Missoula Marathon’s 26.2 miles deliver $2M economic impact

The 13th annual Missoula Marathon is this weekend and local businesses are ramping up for the thousands of runners and their race-related spending sprees.

With over 6,000 participants, it’s the biggest marathon in Montana, and businesses have seen an uptick in traffic and sales for the weekend ever since Run Wild Missoula started the race in 2007. 

About 40 percent of the racers visit from outside the state, so concentrate their expenditures locally.

“We think that the total economic impact for the community for the weekend is approaching, if not above, $2 million,” said Tony Banovich, director of Run Wild Missoula. “Whether it’s airfare, hotels, meals, retail, we know they’re putting money directly into the businesses here in Missoula.”

Runner’s Edge owner Anders Brooker said his business has sponsored and helped with the marathon for years. Being closely involved has benefitted the company.

“Our busiest month is marathon month,” Brooker said. “Bigger picture than that, it’s really helped grow the running community. Having the marathon in Missoula brought a lot of energy and training groups and just getting people excited about the sport. So that’s helped grow the community and also helped grow our business over the years.”

The Holiday Inn in downtown Missoula sees a lot of traffic, general manager Cindy Smith said. All 198 rooms are booked during marathon weekend.

The hotel also provides a free shuttle for marathon runners during the weekend.

“All of the downtown hotels probably will see sell-outs during that time,” Smith said. “National occupancy rates in hotels throughout the course of the year, and that would be average, is in the 60s, but during the summer months, we see higher levels of occupancy than that. Events like this max us out.”

The event involves a marathon, half marathon, the Missoula 5K, the Missoula Kids Marathon and many others. It was named one of 10 Bucket List Marathons You Should Run in 2018 by Runner’s World and was ranked as the No. 1 marathon in the U.S. in 2017 by The BibRave 100.

Charities also benefit from proceeds raised by the marathon, with Run Wild Missoula donating about $40,000 to local nonprofits like the Missoula Food Bank and Community Center and youth running programs. And the event spends about $5,000 a year with Missoula Parks & Recreation.

“(The runners) enjoy that Missoula has a small-town feel,” Brooker said. “The out-of-town runners feel like Missoula gets behind the event and they can see that and I think that makes a difference.”

The weekend starts with the Missoula Marathon Beer Run at 6 p.m. Friday, which starts and ends at the Caras Park Pavilion. On Saturday at 8 a.m., the 5K race will start and the Missoula Kids Marathon will begin at 10 a.m.

Sunday will be the marathon and half marathon, starting at 6 a.m., where runners will either begin in Frenchtown or at Alpine Physical Therapy/PEAK Health & Wellness on Blue Mountain Road. Both routes end downtown in front of the Wilma Theater.

Contact reporter Mari Hall via email at mari.hall@missoulacurrent.com.