as Halo Headband, Nite Beams, and SPIbelt; and runner aids, such as The Stick, KT Tape, and Garmin.

The best shopping area was the Event Merchandise space, which was the biggest and most crowded space.  runDisney puts out great race merchandise every event and this was no exception.  I came away with numerous pins, two shirts and a baseball cap, but could have had a brand new wardrobe, if I’d chosen.  There were hoodies, long-sleeved shirts, t-shirts, tanktops, two caps, glassware, car magnets, key-chains, pins, and more.  The line to purchase was very long, but moved very quickly.

The runDisney Speaker Series is also well-organized, repeating the sessions on each day, rather than requiring runners to choose between sessions and days.  Jeff Galloway (runDisney’s coach) spoke about running injury-free and enjoying the run; Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea (authors of Run Like a Mother) spoke about maximizing race-day performance; Tara Gidus (Official runDisney nutritionist and Orlando Magic dietician) spoke about nutrition of runners; Star Blackford (Clif Bar Pace Team) spoke about pacing; Suzy Favor-Hamilton (Olympic runner) spoke about motivation, inspiration and dedication; and Mike Bone (Race Director) and Mary Ancona (Spectator Advisor) gave last-minute tips and race information.

(far right) Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea

 

I have run many races around the world, including marathons in the Arctic and Antarctic, and can tell you that runDisney has one of the best expo experiences out there.  The space is big enough to hold a variety of exhibitor booths, but not jam-packed so you can’t get around it easily.  The types of exhibitors are also varied, so there’s something for everyone, including children.  Keep reading for Part 2 of the Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend including a review of the Cars Land 5K and Kid’s races.  Don’t forget we’ll also be auctioning off a Disneyland Half Marathon poster and collectible race pin set for Give Kids The World.

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Bio: George Gensler is a copyrights specialist during the week and a runner on the weekends.  She lives in New York City now, but has lived in five countries on three continents.  She grew up traveling the world, but her official residence was in Southern California and every visit home included a trip to Disneyland.  She has also visited every Disney Park around the world and sailed on board two Disney cruises.  She threw in a visit to the Disney Family museum in San Francisco for good measure, and has had the Premier Disney Park Pass since its inception.

About George Gensler

George Gensler is a copyrights specialist during the week and a runner on the weekends. She lives in New York City now, but has lived in five countries on three continents. She grew up traveling the world, but her official residence was in Southern California and every visit home included a trip to Disneyland. She has also visited every Disney Park around the world and sailed on board two Disney cruises. She threw in a visit to the Disney Family museum in San Francisco for good measure, and has had the Premier Disney Park Pass since its inception.