South Florida ’s premier running event is getting larger.

Entries for the 2010 ING Miami Marathon and Half-Marathon® which will be held January 31, 2010 through the streets of downtown Miami , Miami Beach and Coconut Grove, are trending 20% higher than in 2009 and more than 18,000 runners are expected to participate this year.

The deadline for entries is January 22, but registration will resume on race weekend at the Nissan Health and Fitness Expo presented by The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald January 29 and 30 at the Miami Beach Convention Center . The increase in entries is attributed to the growth of the running community both locally and nationally.

“Marathons and half marathons around the country are seeing a continual climb,” said ING Miami Marathon® Race Director David Scott. “The surprising thing is the growth that we are seeing on the women’s side of the race. We have more women’s entries this year than we have men’s entries and that is a first for our race.

“I also think that with so much attention given to health reform a spin off to that is people are looking to be more active and healthier. Plus our event is now established in the running community. People who live down here look forward to this race and runners from out of town look forward to visiting South Florida in January.”

Race Results Weekly, the wire service of distance running, recently reported an 11% increase in participation in road races nationwide after an analysis of 200 races.

One of the key attributes fueling the growth of races such as the ING Miami Marathon is the expansion of on-course entertainment. People want more than a race. They want an event.

The ING Miami Marathon obliges by providing entertainment from start to finish with music and entertainers of all sorts. Whether it’s the Latin Beats of Xpresso at the spectator-filled orange ING Cheer Zone, a Rock Band video game break station, high school bands and cheerleaders, or the famous Parrot Heads Fan Club of South Florida singing, dancing and cheering runners through Key Biscayne, participants in the 2010 ING Miami Marathon and Half-Marathon® will find plenty to keep them entertained throughout their grueling trek.

“Running is good for people and it makes them feel better,” Scott said. “Even in the tough economic times that we have been experiencing the past few years, the continued growth of the ING Miami Marathon is proof of that.”