The Mankato Marathon has come a long way in just three years.
In the inaugural event in 2010, about 2,000 runners participated. This year more than 4,500 runners participated and the number of races has grown — with even toddlers getting in on the fun in the Diaper Dash.
With more runners and events come more visitors and fans, bringing a boost to the local economy. It’s always difficult to accurately measure the economic impact of large events and calculating how much money is being brought to the area that would not otherwise be spent here on something else. But a marathon is clearly a high-value event as it brings a large number of runners and families from out of the area who would not otherwise be spending money at local restaurants, gas stations, hotels and stores.
The regional impact of the marathon is clear as this year’s event drew runners from 32 states and four countries.
Beyond the economic impact the marathon has become a force for raising money for charity. This year, Girls on the Run, Backpack Food Program and Project for Teens benefited.
Anna Thill, president of Visit Mankato, said that having established the marathon as a major event they wanted to add the charitable fundraising as a way to help the community.
The sponsored charities raised about $17,000 through donations and by giving runners a chance to sign up pledges from friends and family. Charity directors said it makes their work easier to build fundraising efforts around unique events like the marathon. And it’s an opportunity to spread the word about the work they do before a large audience of runners, family and onlookers.
Organizers also continued to expand the experience for fans and runners by setting up for “cheer squad sites” — locations where fans could gather to cheer on runners. The number of sites grew from 12 last year to 17.
The beautiful fall views of the Minnesota River valley create a stunning natural setting for a late-season marathon. But it’s the organizers and volunteers who have been flawless in developing the marathon into a growing event that has become highly regarded and recognized in the Upper Midwest.