March 4, 2015

runDisney Changes - some we love, some we don't

For the past five years, we have participated in at least two runDisney races per year and sometimes more.  Our first race was the Princess Half Marathon in 2011 with a total of 13,900 finishers.  This year, there were over 24,000 registered for the Princess Half. So things have changed over the years since we started racing with runDisney.

More Corrals:   Last year, although I can't remember exactly when, runDisney started to include more corrals for the races.  This meant fewer runners in each corral and there would be less time to wait between corrals at the start for the first 4-6 corrals.  We think this was a great change and find the course to be easy to navigate and not too crowded.  In fairness though, we start in either B or C (Christine will probably be in A now with her recent PR).  Grade A

No corral changes at the race expo:  This is a huge negative in my opinion.  What happens if the person who enters your data makes a clerical error and punches a 2:52 half marathon time instead of a 1:52 half marathon time.  Unfortunately, this small mistake could push you back into a corral that would be unpleasant for you as well as unsafe and you would be unable to get this changed prior to the race. Grade F

Finish line beverages and food:  This is tricky because there are so many runners to feed/fuel.  At the finish line, a food box and banana are provided after you receive your medal. While the race boxes don't always have things we love, there is enough in the box that we can eat immediately after the race to replenish ourselves until we are able to have a meal.  The beverages are plentiful with both water and Powerade. I am giving this a lower grade because a small box of nibbles and a bana after a full marathon is not enough. Period.  Grade B-

Race shirts: runDisney listened to the women who are the majority of their runners at the runDisney events.  The unisex style of shirt they used to provide was a bad fitting shirt that held no appeal. We now receive gender specific shirts at all the races, not just the women's events.  I love my newer shirts and the older ones that were unisex are either in a bag or were made into a blanket! Grade A

Price: This is a tricky one, but frankly, the price of the races has increased alot over the past 5 years. Our first Princess Half, we paid $135 for our entry and now it is $195. The prices are now close to those for large marathons such as Marine Corps, Boston and NYC.   I'm pretty sure my entry fee for the Boston Marathon was $195. Clearly alot of what you are paying for at Disney is the entertainment, course support, race expo, transportation and fantastic medals. Grade B-

Events: Lots of new events have been added over the past couple years including the popular Star Wars Weekend and Avengers Half Marathon weekend. Additionally some challenges have been added such as the Pixie Dust Challenge and the Glass Slipper Challenge.  The latest announcement was for a race at the Disneyland Paris location in September of 2016.   Adding all these extra race weekends was a great decision by runDisney.  While it is still very difficult to get into the races,  there are more to choose from and hopefully everyone gets a spot at their race of choice.  Grade A

Race Expo: I'm not sure how the crowds were for the January races, but the last few race expos we have attended have been very manageable.  Perhaps because we have not gone at the opening that may have helped.  Princess 2015 was the best we had experienced in the 5 years we have run the race. Grade B

Official Race Merchandise: This seems to be a problem at every single runDisney race.  There is never enough of the official merchandise and runners are disappointed.  Several friends wanted a race jacket at Princess and if you were not there on the first day, you were out of luck.  The Dooney purses end up selling quickly too and if their is no pre order opportunity, you have to be there on the first day to get one.  I have no clue what the answer is, but surely there is a better way that would not have so many runners disappointed. Grade C-

runDisney Meetups: After we read about these fun events on Facebook, we managed to attend several before they were discontinued. The Disney Parks Blog actually crashed a few times from all the people trying to gain a coveted entry into one of these events. While these were wonderful for the few that attended, there certainly could be and were hard feelings if you did not get a spot.  Overall, I think it was smart to get rid of these. No grade, they are gone!

What do you think of the runDisney events?  Do you have any suggestions or comments about what you would change?
(Pam)

45 comments:

  1. The race expo for WDW weekend opened early. I'm not sure how early, but I got there around 9:30am (for an 10:00am open). At 10:01am, I was checking out with the last non-L/XL Women's Dopey Tank, and there were a lot of angry runners. I've always gone to runDisney expos at the open and never found them to be too crowded or unmanageable. This was the first year I purchased merchandise.

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    1. Yikes, that is terrible that merchandise was already scarce at the very beginning of the marathon weekend expo. For the life of me, I cannot figure out why runDisney cannot get the merchandise numbers better. It's a mystery.

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  2. I think they should make sure you have a bib to buy merchandise. Especially the Dooneys. I stated that on a Dooney post on a unofficial Disney FB page and got a lot of people angry. Someone said why shouldn't I be able to get a purse because I am not part of that runners clique. My answer was : why would you want a purse that commomerates something you didn't do. I stand by opinion. Not a runner: no merchandise for you. It's simple good sense. :)

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    1. Sandra, I think this is a great idea as long as it pertains to official race merchandise. However, this will be very difficult to orchestrate because the other venders (who paid a fortune for their booth) want as much traffic as possible and it does not matter to them if they are local runners without a bib or registered race participants.

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  3. I've only raced in two runDisney events: Tower of Terror 2013 and WDW Marathon 2015. I am ok with the price point: for me, I was paying for the security of sufficient med stations, volunteers, bathrooms, water/fuel, as well as the entertainment and views. Those are worth the premium to me.

    I despise the expo hype. I wanted two things from the expo: an I Did It marathon shirt and a car magnet. I was fortunate to have a friend who was going to the expo when it opened and was happy to pick up those items for me. The entire merchandise section was pretty well picked clean by the time I rolled into town, and it's a shame. RunDisney could make a killing with a pre-order option for things like official shirts and merchandise. It could be separate from the rest of the registration, but still in advance. But, runDisney and Disney are businesses and their goal is the bottom dollar. It's obvious that no one does it better than them. People are happy to throw money at the races and the parks and everything in between, and Disney is happy to take that money. You can't blame them for finding a model that works.

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    1. Jennifer you have hit the nail on the head and exactly what my husband has said. It is a business and until we take our dollars elsewhere there are certain things they cannot or will not change. That being said, they did listen to women about the gender specific shirts so I hope they continue to make small changes that could have a big impact!

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  4. I agree with the corral situation - my first Wine & Dine only had like three or four corrals total (around 7500 runners)...crazy to see how much these events have grown, but I'm glad that Disney has accommodated with corral changes! I'm also glad they've listened to runners about merchandise, I just wish they would stock enough merch for each event (Goofy 2013 was wiped out by the time I got to the Expo)!

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    1. Karen I think if they stocked at the start of each day for the first couple expo days that might make ther merchandise last a bit longer, but let's face it, they just want it sold and the money in the bank.

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  5. I LOVE runDisney events! But the official merchandise being gone so fast really upsets me. It's not fair for those that can't be there at the beginning of the opening day of the expo. Disney knows there is a demand...I'm not sure why they don't make more. It WILL sell!

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    1. Yes, they definitely need more of alot of the items, especially for the women focused events. We clearly buy alot more merchandise then the men.

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  6. I was at the expo Thursday, early afternoon, and there were already things out of stock in the official merchandise. That irritates me because they know how many people are registered for these races and it never seems there is enough. Also the quality of some of the official merch is frustrating. The mugs. I have one from 2 years ago, hand wash it all the time because its not dishwasher safe and the decal is STILL coming off. I think it was $13??
    I like that there are more corrals but it is two fold because it takes forever for the last corrals to start and you already stand around so long. There is still a ton of crowding (in the back) but I don't think there is anyway around that. You have people in earlier corrals stopping for picutres and taking their time "running for fun" (which is totally fine) and then you have people that move back to run with a slower friend (me)
    The finish area is a zoo by the time the last corrals are finishing up. So many people! I am short and can't see over people and can never tell which way I am supposed to be going. This year wasn't as bad for Princess but Wine and Dine had me outside my mind trying to find the bus!
    Even with the "flaws" I still love the rundisney events and will still run them.

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    1. Wow, that's too bad about your mug. I bought one at the WDW marathon weekend in 2014 and it still is okay. However, I use it sparingly because I want it to stay nice. I never thought about the crowding at the end of the race, but it must be terrible trying to find a bus if you are height challenged (I am too!)

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  7. I agree with many of your thoughts, especially dealing with Official Merchandise. Something needs to be done about it. I'm not opposed to runners having to show a bib (and ID to match the bib) in order to purchase Official Merchandise, and putting a limit on the amount that can be purchased. runDisney already isolates this area from the rest of the expo vendors, which still leaves the other booths at the expo open to the public. It is such a shame that runners running the race cannot get what they want especially on the first day of the expo, often times because runners and non-runners purchase the merchandise and then put it up on eBay.

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    1. I looked at Ebay today and really hope those who bought to resell get stuck with the stuff. If that happened after several races maybe the merchandise would be left for the runners who actually would like to purchase and keep it!

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  8. We have never had a problem getting "official" merchandise but I know people who have. Perhaps showing a bib to purchase may not be a bad idea.
    Also, if run disney has goofed up and made a mistake in your timing, they will fix it at the expo. This happened to us last year and they were real good about it. I think they put that rule "no changes at expo" in place because they don't want people who suddenly got a PR after the race cut off to come to the expo expecting to be moved in the corral. I could see where this could cause a whole lot of extra work for run disney if everyone did that.

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    1. You are correct, I have heard of minimal changing of corrals, but I also know 2 runners who got stuck in the wrong corral and they flat out refused to correct the problem. With the hefty price tag for the races, that could be extremely upsetting.

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  9. I would love to see runners get first shot at official merchandise. Maybe set aside the first two days for runners only - must have bib, limit 1 of each item per runner. Then after that, let it be a free-for-all.
    I ran my first race at PHM, doing the 5K with some friends. We went to the Expo the first day, just after lunch. All we wanted were the pins. There were plenty of the general 5K pins, but they were already out of the pins resembling the 5K medals. It would be one thing if that were the LAST day of the Expo. But in the first few hours? And when now I can go to eBay and see what happened to all of them? Not cool.

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    1. I think if they required bib pick up first and then only those with a bib in a special place for the official merchandise it might be a more fair system. But right now, they are doing what they do because the model works and they are selling out of everything in record time.

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  10. I have to agree about the merchandise - and I think pre-order would be fabulous because either way, stuff will get sold, but at least with a pre-order people could be sure to get what they want. It seems like a no-brainer to me - if I want $200 worth of merchandise but I get to the expo and you're sold out of half of it, well, then you only get $100 of my money instead of $200 that I was willing to throw at you....

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    1. Good point Kristen. I know many people who would pre order because they have missed out items at consecutive races. Christine wanted a Tervis tumbler at Princess and they were gone by the first evening.

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  11. Yep -- I agree on everything! And don't even get me started on the whole official race merchandise problem, haha. But, yes, I think the extra/smaller corrals has made a HUGE difference!

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    1. Yes, the race merchandise issue makes alot of runners crazy!

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  12. I agree! The price is pretty crazy though. Yikes it's just a lot to spend on one race but then again some would say that about Ironman events and that hasn't stopped me from registering for them.

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    1. When my coach told me how much an Ironman cost I compared it to Dopey Challenge and figured they were about comparable.

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  13. the corral situation is very interesting-I love the new corral system at WDW but i think the back corrals are still huge so that should probably be adjusted. they started smaller corrals for the DL races as well (not star wars which was crazy to be back in the old system of 2000-2500 per corral) but then they did something crazy of putting 2:31-3:!5 finishers in one massive corral of 2000 people! hopefully they can figure out a way to even it out across all races.

    and as for the price-it is expensive but it is also expensive to staff all of the races, close roads (especially at Disneyland where they are paying the city of Anaheim a lot of money to close roads and staff them with police), and run buses. I still feel like I get what I pay for with disney races

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    1. Juliana, I will be anxious to see what they do at DL for the Tink races. Christine will definitely be in a corral ahead of me. The price tag is steep but we are willing to pay for it since we enjoy the Disney races so much.

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  14. Love this post and I definitely agree with your breakdown of each. Honestly, I'm sad that they don't have the meetups anymore because it was a way that I was able to meet so many of my runDisney friends/family but I also understand the flip side of it. I do wish there was some way to update or change corrals if they weren't indicative of training or time - I understand it's probably easier for them to say "no more changes" but when there is such a broad range of times, to be put in the incorrect corral can really slow people down, especially with such a large field.

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    1. We loved the meetups too Merdith but did not even try to get in the last one at Wine and Dine because people were getting so mean on the internet about those who had attended multiple times.

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  15. Good info to know! I just did my first RunDisney event in January at the Rebel Challenge so I honestly didn't know that much about Disney races other than I wanted to do one! I agree with your breakdown of each category.

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    1. thanks Betsy. For a high quality destination race, I think the pricing is probably on the high end, but my running coach who does Ironman events thinks Disney is well priced for what you get, and of course the medals are some of the best IMHO

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  16. Good points. I used to complain at every race expo that had a RunDisney booth about the unisex shirts. They would always tell me that they couldn't predict what sizing of shirts to order for unisex and ladies. Um, what??! How does that even make sense? The races sell out months in advance. It made me ragey. Luckily, they got it together, lol!

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    1. Yes, we are thrilled with the gender specific shirts and I actually wear mine for workouts!

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  17. I just can't get over the Disney price tag. And the races sell out SO fast you just don't have enough time to make a decision! I'm passing on Disney for now but really did enjoy my experience at Princess in 2013.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed Princess, but yes it is a steep price tag for a race.

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  18. I love your thoughtful approach! I agree with almost all of them. I think they should allow expo corral changes if there's an error, but not just for people who get better times after the deadline. Mainly just because the corrals are smaller and if too many people move up, the earlier corrals could get too crowded. I love the corral changes! I still miss the meetups! I understand why they cancelled them, but they were so amazing it's hard not to be sad that they're gone! RunDisney sure isn't perfect, but they do a lot of things really well! :)

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    1. We also feel they do many things right or we would not keep going back. Princess weekend 2015 was probably our best Princess race weekend, and some were hard to top. Not only did we all have a blast during the races, but the weather was great and our park visits were so much fun. Girly race weekends can be wonderful! We also loved the meetups and remember meeting you at one of them. But as I stated, things got really awful on the net about those who got in and we quit trying for the last couple because we had already had a turn several times.

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  19. I agree...life goes on. I wish I had made one of the runDisney meetups, but alas the later ones were ho hum, from what I read, so good to just discontinue. The corral changes have been GREAT for the larger crowds. And no matter what, runDisney does put on a great race!

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    1. We would not keep going back if we did not enjoy the races. Sorry you never attended a meetup, but I do think they changed alot the last year.

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  20. I didn't know these races were getting 24+ participants, that is a lot but pretty cool.
    The price is so much higher than when I ran WDW back in 2005. I know Disney puts a lot of effort in and pays attention to details a lot of other races overlook, guess that just comes with a much higher price.
    Very cool though you do a couple disney races a year, very awesome!!!

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    1. It's a huge number isn't it. I was shocked to hear there were over 49,000 participants in all the races for Princess weekend. runDisney definitely puts on a great race.

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  21. I dislike at the expo how crowded they are and how picked over the merchandise often seems with super limited sizes and not many items. I wish they would make more or make them more widely available.

    The no corral change also frustrates me, my problem with it is yes, there is a chance for typos but what if I run a race and get an okay time but work my tail off training and run another race and pr it - I then can't enter my new time and get moved up in the corrals.

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    1. Sarah, the corral situation is a tough one, but I think logistically, they just can't verify the new times to their satisfaction. I had my corral changed at least twice, and had to bring a zeroxed copy of race results. Too many people are trying to beat the system and I think that is why they have implemented the change.

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  22. This is such a small thing, but when doing early registration for Wine and Dine on Tuesday, I LOVED that we no longer enter proof of time when we register! That always stressed me out! Too much info to enter all at once when you can hear the clock ticking and know it will sell out any minute. Feels more sane this way. And I agree with you on everything else!!

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    1. Wow, I did not know you did not enter proof of time for the new race registrations. How in the world do they decide what is your appropriate corral?

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  23. The runDisney races are HUGE! While there are things that I don't like (which you mentioned) I now know what to expect and have changed my expectations of race weekend. I would also love if runDisney were more responsive via soical media. I think that is one of their biggest weaknesses. With such a huge fan base they should be more receptive to interacting with runners through Twitter, etc.
    Karen @karenlovestorun

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