Disney Marathon brings in record number of runners; boosts economy

'Family Fun Run,' 'Dopey Challenge' start on Thursday

ORLANDO, Fla. – According to officials at Walt Disney World, this year's Marathon Weekend will bring the most runners ever, injecting Central Florida's economy with millions of tourism dollars in a typically slow time.

Faron Kelley, of runDisney, says nearly 70,000 runners are participating in the 5K, 10K, half marathon and marathon this weekend. There are another 50,000 spectators expected.

Disney officials say they can't estimate how much of an economic impact this year's event will create, but they have said Disneyland's latest half marathon generated $30 million with 17,000 runners. Marathon weekend at Disney World is almost triple the size in runners registered.

26,000 people are registered for the marathon, 25,000 for the half marathon and 10,000 each for the 5K and 10K. Nearly all the races sold out at record pace.

Kelley attributes the growth of runDisney particularly to the increased interest of women in the sport. He says of new runners, 75 percent are women.

This year, more women than men are registered to run the marathon. Kelley also says Disney's courted first-time runners, and the theme park atmosphere makes many runners more comfortable as opposed to trying other endurance races.

The half marathon takes place Saturday, while the marathon happens Sunday. Both begin at 5:30 a.m., before the parks open.