LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., Jan. 6, 2012 – Each January, Central Florida becomes a runners hub for thousands participating in the Walt Disney Marathon Weekend presented by Cigna.
With 56,000 registered this year, the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend ranks among the most popular destination races, reflecting a growing trend in sports tourism. Runners come from more than 60 countries and all 50 states, making the event arguably the largest sporting event in Central Florida and on par with some of the area’s largest conventions.
As more athletes combine vacation fun with the adventure and challenge of an endurance sport, the weekend has grown from approximately 5,500 runners in 1994 to more than 112,000 athletes and spectators expected this year.
From children’s races to a full marathon, each activity features uniquely Disney elements such as race courses through Disney theme parks, signature Disney characters and entertainment, first-class event management and exclusive race medals.
“By creating family-friendly destination races that appeal to runners of all ages and abilities, Disney is able to connect with sports enthusiasts and give visitors more reasons to travel to Central Florida,” said Ken Potrock, senior vice president of Disney Sports Enterprises.
While the runners may contribute to the Central Florida economy, their presence also benefits local charitable organizations. In 2011, organizers collected more than 26,000 pounds of clothing shed by runners who left behind nearly 25,000 pieces of clothing including jackets, hats, sweaters, shirts and gloves. Disney textile services laundered the clothing and later delivered them to Central Florida organizations such as Harvest Time International, Salvation Army and Coalition for the Homeless. In addition, nearly $10 million is raised annually – more than $61 million total in 13 years – for charities such as Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.