With more than 3,500 registered runners, this year’s Sedona Marathon was the largest yet. Those numbers also equate to big bucks for many local businesses during one of the slowest times of the year.
Sedona Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Jennifer Wesselhoff, who also serves as race director, said an estimated $3.2 million was spent in Sedona the week of the race.
“This also equates to nearly $125,000 in sales and bed taxes,” she said. “Those are powerful numbers for a one-day event. That’s why it’s so important to Sedona because it showcases the best of the best that Sedona has to offer.”
Each year the chamber asks participants to fill out of a survey regarding their likes and dislikes in terms of the race and Sedona as a whole. To date they received about 20 percent of the surveys back with more expected to trickle in over the next couple of weeks.
It showed that 84 percent of runners were from out of town with 24 percent driving here on the day of the race, another 24 percent staying one night while just over 50 percent stayed two nights or more. In addition, 85 percent of those competing brought at least one person with them.
In terms of accommodations, most stayed in hotels with 7 percent in both timeshares and guests of friends while rented vacation homes was less than 5 percent. Now that short-term vacation rentals are allowed in Sedona, Wesselhoff said she expects that number to increase next year.
Aside from the race, 76 percent of the respondents said they dined out, 42 percent shopped in local stores while 40 percent said they hiked or biked while here.
Finally, as far as what the runners liked most about the race and Sedona, an overwhelming number said the scenery, followed by the community feel, the well-organized race and the work done by the volunteers. Negative comments included traffic, stores and restaurants closing early, lack of shuttle buses to the race and roundabouts.
And while the participants were happy with the race, Wesselhoff realizes that there are many residents who are inconvenienced the day of the marathon.
“We are very grateful for the patience and understanding of the residents who are impacted the race,” she said. “We appreciate the sacrifices they make that day.”
This year’s race drew nearly 900 more competitors than last year. Wesselhoff attributes a lot of the decline last year to the fact that in 2015 the marathon portion was shortened to just a half-marathon due to poor weather and dangerous course conditions. The result was that many runners did not return in 2016.
Being that most of the race takes part on U.S. Forest land, the marathon is in the midst of a five-year permit that allows a 3 percent growth in the number of 10K, half and full marathon runners annually. There is no cap for the 5K. And even though the race grew substantially, Wesselhoff said they are still a ways off from hitting the maximum number of participants allowed.
The chamber purchased the marathon five years ago but for the past two years it has teamed with Blue Wolf Events and owner Jeff Frost who produces the event.
“This really put the marathon in the hands of professionals,” she said. “That’s not to say we’re not professionals but producing a marathon is not the area of our expertise. Honestly, without Jeff, I’m not sure what we’d do — he’s incredible.”
She went on to say, “The reason we purchased the marathon was because we wanted to be able to illustrate the power of events as a form of economic development in times when we really need business.”