As much as I wish I could write only wonderful things about my experiences during runDisney’s Dumbo Double Dare Challenge weekend, it wouldn’t be fair or right to gloss over or omit what went wrong, especially when it went so horribly wrong. In this post, I’m going to enumerate the main problems, starting with the Expo. As all runners know, the Expo, especially the race merchandise area, is a big part of the experience. For the Dumbo Double Dare, runDisney really played up the race merchandise, even posting a blog touting the merchandise. The t-shirts, especially the 10k shirt, were adorable! A pair of Dooney & Bourke bags were available, as well (note, the “Dooney’s” in the image below are from the 20th WDW Marathon, but the Disneyland Half Marathon style was identical.)
Editor’s Update September 10, 2013
Addressing some of the criticisms mentioned in this post as well as elsewhere, the Disney Store online has added runDisney Coast to Coast and Dumbo Double Dare t-shirts for sale on their site. They are only available for one week from today (Sept 10) – Monday, September 16, and there is no shipping charged for these items (a very nice gesture). Click here to see and order the shirts.
Original article from September 7, 2013 follows below…
When I go to a race expo, runDisney or otherwise, I usually pick up my bib and t-shirt and then check out the race merchandise. But, I suspected, because of the Dooney & Bourke bags, that the lines would be outrageous. I wasn’t wrong. People started lining up at 6 am. I hit Disney California Adventure for Early Magic Hours, rode Radiator Springs Racers, had breakfast at Flo’s, then walked back to the expo, which is held in the convention area of the Disneyland Hotel. We were directed out to the line, just as they started admitting people, and we were swept inside and into the merchandise area as soon as the expo opened. I picked out three shirts (one for each event), a magnet and a medal for my runDisney Vinylmation. My sister wasn’t participating in the races this year, so she waited in the pay line for me. As I left the merchandise area, a cast member was advising people that the race merchandise area was closed. The line wrapped around the stage area and back into the expo towards the t-shirt pick-up.
When runDisney announced the Dooney & Bourke collaboration for the 2012 Tinker Bell Half Marathon, I asked if race participants would have prior access to the bags. RunDisney responded that the Expo is open to the public and I was vilified in the comments for suggesting runners should have prior access to race-specific merchandise, in the same way we have prior access to race pins. At the Dumbo Double Dare Expo, most of the merchandise was gone by the end of the first day. According to reports from other runners, the merchandise area was closed again at around 1 or 2 pm, but race-specific merchandise was available on eBay by the end of the day Friday. At least one “Disney shopper” offered race merchandise at cost with a handling fee, plus shipping. I find it appalling that race participants were prevented from purchasing race merchandise by non-participants, and, especially, by people whose sole goal was to sell at an increased cost.
I understand from other runners that runDisney is making new race merchandise, but I’m not sure how it will be made available to runners. I hope it puts the eBay resellers out of business.
My suggestion to runDisney for future Expos is to offer runners the opportunity to pre-order their merchandise and to limit the orders to one of each item of apparel and up to two of the ancillary product, such as pins, glasses, magnets, etc. RunDisney’s done this in the past; for example, participants could pre-order Dooney & Bourke bags for the 2013 WDW Marathon. After picking up their bib and t-shirt, competitors would be sent to a third area to review, try on and purchase their pre-ordered items. Any items rejected (or exchanged for size) by participants would be put back into the general merchandise are of the Expo, which could be open after a certain time on the last day of the Expo. RunDisney could also explore the option of having the merchandise available to runners in the race festival area after the run either in addition to or instead of the pre-order.
Lest you think that the merchandise sales was the only pain in the Expo, let’s discuss packet pick-up. When I headed to packet pick-up, the line for waivers wrapped all the way back to the hotel, and the line for t-shirt pick-up spread out of the Expo and into the courtyard in front of the Disneyland Hotel. No, thank you. I left the hotel and came back when the lines were shorter. I don’t understand the reasoning behind having a separate t-shirt pick-up anyway. Why not have bibs and t-shirts and goodie bags all in one place to be handed at once to the participant during packet pick-up? The size is dictated by the runners’ requests at the time of race entry, so it could all be handled together.
One last mention – during my time in the expo, there were repeated announcements to runners that there was a magnet in the goodie bag (shown below) and runners should keep their bibs away from it. When I turned over my bib for the goodie bag pick-up, the volunteer tucked my bib into the goodie bag before handing it to me. Why? Why were volunteers instructed to put the bibs in the bags, if there were magnets included? Why didn’t volunteers stop putting the bibs in the bags when the announcements started? They had to have been hearing them, too. And, given the danger of demagnetizing the b-tag on the bib, why did runDisney decide to do away with b-tag verification at this event?
After snatching my bib out of the goodie bag, I went back downstairs to the packet pick-up area to verify my bib and was told there was no verification this year. I went to the Solutions area to ask about it and was told they decided not to do it for this event. I pointed out that, despite the repeated announcements, volunteers were putting bibs into goodie bags with the magnets and someone should probably stop them. She agreed, but made no move to do so. Happily for me, my b-tag worked, but it did cause some unnecessary stress during my races.
There were some problems with water along the course. It didn’t rise to the level of the 2007 Chicago Marathon, but there were times when the water stations weren’t prepared and at least one station ran out of cups, forcing people to wait for water on a very hot and humid course. I am not a runDisney apologist, but the forecast changed drastically in the two days before the race and I’m not surprised that people were taking more cups than usual. There was plenty of water available, as far as I know. I saw plenty of bottles of Dasani water (another point in runDisney’s favor, as I’m used to drinking fire hydrant water in NYC) at each water station. The problem was clearly lack of preparation on the part of the volunteers and station leaders.
Another issue that I had with the water was hygiene. I didn’t see any volunteers wearing gloves during the Disneyland 10K. I ran to the tables to get my cups of water. Most volunteers had the cups on their palms, but I did see some pick up cups with fingers inside the rim. At most of the water stations during the half, the volunteers were wearing gloves, but there were a few tables where there were volunteers who were not wearing gloves. RunDisney needs to provide gloves to all volunteers and to ensure that volunteer supervisors are monitoring glove use and hygiene for the runners, who are at their mercy.
One other issue was the number of water stations on the 10K course. There were only three and they weren’t on an out and back, which would have them double up later in the course. The first was just after the one-mile marker, the second was between the third and fourth mile markers and the last was between the fifth and sixth mile markers. There were two water stations on the 5k course, so those runners were adequately protected, but there should have been at least one more, especially on such a hot and humid day. I can understand not putting an additional water station outside the parks, but they could have added one between the second and third mile markers after the runners had reentered California Adventure.
There were many bandits at the races. It may be that it’s always been this way and I just didn’t know it, but runDisney knows about it for sure now. Rudy Novotny, one of the runDisney race announcers, reported that he happened to notice that the second place female finisher was, in fact, male. The bandit was tracked down and disqualified and, hopefully, both he and the woman who transferred the bib to him have been banned from future runDisney races. The race registration is very clear that there are no bib transfers allowed. I joined a couple of facebook groups for runners in these events and was dismayed to see how many people were selling their bibs. I’m sure runDisney incorporates attrition rates into their race estimates and course preparation, but the selling of bibs by people who find they are unable to participate can create dangerous conditions for runners and is a violation of the contract we runners sign when we register to participate. I understand that it’s a hard financial hit to take for some people, but that’s something that should be determined before they sign up, not after registration. Given the high cost of these events, some people suggested that runDisney should consider instituting a transfer policy. I don’t think I agree. An official transfer policy would open the registration process to the same sort of villains who buy up merchandise to sell on later at higher prices or auction them off to the highest bidders. It’s a tough call, but maybe runDisney is right about this one.
OK, now that the bad news is out-of-the-way, let’s look at everything that went right during the Inaugural Dumbo Double Dare Challenge. Click here for my recap of the races, and let us know what your experience was with runDisney’s Disneyland Half Marathon weekend. Did you run into any of the troubles I mention above? Please leave a comment below to share and continue the conversation.