MISSOULA — It's one of Missoula's biggest events of the year -- drawing thousands from across the country and pouring money into the local economy.
But after working diligently with health officials to try to safely host an in-person event, Missoula Marathon leaders made the call to go virtual in 2021.
Run Wild Missoula announced last week that the 2021 Missoula Marathon, half-marathon, and other related events would be held exclusively virtual.
While this decision was made out of an abundance of caution and safety, it also comes with big economic impacts.
“The Missoula Marathon very definitely is one of our largest events of the year. We have people who come from all over the world, not just our country but from all over the world to participate in it. Direct visitor spending from that weekend was over $2.5 million.”
Destination Missoula Executive Director Barb Neilan says if you count the trickle-down effect of indirect spending that occurs from business to business from marathon weekend, that number jumps to $4.3 million.
Local businesses across the board are adversely impacted.
“You’re looking at hotels that are not selling those rooms, you’re looking at restaurants that aren’t feeding people, they go to our grocery stores, they go to our sporting goods stores,” Neilan said.
While it’s impossible to make up all the money that Missoula Marathon weekend brings into the local economy, Neilan says there are some positive signs that there will be an uptick from 2020.
She says Missoula has become more of a leisure destination than ever before, and the investment airlines are making in the community emphasize that fact.
“We’ve got all kinds of new flights to San Jose, San Diego, Orange County, extra flights into Dallas, into Portland, into San Francisco,” Neilan said. “I think that this summer is going to be much better for businesses.”
Neilan added that one way to absorb the blow of losing the Missoula Marathon is to shop locally whenever possible.
Registration for the Virtual 2021 Missoula Marathon is underway, and participants will have until June 27 to complete their virtual run.