Despite the pandemic and COVID safety conditions still in place the Blue Ridge Marathon and related races in April – and the Down by Downtown music festival – generated a record economic impact for the region of $1.6 million. That’s according to analysis by the Roanoke Regional Partnership, which helped launch “America’s Toughest Road Marathon” more than a decade ago. Because so many have not been out much over the past year, the money spent by “locals” was weighted more heavily than in a non-pandemic Blue Ridge Marathon year. Julia Boas is the Director of Events and Marketing:

ROANOKE, Va. (May 11, from Roanoke Outside Foundation) – In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Blue Ridge Marathon and related festivities contributed $1,600,000 in regional economic impact.  As one of the first large in-person events to be held since the beginning of the pandemic, the contribution was needed more than ever to support the regional hospitality industry which has been greatly impacted by COVID-19.

2,800 runners registered for Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Marathon, double marathon, half marathon, relay, Anthem Star 10K, and Carilion Family 1-Miler and the Sunday Slow-K.  The running events, coupled with the four-day Freedom First Down by Downtown music festival, collectively generated a record single-year total of $1,600,000 in economic impact according to an analysis by the Roanoke Regional Partnership.

As the first large-event in downtown Roanoke since the pandemic, this event was able to set the gold standard for hosting safe, in-person events which will play a crucial role in the region’s economic recovery. A third of the jobs lost on a net basis, as a result of the pandemic, are in the hospitality industry. Polling of local restaurants, businesses and hotels showed that the weekend drove an unprecedented amount of both local and out-of-town traffic back into downtown.

“Race weekend has always had a positive impact on the businesses in Roanoke, especially the restaurants downtown,” said Jason Martin, owner of restaurants Martin’s Downtown and Sidecar. “We noticed increased traffic throughout the weekend and there were many first time and out-of-town visitors in our dining rooms. I personally observed many diners sporting marathon shirts that also stuck around for the live music. The whole weekend had a different feel – it felt very festive!”