The sport of competitive fitness is coming to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex with the inaugural Disney Fit Challenge . [Read more…]
By Don Gworek
Brand new opportunities have been introduced in the runDisney event schedule. This year started with a multi-race series where you could earn the above 10 medals in 11 days.
Adult runDisney shoes were introduced by a vendor at an expo last year, and the shoes quickly sold out. What runDisney fan wouldn’t want to run in super cool shoes like these? This is one of the 2014 editions of the running shoes, the Sorcerer Mickey shoe.
Most of the expos have an “I Did It!” shirt. New to the schedule was a four-race series called the Dopey Challenge. The Dopey Challenge is where you run a 5K, 10K, half marathon, and full marathon, one per morning of the event weekend. It totaled 48.6 miles.
For many years the Dopey Challenge was unofficial. Guests would register for the half-full marathon combo, the Goofy Challenge. If you also did the 5K fun run, you did the unofficial Dopey Challenge. Now the Dopey Challenge is official, and includes a 10K too!
The first event of the 2014 Walt Disney World Marathon weekend was the 5K fun run at Epcot, held the Thursday morning of the event weekend. The 5K has grown to a well-organized but incredible size, where all of Amaze section of Epcot parking is used to hold the starting corrals. Thousands gather in the corrals for each separate starting wave. Seen here is just Corral A, the first wave. Seven thousand of the 10,000 5K participants were entered in the four-race Dopey Challenge.
Three point one miles done. Sixty seven point nine miles to go!
Seen here in the median of Epcot Boulevard was a video wall. The screen is too bright here, but it had Disney characters dancing to current pop music. This location is also the start of the half and full marathons the following two mornings, with the video wall turned the other direction.
The 10K course then circled World Showcase to the International Gateway hotel resort entrance. The course then circled Crescent Lake. Seen here is the course near Disney’s Yacht Club Resort. The yellow arrow points to the glow of the finish line, in Epcot’s parking lot.
The organizers have introduced smaller corrals for the leaders. The first wave had only a few hundred of the fastest runners entered. Later waves grew in size. This allows more people of similar pace to run with each other. There is less jostling for proper position in the pack. The starts are safer and more comfortable. This also means there were 16 separate starts! Each started with a blast of fireworks, like seen here.
With 16 different starts, there were far more people on the other side of the road at this point than before. On the left are thousands still early in the half marathon, heading north to the Magic Kingdom. On the right are many of the first to return to Epcot.
The first eight or so miles of the full marathon are identical to the half marathon. The course changes when the full marathon enters for a lap on the tri-oval loop of the Walt Disney World Speedway (the race track normally used for the Richard Petty Driving Experience and the Exotic Car Experience). Many years ago the Speedway was built and used for Indy car and Nascar events.
Much of the tri-oval track is lined with classic muscle cars and show cars. Car clubs are invited to come cheer on the participants in the full marathon. Look closely and you’ll see Herbie the Love Bug is among the cars along the track.
The full marathon continues down a service road, and enters Animal Kingdom park through its north service entrance. At left are cast members of the Lion King show, cheering the guests entering the park.
Participants continued through the Epcot resort area, to the International Gateway, and a lap around World Showcase. Seen here is the hill near the United Kingdom pavilion. From here it’s aproximately 1.3 miles to the finish line!
If you ran the Dopey Challenge, you earned six medals in the past four days. Left to right, 5K Pluto, 10K Minnie, half marathon Donald, full marathon Mickey. You also earned a Goofy medal for the half-full combo. And the brand new official Dopey Challenge medal!
Seen here also are an additional lanyard on the Mickey medal for completing all 21 of the full Walt Disney World Marathons since 1994, and an additional lanyard for completing all nine of the Goofy Challenges – next year is the 10th Anniversary of the Goofy Challenge!
This three race series is themed to Tinkerbell. It’s intended as an event for ladies, but hundreds of men run too. Just like the race weekend before, the Tinkerbell weekend begins with a race expo in the Disneyland Convention Center.
For this event, the first-to-arrive are in the first corrals. Corral A lined up on the east side of the castle hub. When it filled, Corral B filled on the west side. When B filled, two more corrals filled the blocks of Main Street USA. Four starts in all.
The next race was a brand new Tinkerbell 10K. The starting line was at the top of the Disneyland Drive viaduct under Downtown Disney. Note a race sponsor on this Anaheim sign – Celebration Health, Florida Hospital.
For the 10K only, these Haunted Mansion characters were available for photos as the course went around the Rivers of America. It’s the bride and the ballerina/tightrope walker as seen in one of the stretching room portraits.
The final race of the unofficial Hercules Challenge was the Tinkerbell Half Marathon!
Only ladies are permitted in Corral A. This is the front of Corral B, and the bottom of the viaduct under Downtown Disney, looking south. Corrals extended past the Paradise Pier hotel tower at right.
The half marathon circles Disneyland’s north perimeter on city roads. It then darts backstage on the east side into the viaduct that connects backstage of Disneyland and backstage of Disney California Adventure.
The half marathon now circles backstage at Disneyland park. Seen here is the roundhouse where the steam trains and monorail trains are serviced. This steam engine tooted happily. It was as if the steam engine was a living character, stepping out from its house to its front yard, to toot and cheer participants as they passed by.
Here are the 10 medals you would have earned if you did the Dopey Challenge in Orlando and the three races of Tinkerbell weekend in Anaheim over the 11 days, spanning the two events.
At bottom are the 5K, 10k and half marathon medals of Tinkerbell weekend.
At bottom right is a Coast to Coast medal. The Coast to Coast medal is earned by running a half or full Disney marathon in Orlando and a Disney half marathon in Anaheim in a single calendar year.
Some of the unofficial Hercules Challenge participants earned 10 medals in 11 days. Others earned only nine (including this reporter).
The Coast to Coast medal seen here is actually the 2013 medal, and for display purposes only. This is because there is now the opportunity to earn two Coast to Coast medals in a single year. We were given a choice of earning a blue-ribbon Coast to Coast at Tinkerbell weekend, or earning a new pink ribbon Coast to Coast by completing the Princess half marathon next month – Pink ribbon for completing the two Disney half marathons for ladies.
If you also ran the 2014 Walt Disney World marathon you could also earn a blue Coast to Coast by completing the September Disneyland half marathon. So if you opted to earn a pink Coast to Coast medal, you finished the unofficial Hercules Challenge with nine medals. If you opted for a blue Coast to Coast to be earned at Tinkerbell, you finished with 10 medals.
Many hundreds look forward to earning both Coast to Coast medals this year!
There is no such thing as an “I Did It!” shirt for the unofficial Hercules Challenge, like the representation above. But maybe, someday! It took nine years before the Dopey Challenge became official. And all Hercules needs is a bunch of medals around his neck, plus a set of sparkling wings instead of a cape!
It was a fun, but very tiring, 11 days. The most tiring part: waking up so early on seven of the 11 days!
Some of the most popular names in baseball are coming to Walt Disney World for Atlanta Braves Spring Training at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. The Braves training season lasts from Feb. 22 through Mar. 28, 2013. [Read more…]
After the Miami Heat gained two megastar free-agents (LeBron James and Chris Bosh), guard Dwyane Wade celebrated with a vacation to Disney World where he stopped by ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex to play a fun 3-on-3 game with Mickey Mouse and AAU girls basketball players from South Florida and Louisiana. [Read more…]
Major League Gaming’s (MLG) Pro Circuit tournament opened its 2010 season at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex at Disney World this past weekend with an intense three day competition full of unexpected twists and upsets. Ultimately fourth-seeded Instinct prevailed over the rest of the 200 team field, taking home $20,000 and its first Halo 3 tournament win in the process. The team consists of recently added members, Kyle “ElamiteWarrior” Elam from Union, K.Y. and 18-year-old Scottie “Cloud” Holste of Elk Grove Village, Ill. who joined top twin competitors, Jason “Lunchbox” Brown and Justin “Roy” Brown of Urbana, Ill. [Read more…]
Top pros, aspiring amateurs, and fans are set to convene as the 2010 Major League Gaming (MLG) Pro Circuit debuts this weekend. The Orlando competition is the first of a five city U.S. Pro Circuit tour that will place the most talented players alongside their toughest opponents to culminate in a national championship event. The first event takes place April 16 to 18 at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World.
This year, the organizers are bringing fighting games back to the competitive fold with Tekken 6, Super Smash Bros. Brawl and the popular Halo 3 FFA (free-for-all or individual) competition is also on deck for the 2010 season. The top FFA players from each event will be flown to the finals at the 2010 National Championships to compete for the $2,500 first prize.
Halo 3 is making its third season return to the Pro Circuit. Two-hundred and eight teams will compete in a three-day, double-elimination tournament. The Orlando competition will also feature home team favorites and league superstars Str8 Rippin, one of the best Halo teams in the world and one of the biggest success stories of the MLG Pro Circuit. Competing in the circuit will be leader Tsquared, one of Halo’s greatest and longest-standing players alongside teammates Snipedown, Heinz and Legit. Another strong contender on the Pro Circuit is Orlando-based, Sean ‘Legend’ Hinsinger. The 24-year-old led his former team, Classic, to second place at the 2008 Pro Circuit and is now heading up team Darkest Hour.
Eight winners from the 2010 MLG Doritos Pro-Gaming Nashville Combine will also compete at the Orlando event as part of their prize package. Included in the lineup is 17-year-old Ryan ‘a.reallygoodnoob’ Geddes from Zephyrhills, Fla. who wowed the MLG evaluators in Nashville and promises to be a home favorite at the Orlando competition.
Fans can purchase passes for the Orlando competition and interact with fan favorites during “Play-a-Pro” matches, and put their own skills to the test in exhibition matches. There will also be merchandise giveaways throughout the weekend. Full details about the event and the Pro Circuit are available at mlgpro.com/pro-circuit/2010. Passes can also be purchased onsite.
The sports facility formerly known as Disney’s Wide World of Sports was officially re-launched as ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex last Thursday, Feb. 25, in an elaborate Hollywood-style “turf carpet” event that featured celebrities, Florida’s governor, ESPN on-air commentators and sports stars from the NFL, MLB, LPGA, Olympics and more.
Shawn Johnson (Olympic gold medal gymnast), Chad Ochocinco (Cincinnati Bengals), Jennie Finch (Olympic softball gold medalist), Santonio Holmes (Pittsburgh Steelers Super Bowl MVP) and Annika Sorenstam (LPGA) were among the star athletes who joined popular ESPN on-air personalities on the green carpet with yard lines resembling a football field. Minnie Mouse helped New Orleans Saints kicker Garrett Hartley officially re-launch the 220-acre sports complex when he booted a football over the re-designed complex entrance amid fireworks and a sea of confetti. Immediately afterwards, Mickey Mouse led a throng of youth and pro athletes – representing the 60-plus sports held at the complex – through a huge ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex banner draped over the entrance.
Afterwards, the celebrities, athletes and ESPN personalities attended a special reception at the complex’s re-themed ESPN Wide World of Sports Grill, followed by a special performance by the Harlem Globetrotters that featured Hartley, Sorenstam, Maurice Jones-Drew, Brandi Chastain and ESPN radio personalities Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic, who served as honorary assistant coaches. The game, called by ESPN’s “SportsNation” co-hosts Colin Cowherd and Michelle Beadle, aired Friday on ESPN2.
“At ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, we are giving America’s youth athletes a one-of-a-kind youth sports experience that leaves them feeling as if they have reached the big time and made it onto ESPN,” said Ken Potrock, senior vice president of Disney Sports Enterprises.
Disney and ESPN have added many technological and experiential enhancements designed to replicate the signature elements of ESPN throughout the complex, including 56 high-definition cameras (42 robotic, 10 handheld and four studio), 40 high-definition video screens at 17 locations (including three jumbo screens) and a 2,500-square-foot Production Center with links to ESPN facilities in Bristol, Conn., New York and Los Angeles. Also, there is a 20-zone audio system, a welcome center, a huge complex marquee and the Innovation Lab where the ESPN Emerging Technology group is testing and developing innovative new on-air applications.
In addition, Disney is looking to add some downtime activities for the young athletes who may have long breaks between games. The first of such is The Playstation Pavillion, which opened on Thursday as well. The Pavilion features 17 PlayStation3 systems, including a SingStar stage, and a collection of just-released game titles. Many additional expansion plans are in development, including a planned 100-lane bowling facility. No time frame has been given for the bowling center.
Another new addition to the complex is a Custom Tee Center by Champion. Athletes can take their event tee to the Custom Tee Center and choose from more than 50 designs that can be added to their shirt, such as “1st Place”, “Champions”, “Team Captain”, “Team Mom” and more. The designs come in a variety of sizes and range from $1.95 to $4.95 and the T-shirt will be complete in less than 15 minutes. In addition to the main location near the Grill, mobile centers will be set up around the complex.
Disney Sports annually stages more than 300 events and has accommodated approximately 60 different sports involving athletes from more than 70 countries. Among those events are Atlanta Braves spring training, Chelsea Football Club events, the Pop Warner Super Bowl, AAU National Championships, Varsity Cheer events, the World Cheerleading Championships, the ESPN RISE Games, USSSA events and the Walt Disney World Marathon. ESPN televises dozens of sporting events from the complex, and Walt Disney World Resort and ESPN also annually work together to host the popular ESPN The Weekend presented by Dick’s Sporting Goods event at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Keep scrolling for videos and photos from the grand opening ceremonies.