The Hartford Marathon generated over $14.1 million of economic value for the region last October, according to a study by Witan Intelligence released by the Hartford Marathon Foundation last week.
The event – a marathon, half-marathon, marathon relay, 5K and kids races - had a 25 percent increase in revenue from the previous year.
Not that Hartford Marathon director Beth Shluger is worried. She is already advertising the 2014 race and she is confident she will find the right match.
"It's nothing I'm panicked about," she said. "I want it to be the right partner. We need the financial support, but we also want engaged employees, a company that wants to make their identity around the marathon, similar to the way the Travelers embraces the Travelers Championship.
"I'm in very active talks with a couple of companies. I talked to a lot of companies. I was encouraged that there was so much interest. But then why wouldn't there be interest?"
Exactly. Over 17,000 people entered the various races last October. There were not only runners coming into Hartford, spending money and time there, but also spectators, family and friends, all descending on Bushnell Park and giving Hartford a vibe that it usually doesn't have on a Saturday morning.
"There's no question the marathon provides an extra economic boost," said MetroHartford Alliance president and CEO Oz Griebel, who has run the marathon in the past. "As importantly, if not more importantly, it allows us to put a spotlight on the city and region in a way that only athletic events can do."
Like the Travelers in Cromwell or the New Haven Open in New Haven. The difference is that while the marathon is only a one-day event, as opposed to the others, the marathon and its accompanying races are a participatory event. And there's no way to measure quantitatively the effect the event has on the overall health of the community.
People hear about or see the race. People know people who run. If they are not runners, they might be motivated to try to run a 5K for the first time, or if they are already runners, to train for something a little longer like the half-marathon or marathon.
The marathon also sponsors kids running programs in local schools, so younger people are being introduced to the sport and healthy lifestyles.
The race has grown in numbers each year.
"It's become a very important component of the overall quality of life we have in the region," Griebel said. 'Its impact goes beyond marathon weekend."
The Hartford Marathon Foundation also sponsors a number of other races throughout the year, as well as training programs for athletes.
People often tell Shluger how her events have changed their lives.
"Because of what we do, they were inspired to get healthy," she said in October. "We get a hundred of these emails a year – 'I lost 80 pounds, 100 pounds, I'm not diabetic.' We get those all the time. Because this inspired them. They can do it. That's the best thing. What's better than having a job that does that for people?"
ING, Shluger has said, was the perfect sponsor. The company raised the national profile of the race, drawing marathoners from all over the country. They were engaged, providing employees with opportunities to volunteer or to run.
"With what we have, you can get a lot of employees excited about participating with us," Shluger said. "If you've never run, you'll be inspired to run. You say, 'I want to try that.' Working a water station is fun. Working at the finish line is fun. You really like kids? We got 3,000 kids on Tuesday, come be a part of that."
She's confident she will find another sponsor like that, hopefully by the spring when the Hartford Marathon Foundation's race schedule starts heating up.
"Ideally, the best partnership for the top level would be one company that wants to bite this whole thing off and get their employees involved and really make this their signature event in Connecticut," she said. "I'm in talks with a couple of companies who want to [do something like that]. I'm in talks with companies who want to own a big piece of it but not the whole thing. I feel blessed I'm in Hartford, Connecticut, instead of some community that doesn't have as many big employers as we have."