MINNEAPOLIS -- Nearly 28,000 people are participating in running and walking events this weekend as part of the Twin Cities Marathon, up from about 26,000 people last year.

The biggest growth has been in Saturday's shorter distance events and family races, said Virginia Brophy Achman, executive director of Twin Cities in Motion, which organizes the event.

"There's definitely an awareness to the benefits of walking and running," she said, "and we're engaging more people, we're able to get in front of more people, and we have, for example, in our kids program, we get out into schools and help teachers with free, downloadable online training programs. So we're seeing a lot of growth with kids and then in turn, those kids will bring their parents and the whole family gets out and runs."

Nearly 12,000 people are signed up for the marathon on Sunday, and more than 9,000 runners are expected for the Twin Cities Ten Mile. That race features four Olympians this year.

Organizers say some 300,000 spectators are expected to watch the events throughout the weekend.

by Elizabeth Dunbar, Minnesota Public Radio