Blue Ridge Marathon Impact Continues to Grow, Tops $3.2 Million Over 7 Years

Blue Ridge marathon runners

More racers brought more money to the Roanoke Region’s economy during the seventh annual Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Marathon, half marathon, and Anthem Star 10K. “America’s Toughest Road Marathon” hosted 1,844 runners who generated more than $592,000 in economic impact according to a new study. Over the past seven years, the event has contributed more than $3.2 million to the local economy.

A post-race survey determined the April 16 races created $339,911 in direct new sales activity, plus an additional $252,493 in indirect and induced spending for a total of $592,404 – up 6.5 percent over 2015. Activity surrounding the event will also support 7.3 jobs in the regional economy over the period of one year.

The economic impact is larger this year as a result of increased number of participants from outside the Roanoke Region. The number of runners participating from outside the region accounted for more than half of race participants. The race drew runners from 38 states – in addition to the District of Columbia – and eight countries: Afghanistan, Brazil, Haiti, Ireland, Germany, Canada, Puerto Rico, and the United Kingdom.

“The study shows that this race is steadily becoming a destination event, counting dollars brought to the region from outside the area. In addition, the race helps more people experience the Roanoke Region’s outdoor amenities,” said Pete Eshelman, director of outdoor branding for the Roanoke Regional Partnership. “That awareness helps reaffirm our reputation as an outdoor destination leading to economic development.”

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 Roanoke.

More than 39 percent of all survey respondents reported staying in town for at least one night. Approximately 35 percent stayed between one and two nights. The average length of stay among overnight visitors was 1.7 nights.

About 46 percent of respondents reported traveling with family or friends, with an average of 1.9 additional people in the travel party among overnight visitors. Day-trip visitors traveled with an average of 0.5 others.

The race course started in downtown Roanoke and climbed to the top of Mill Mountain and Roanoke Mountain along sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway for a total elevation change of 7,430 feet, making it America’s Toughest Road Marathon.

Along with national interest in the race, local participation continues to grow. The Anthem 10K race option, Carilion Family 1-Miler, post-race festival and concert in conjunction with the Down by Downtown Music Festival, brought the community out to Elmwood Park. The race was again broadcast live by WDBJ7, who reported large viewership throughout the race.

“The event is more than the bucket-list race it is earning a reputation for; it’s a great way to engage a healthy and active community right here at home. More than 30 organizations and sponsors, 550 volunteers, and countless spectators come together for the Blue Ridge Marathon each spring, welcoming people from all over the nation and world to our community,” Eshelman said.

“This year’s Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Marathon was a stunning success, and we could not be more proud to be its title sponsor for the fourth year running,” said Foot Levelers CEO Kent S. Greenawalt. “It’s been exciting to witness the year-after-year growth—not only in terms of the number of runners, but in terms of the positive economic impact on the region. We’re very pleased to learn the marathon is becoming a “bucket list” event for runners around the nation.  It helps get the word out about Roanoke and why it’s such a wonderful place to live, work and play.”

The 2017 races are set for April 22 – Earth Day. Registration is open.

Download the report.