Racers Mean Big Dollars for Valley

Marathon and half marathon create $476,000 economic impact; up 26.3 percent from 2012


A runner crosses the finish line during this year's Blue Ridge Marathon.
A runner crosses the finish line during this year’s Blue Ridge Marathon.

Billed as America’s toughest road marathon, the fourth annual Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Marathon and Half Marathon generated $476,000 in economic impact, according to a new study.

The 1,684 runners spent money as well as energy, making this year’s race the best one ever. To date, the event has contributed more than $1.5 million to the local economy.

A post-race survey determined that the April 20 races created $295,678 in direct new sales activity, plus an additional $180,691 in indirect and induced spending for a total of $476,370 – up 26.3 percent from 2012. Activity surrounding the event will support 5.7 jobs in the regional economy for the period of a year.

“The races and the visitors they attract reinforce awareness of the Roanoke Region’s outdoor amenities and reaffirm that our growing reputation as an outdoor destination leads to economic development,” said Pete Eshelman, director of outdoor branding for the Roanoke Regional Partnership.

The Partnership and Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission prepared a participant survey to measure the event’s economic impact. Respondents were asked to report the amount spent on fuel, meals, lodging, miscellaneous retail purchases and admissions while in the study area. Results of the survey also indicate a 100 percent satisfaction rating from participants.

Runners came to Roanoke from 38 states, Canada, Germany, England, and Ethiopia. Approximately 67 percent of runners were from the state of Virginia and 77 percent were from the southeastern United States.

National attention drew a record number of runners this year, up 77 percent compared to last year. The race was featured on a number of ‘toughest in the world’ lists including those compiled by The Weather Channel, USA Today, and Wenger.

Meanwhile local interest grows as well. Coverage of the race by WDBJ7 exceeded viewership of recent coverage of national sporting events.

“Three and a half hours of live coverage on race day were among the most viewed sports programs the weekend of the marathon. Race coverage on April 20th was the second-most watched sports program, outpaced only by NASCAR. Blue Ridge Marathon coverage bested the PGA, NBA, NHL and MLB, which is a testament to the growing stature of this race,” said Dan Dennison, news director for WDBJ7.

More than 44 percent of all survey respondents reported staying in town for at least one night. Approximately 36 percent stayed between one and two nights. The average length of stay among overnight visitors was 1.92 nights, up from 1.85 nights in 2012.

About 46 percent of all respondents reported traveling with family or friends. Respondents were asked to report the number of non-participants that traveled with them. The average size of the travel party among overnight visitors was 2.1, up from 1.7 in 2012. Day-trip visitors traveled with an average of 0.9 others per participant, up from 0.3.

“In all, this event has supported over a million and a half dollars in total regional economic impact in its first four years,” Eshelman said. “But more importantly, runners experienced a beautiful setting with friendly people and interesting attractions – goodwill that goes far beyond the numbers.”

The race course started in downtown Roanoke and meandered to the top of Mill Mountain and Roanoke Mountain along sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway for a total elevation change of 7,234 feet, making it America’s toughest road marathon.

The 2014 date is set for April 26.

For more information go to: www.blueridgemarathon.com/economicimpact2013.

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