MISSOULA - When the starting gun sounds for the Missoula Marathon this weekend, it not only means a return for runners but one of the largest economic drivers in Western Montana.
It's not just the running community that's excited about the return of the Marathon, it's also a big economic boost for Missoula businesses.
Missoula's hotels and restaurants have been building up a head of steam ever since the marathon's return was announced a few months ago.
At locations such as the Holiday Inn, rooms are booked solid, and staff are charged up for the big weekend.
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"We could not be more excited, you know, to sell out the weekend in Missoula," General Manager Annie Darby told MTN News with a big smile this week. "And what an honor to be able to welcome travelers from all around the world and to really highlight all of the wonderful things that Missoula has to offer."
A lot of times we think about the marathon as the people that come that weekend, but we asked Darby what that means for the hospitality industry, in terms of getting those extra folks who oftentimes come back outside of the race season.
"Sure," Darby answered. "You know we're ready for anyone and we'd love to welcome any of our guests and really like I said, just really exhibit all of the wonderful things that Missoula has to offer. We're really lucky."
Lucky, and fortunate. The last estimate in 2019 was the Marathon generated a $2-million economic boost for the Garden City. But it's not just the hospitality industry that benefits from the return of the marathon.
Retailers also see an influx of people on race weekend and a Runner's Edge, there's a constant flow of runners of all skill levels, both local and from out-of-town, getting a final tune-up for the race, or just plugging into the sport's energy for the first time.
"It's just fun having tourists back in. Having our community back in our store," co-owner Meg Brooker said while her staff was already preparing for a busy day Thursday morning. "Everybody is super excited to whether it's the 5K half or full marathon that they'll be running. It's just there's just some, energy behind it and we're having a really good time with it, yeah."
And it's not just a last-minute re-supply of energy products or gear addition. Brooker says runners, and their supporting friends and families, often want souvenirs.
"I think in Missoula is a pretty cool place too, because we're considered a little touristy and so anything that says Montana on it, people really go for it. So it's fun to see where everybody is coming from too. You know, we get people all the way from the East Coast...from Canada too. It's fun to see all the travelers and to hear their stories."
Boosting business beyond the race.
"Where like I said, pacing for a really strong summer season and it's just fun after these last couple of years to just dive right back in," Darby said with enthusiasm.
We will have full coverage of the Missoula Marathon on the CW and the KPAX Streaming App starting at 8 a.m. Sunday. From the start in Frenchtown to the finish line downtown, KPAX has team coverage. The winners, the highlights, and more — all available to you Sunday!