Training for the Boston Marathon has left Tommy Race feeling spent. His bank account, too: Race’s Boston adventure will cost about $2,000.
“It’s a lot of money, but it’s also a vacation,” said Race, a high school math teacher from Bellingham, Washington. “For a runner like myself, I’d much rather throw down money to run Boston than go to Cancun or Europe or some other travel destination.”
Race (yes, that’s his real name) has plenty of company. Thirty-thousand athletes from 94 countries will participate in this month’s 121st running of America’s most venerable footrace, and organizers say they’ll pump $192 million into the local economy.
That’s the equivalent of $311 for every man, woman and child living in the city of Boston.
Sports industry experts say Boston’s payout is part of a lucrative global trend that’s been playing out in Chicago, New York, London and other cities that stage major marathons drawing competitors and spectators from around the world.
“People want to be a part of something that Olympians run in,” said Rich Harshbarger, CEO of Running USA, a nonprofit group that promotes the sport.
“You’re not going to be able to run the bases at Fenway. But at a big marathon, you get to line up and have the same experience that the pros do,” he said.
It’s an affluent bunch: Running USA’s latest national survey, done in 2015, found that more than seven in 10 marathon runners earn more than $75,000 a year, and most are college graduates.
Many in the field for the Boston Marathon on April 17 will bring their families along. Another 10,000 runners will descend on Boston for a sister 5K race, swelling not only the size of the crowds but the amount spent on hotels, restaurants, transportation and a weekend running expo hawking expensive gear and swag.
“Nearly everyone involved … will patronize local businesses,” said Tom Grilk, CEO of the Boston Athletic Association, which manages the marathon.
Included in the $192.2 million projection is $30 million that runners will raise to benefit dozens of charities.
And the Boston Marathon’s economic impact is steadily growing. Last year’s race generated $188.8 million, and the 2015 race brought in $182 million, the Association said.
Patrick Moscaritolo, president and CEO of the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau, calls race weekend “an extraordinary kick start” for the tourist season.
Other races that are part of the World Marathon Majors – a series that includes Berlin, Boston, Chicago, London, New York City and Tokyo – have an even bigger haul.
The TCS New York City Marathon says its economic impact in 2014, the most recent year for which figures were available, was $415 million. The Bank of America Chicago Marathon had an estimated $277 million impact in 2015, organizers say.
Getting to the start line is expensive, “but it’s worth every penny,” said Malinda Ann Hill, bereavement coordinator for Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, who’s running her first Boston together with her twin sister.
After 12 attempts to qualify, Hill doesn’t care what it costs.
“My twin won’t total it up, though,” she said. “She doesn’t want to know.”