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‘Biggest Loser’ Host Alison Sweeney First Celeb to Enter the 20th Anniversary Walt Disney World Marathon

posted on July 16th, 2012 by Darrell Fry, Sports Media Director, Walt Disney World


Plans for the 20th anniversary Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend are still being developed, but one thing is certain: some celebrities in Hollywood are already starting to line up to run it.

Alison Sweeney, host of the popular reality show “The Biggest Loser,” has just thrown her name into the hat. She recently entered the half marathon. Word is, other celebrities are on the verge of signing up, too, as well as some famous former distance running stars.

For Sweeney, an avid runner, the decision to choose the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend was an easy one – her kids’ faces lit up at the prospect of coming to Walt Disney World Resort for the race weekend, January 10-13, 2013.

Sweeney has already started training for the race. Check out this video of her from a recent training run at a park near her Los Angeles-area home where she talks about getting ready for her first runDisney race.

Check out these posts for more runDisney news from Walt Disney World Resort:

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Special Princess Half Marathon Medal Up for Grabs at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on July 10th, 2012 by Darrell Fry, Sports Media Director, Walt Disney World


Registration opened today for Disney’s Princess Half Marathon Weekend, and if you haven’t run in this race, this might be the time to do it.
Disney’s Princess Half Marathon Weekend at Walt Disney World Resort

That’s because our runDisney team is working on a commemorative finisher’s medal for the 2013 race here at Walt Disney World Resort to mark the fifth anniversary of the race weekend, which is geared toward women and their active, healthy lifestyles. And the 2013 race will be the only one where you can get this special medal.

No details about the medal have been released yet, but I’m told it will feature some sort of princess tiara theme to it. Stay tuned for more details about that.

In the meantime, if you even think you might want to run, you’d better sign up early. This Princess race is a hot ticket. The race sold out last year in only a few months, with some 19,000 runners registering for the 13.1-mile run. This year the field is expected to swell to more than 20,000.

Like other runDisney races, this one, scheduled for February 22-24, will have fun stuff for runners of all ages and skill levels – everything from a Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse Royal Family 5K to several Kids Races, plus a health and fitness expo with lots of running apparel and equipment geared toward women.

To sign up for the race or any runDisney race, as always, just go to runDisney.com.

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Stay on the Run at Walt Disney World Resort



posted on June 27th, 2012 by Darrell Fry, Sports Media Director, Walt Disney World



If you’re coming to Walt Disney World Resort on vacation, there are plenty of ways to maintain your healthy and active lifestyle during your visit here. In addition to healthy food options and exercise facilities in and around our theme parks and resorts, there are several running/walking trails around the resort for anyone looking to log a few miles while on vacation.

The trails are well marked and vary in length, so they are perfect whether you are a novice runner or an experienced long-distance runner. All the trails are framed by beautiful scenery and/or wildlife; the type of experience many Disney guests rarely get to enjoy. There are trails that take you along Bay Lake between Disney’s Wilderness Lodge and The Campsites at Fort Wilderness Resort or around Seven Seas Lagoon with Cinderella Castle in the distance – just the kind of vistas that can make your run more magical and help you stay fit while making vacation memories with your friends and family.

But don’t take it from me. Listen to Lori Lovell, the runDisney mom on the Walt Disney World Moms Panel, who recently hit the running trails at Walt Disney World Resort and shared with us three of her favorites.



If you want to hit the trails during your next visit to Walt Disney World Resort, check out www.DisneyWorld.com or stop by the front desk of your resort for maps and directions.

 And don’t forget: if you are looking to combine a great family vacation with the challenge of a half or full marathon, runDisney events are the perfect fit. With six event weekends at Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort that all feature kids’ races, Family Fun Run 5Ks, half marathons and/or full marathons, there races for runners of all ages. Get more information or sign up for a race at www.rundisney.com. And to be among the first to find out all of the news and information related to runDisney, follow us on our new Twitter feed @runDisney and at Facebook.com/rundisney.

Check out more of the latest runDisney news in the posts below:

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Dreams Come True in Fast Motion at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on June 18th, 2012 by Darrell Fry, Sports Media Director, Walt Disney World


Magical moments happen all the time at Disney Parks. A cool one occurred this week at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort, when several Daytona Beach area school kids got to spend the afternoon with NASCAR star Jimmie Johnson.
“NASCAR

Johnson, who was in town to promote the Coke Zero 400 race at Daytona International Speedway next month, raced wooden stock cars (think pine box derby cars) with the kids, who built the cars to resemble Johnson’s actual No. 48 race car. Johnson then spent several minutes talking to the kids, answering all of their questions and giving autographs to anyone who asked for one.

It was a dream day for the kids even before Johnson arrived at the sports complex, because the kids got to do some fun training with various NFL players and Olympic athletes who regularly train at the complex. One of the NFL drills involved the kids running across the field tethered to two parachutes.

By the time Johnson left Disney, there were lots of smiles, laughs and priceless memories that will probably last a lifetime.

Oh, and the kids had a good time, too.

Read on for more news from ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex:

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The Second Chance to Get Your Tinker Bell Wings at Disneyland Resort Begins at Noon Today

posted on June 12th, 2012 by Darrell Fry, Sports Media Director, Walt Disney World


If you didn’t get a chance to run in the wildly popular inaugural Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend last year at Disneyland Resort, now is your chance to get in on the fun. Registration for the 2013 race is now open at www.runDisney.com.
“Kellie

Last year’s race sold out quickly, with more than 17,000 runners registering for the various events during the weekend, all of which are geared toward women. Kellie Nickerson of New Mexico won the inaugural race, which also featured a few celebrities, such as Megyn Price (“Rules of Engagement”) and Sean Astin (“Lord of the Rings” and “Rudy”).

The second annual event should be just as entertaining. In addition to running through Disneyland park, Disney California Adventure park and the streets of Anaheim, runners will also get to run through the new Cars Land at Disney California Adventure park. Like all runDisney events, the 2013 Tinker Bell Half Marathon will feature events for the entire family, plus music, entertainment and beloved Disney characters along the 13.1 mile course. The reward at the end is a coveted Tinker Bell medal with its own set of “wings”.

To sign up for the race or any runDisney race, go to www.runDisney.com.

Check out more of the latest runDisney news in the posts below:

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Soccer Star Kaká Visits the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on June 11th, 2012 by Darrell Fry, Sports Media Director, Walt Disney World


Soccer Star Kaká Visits the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort

The Olympics are a little more than a month away and everyone is getting into the Olympic spirit – even other megastar athletes like soccer legend Kaká. The Brazilian soccer great stopped by the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex today and couldn’t resist checking out the handful of Olympic contenders who regularly train at the complex with renowned track coach Brooks Johnson.

Soccer Star Kaká Visits the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort

Kaká, who apparently won’t compete in the Olympics but will compete for Brazil in the 2014 FIFA World Cup soccer tourney in Brazil, mixed and mingled with several Olympic hopefuls including Olympic bronze medalist David Oliver, as well as Mickey Mouse who didn’t want to miss out on all of the fun. Kaka posed for a few photos, autographed a few soccer balls and donned a Disney Cup International Soccer t-shirt.

Soccer Star Kaká Visits the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort

After several days of vacation at Walt Disney World Resort, Kaká will head back to Brazil. Meanwhile, the Olympic track stars will continue preparing for next week’s US Olympic Trials, which determine who will make the US team that will compete in the Summer Games in London starting in late July.

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New Twists and Turns Coming to 20th Anniversary Walt Disney World Marathon Course

posted on May 17th, 2012 by Darrell Fry, Sports Media Director, Walt Disney World


The countdown has begun to the 20th anniversary of the Walt Disney World Marathon on Jan. 13, 2013, and not surprisingly, our runDisney folks are hard at work putting their creative juices together to come up with some fun new twists for the race.

So far they have added some special entertainment along the 20th mile to commemorate the 20th anniversary and added a post-race party at Downtown Disney. They are also working on the creation of a special 20th anniversary medal, which I’ll reveal later.

But the latest development that I can share with you now involves some unique twists to the course. Here’s a hint: the 2013 Walt Disney World Marathon is going to have some “high-speed’’ elements that will knock this race “out of the ballpark.’’

Think you have it figured out?

Well, just check out this video for all of the new details about the fun enhancements to the 26.2-mile course that will go through the four Walt Disney World Resort theme parks – and a few other places you probably never dreamed about.

If you want to get in on the fun, just sign up at runDisney.com for the marathon or any of the other family-oriented races taking place here during the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend presented by Cigna, Jan. 10-13.

Check out these posts for more runDisney news:

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Splitsville Project to ‘Rock In and Roll Out’ at Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on April 27th, 2012 by Darrell Fry, Sports Media Director, Walt Disney World


Details are beginning to emerge about the look and feel of the new Splitsville location we told you is coming to Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort this fall, and I’m happy to share with you all of the latest developments.

This new Splitsville is going to be their first two-level venue and, at 50,000 square feet, will be the largest one in the country – in fact, almost twice the size of any of the other four locations. And it’s going to feature 30 bowling lanes, again nearly twice as many as at any other Splitsville.

This Splitsville will also have a balcony with outdoor seating, as well as billiard tables and live entertainment, making it an ideal place for some family fun outside of the theme parks. Like other Splitsvilles, this one will serve upscale food and beverages, including sushi, amid a stylish interior that features both hip and retro décor elements. Suffice it to say, this is not going to be your father’s bowling alley.

Construction is already well underway at its location in the heart of Downtown Disney near the AMC Downtown Disney 24. Expect a grand opening sometime this fall to mark the arrival of the newest entertainment option among the stream of fresh and fun family experiences that have been added lately to Downtown Disney.

In the meantime, here’s the newest rendering of the location’s exterior and a video that will give you a feel for what it’ll be like inside.

Check out these other posts about Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort:

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A Toast to 15 Years of Wild and Wonderful Sports at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on March 28th, 2012 by Darrell Fry, Sports Media Director, Walt Disney World


With the swing of a bat, the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort officially opened 15 years ago today. It was an Atlanta Braves spring training game under the lights against the Cincinnati Reds that featured the likes of superstar Deion Sanders, Hall of Famer Barry Larkin and former All-Star Fred “Crime Dog’’ McGriff.

Were you there?

Back then, the place was called Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex. But over the last decade and a half, the venue has undergone extraordinary growth, including being re-imagined with the ESPN brand, and today stands as the leading multi-sports venue in the nation for youth and pro athletes.

In all, more than 200,000 athletes, coaches and fans visit the 270-acre complex each year to compete in more than 350 different events, which over the years have included Tampa Bay Bucs training camp, the NBA Pre-Draft Camp, the Major League Baseball Draft, the World Cheerleading Championships and the Pop Warner Super Bowl.

To mark today’s 15th anniversary, here’s my unofficial look at some of the most memorable moments in the sports complex’s history:

AAU Boys Basketball Super Showcase and National Championships return to Disney and feature a host of future NBA stars, including preps Al Jefferson, Glen “Big Baby” Davis and O.J. Mayo (pictured). Coaches attending include Roy Williams (North Carolina), Bill Self (Kansas), Tom Izzo (Michigan State), Mark Few (Gonzaga) and Billy Donovan (Florida). National Consortium for Academics & Sports (NCAS) inducts Muhammad Ali into its Hall of Fame. Celebration at the sports complex includes special ceremony renaming Victory Way to Muhammad Ali Way for the day. Legendary sports journalist Dick Schaap serves as Master of Ceremonies. Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex Grand Opening includes a Major League Baseball spring training game - the Atlanta Braves defeated the Cincinnati Reds, 9-7, in front of a sellout crowd of more than 10,000 at the Baseball Stadium. Reds outfielder Deion Sanders records first hit, steals first base and scores first run in the history of the sports complex, while Braves slugger Fred McGriff hits the ballpark’s first home run.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Training Camp marks the first NFL preseason training camp in the history of Disney’s Wide World of Sports. The Bucs’ new era under first-year head coach Jon Gruden started at Disney and ended in January 2003 with a Super Bowl title in San Diego. The Bucs conducted joint practices on Aug. 9-10 with the Miami Dolphins (incl. Ricky Williams, Jason Taylor and Zack Thomas) in the outfield of the baseball stadium. The joint practices attracted a stadium record 12,550 fans. The inaugural World Baseball Classic, a 16-team tournament sanctioned by the International Baseball Federation (IBAF), featured many of the best players in the world competing for their home countries and territories for the first time ever. Disney’s Wide World of Sports hosted one of four Round 1 pools (six games). The Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Australia and Italy participated at Disney. Players included David Ortiz, Albert Pujols, Alfonso Soriano, Mike Piazza and Andruw Jones. A host of sports’ biggest stars help kick off the opening of the newly re-imagined ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. More than 50 athletes and ESPN personalities, including Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson, NFL all-pro Chad Ochocinco, softball star Jennie Finch and former LPGA great Annika Sorenstam, walk the “green carpet,” and attend the special grand opening event that also included a Harlem Globetrotters game, MLS exhibition game and a special Atlanta Braves evening practice. Special guests also included Florida governor Charlie Crist, ESPN executive chairman George Bodenheimer and Disney Sports Senior Vice President Ken Potrock.
Disney Sports launches runDisney, which encompasses all six current Disney marathon and half marathon weekends. The series creates a unique series of destination races that offer one-of-a-kind running experiences over each weekend. The runDisney series also names former Olympian and endurance expert Jeff Galloway as the official training consultant. The ESPN Innovation Lab officially opened at Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex. The lab is used to develop new products for television broadcasts and is the official 3D broadcast development hub for ESPN. Soccer Player Lionel Messi Kicks Off a Game with Mickey Mouse
First Lady Michelle Obama participates in a fitness activity with local children at the Magic of Healthy Living event at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. The event celebrated the First Lady's 'Let's Move!' initiative and recognized Disney's efforts to promote healthier lifestyles among kids and families. Orlando Magic Training Camp brings Coach Chuck Daly’s squad to Disney’s fieldhouse prior to the Magic franchise’s ninth season. Penny Hardaway, Nick Anderson, and Horace Grant highlighted the Magic roster. The Magic returned to train at Disney in 2003. The Tampa Bay Rays hosted the first of two regular-season series at Champion Stadium (the second one was in 2008). In 2008, the Rays swept the Toronto Blue Jays (6-4, 5-3, 5-3) to improve their record at Disney to 6-0 and went on to reach the team’s first-ever World Series.
NBA Pre-Draft Camp is held Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex in 2007 and 2008. Potential top draft picks – including future MVP Derrick Rose – are involved in drills, games and physical exams under the watchful eye of representatives from virtually every NBA team and the league office. Among the well-known names were Larry Bird, Michael Jordan and Larry Brown. On the heels of recruiting Lebron James and Chris Bosh to join him in South Florida, Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade visits the complex, and plays in a special 3-on-3 basketball game with AAU girls’ basketball players and Mickey Mouse. PGA TOUR mega-star Tiger Woods conducts his first-ever Tiger Woods Youth Foundation golf clinic at Disney’s Wide World of Sports as one of a handful of events that took place just prior to the Grand Opening of the complex. During the event, Tiger provides instruction to 150 junior golfers from Tampa and Orlando. He also receives the key to the City of Orlando from Mayor Glenda Hood.

See the posts below for another look at just a few of the past events held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex:

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AS Roma and ESPN Wide World of Sports at Walt Disney World Resort Create Italian Pro Soccer Presence for America’s Youth Athletes

posted on March 19th, 2012 by Darrell Fry, Sports Media Director, Walt Disney World


Famed Italian football club AS Roma is teaming up with ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. As part of the new agreement, the sports complex becomes the official winter training home of the three-time Serie A champions, along with AS Roma serving as presenting sponsor of several Disney-owned youth soccer events. The Rome-based professional team will also have one of its youth academy teams compete in Disney’s Soccer Showcase.

“Mark

Franco Baldini (photo, right), director general of football operations for AS Roma, and the club’s Chief Executive Officer Mark Pannes (photo, left) recently visited the 270-acre multi-sport complex, and anticipate many benefits to training at Walt Disney World Resort.

“The facilities are tremendously impressive,” said Franco Baldini, director general of football operations for AS Roma. “The ability to come here to train at this state-of-the-art complex in good weather during the Serie A winter break will be a big advantage.”

AS Roma’s involvement underscores the sports complex’s stature as the nation’s top youth soccer venue, which annually hosts pro soccer events as well as many of the country’s most prestigious youth soccer tournaments.

The joint venture also integrates the Italian football club, winner of nine Coppa Italia titles and two Supercoppa Italiana crowns, into the U.S. youth soccer market, where it hopes to expand its fan base.

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