Despite not drawing the large crowds of a convention center concert, events like today’s Beckley Marathon drive the economy by creating “ambassadors” for the region.
Mike Darby, president of the hotel management company Laurel Lodge Enterprises, said there are many smaller events in Beckley that bring in those from outside the state and expose them to the area’s beauty, dining and activities.
“These events contribute to economic well-being in a variety of ways that aren’t always measured, and the Beckley marathon is one of those,” he said. “It’s a positive event. Those who come here for it have a great time, and not only contribute to our economy monetarily, they become ambassadors for us. There are long-term benefits that aren’t easily measured in dollars and cents.”
Now in its 18th year, the Beckley half-marathon has expanded to include a full marathon — 26.2 miles.
This longer race has the possibility of attracting many more runners from outside West Virginia. For instance, Marshall University reported the nearby Marshall Marathon had nearly 3,000 runners in 2013.
Kip Buchanan, sales director for the sponsoring Beckley-Raleigh County Chamber of Commerce, said there are 27 individuals signed up for the longer race and 13 of those are from out of state.
Runners who traveled the farthest are from Santa Fe, N. M., and El Paso, Texas.
“They are coming in and bringing their families for the week. They’ve never been to West Virginia and want to experience the southern part of the state,” he said.
With 47 runners signed up to participate in the half-marathon, there are eight different states represented. Buchanan said some participants are native West Virginians who use the race as a chance to come back and visit family; others are familiar with the area and return each year for the weekend.
Laurel Lodge Enterprises has offered those running in the marathons a discount to encourage them to stay longer in southern West Virginia, added Buchanan.
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