When the Houston Marathon started in 1972, just over 100 people participated. These days the event draws 30,000 runners from across the country — and nearly all of those folks spend money in the local economy because of the Marathon.
Houston Marathon Committee Managing Director Steven Karpas says they commissioned a study of the race's economic impact, which shows the marathon generates $51.1 million for the city.
"This year, 2012, we expect our economic impact to exceed our 2011 economic impact because we will be hosting the Olympic marathon trials, in addition to the Houston Marathon weekend of events. So we expect more participants from all over the country. We expect more spectators from all over the country."
About half of the money comes from direct spending on things like hotels, restaurants and transportation. The rest of the money is measured through indirect expenditures and economic gains for the city. Karpas says the marathon's success in recent years is calculated.
"Also our climate in January is conducive to running. The course itself is extremely spectator-friendly and scenic and flat and fast. All those factors has become, or add to Houston being put on the map of marathons to do."
The study doesn't include spending by spectators who aren't otherwise connected with the race.