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  • Writer's pictureSarah Kichula

The NYC Marathon: Social and Economic Impacts for the City

By: Sarah Kichula

November 27, 2023

Photo Credit: New York Post

Running Boom Since the Pandemic In what started as a way to better the mental and physical health of those affected by COVID-19 quarantine, people all around the world have been increasingly engaged in the sport of long distance running. Once social distancing restrictions lightened, running groups and social clubs spiked in popularity as people sought safe connection with others. Running became more than just a way to get in shape, as the activity leads to lasting friendships and larger community effects with increased race registrations. Although running has been previously viewed as an exclusive event for the best track athletes around, the social climate around long distance running has since shifted to be much more inclusive. With a pair of running shoes and some ambition, anyone can start training for events such as the New York City Marathon.

Given this recent increase in popularity in the sport, there has been a dramatic uptick in the desire of the general public to sign up for the New York City Marathon, a world-famous 26.2 mile continuous run through the five boroughs of the city. CEO Rob Simmelkjaer of New York Road Runners (NYRR), a non-profit community running organization, stated that “a whopping 96% of [their] races have been sold out,” including the New York City Marathon. This year, there were over 153,000 applicants for the marathon, by far the most number of applicants since 2020, which was held as a virtual race.

The New York City Marathon is a landmark annual event for not only the sport, but for the local community as well. NYC comes together to either run the race or support loved ones and even strangers, leading to positive impacts for the city as a whole. Local businesses boom, philanthropies and nonprofits raise record-breaking numbers, and sponsors of the race work to create a greater change in the community.

Local Businesses Thrive

Sales at Sutton Bar Room on First Avenue and 59th Street were up 50% on race day when compared to an average Sunday, which the bar must have been expecting. Naturally, people from all over the city take to the streets–stopping in local bars and restaurants on the way–to cheer on the thousands of runners as they make their way across the city. This boom in business is not exclusive to this one bar in a prime location where runners have ten miles to go until the finish line. Purchases at Blue and Gold Deli were up 40%, it was the biggest day of the year for Coco Pazzaria, and the list of busy businesses on race day goes on. According to a report by Audience Research and Analysis, the economic impact for the city during the span of the 2019 NYC Marathon totaled $427 million. Although the total economic impact has not yet been estimated for this year’s race, it is estimated that runners raised about $55,000 for charities across the board.

From the corporate side of the event, Mastercard (as a key sponsor of NYRR) has collaborated with local small businesses, empowering them to grow and thrive. Since 2020, Mastercard has sponsored the Small Business Boulevard within the Marathon Expo, giving visibility and an opportunity for these businesses to promote themselves to the thousands of fans that crowd the area. Additionally, Mastercard also offers its Digital Doors 2.0 toolkit, acting as a resource for businesses to stay relevant in the ever-changing digital age.

Inclusivity and Sustainability Initiatives

This year, NYRR is focused on its commitment to the environment by taking sustainability measures during race week. These initiatives included (but are not limited to) hosting a plogging event–jogging while simultaneously picking up litter–the day before the race, inviting 81 Green Team volunteers to help sort runners’ trash throughout the race, and donating all discarded runner clothing to All of Us Clothing, a small company focused on distributing clothing and household items to families in need.

The year prior, NYRR expanded diversity and inclusion efforts were highlighted through these notable initiatives:

  • The Stonewall Inn’s Safe Space Initiative

    • The Stonewall Inn Gives Back Initiative takes measures to advocate for equality for the LGBTQ+ community, and the 2022 New York City Marathon was the first sporting event to be declared a Safe Space.

  • Non-binary Runners

    • The NYC Marathon includes a specific racing leaderboard for people who identify as non-binary, and prize money was awarded to the runners in this category that placed from first to fifth.

  • Mothers at the Marathon

    • As an expansion to their longstanding policy of ensuring a safe and secure transport of nursing pumps from the start to finish area for new mothers participating in the marathon, there was also a brand new tent added by the starting line.

  • Athletes with Disabilities

    • Thanks to the hiring of a full-time Director of Accessibility, the course-record bonus within the professional wheelchair division of the race equaled the open division bonus ($50,000).

  • NYRR’s “Race Free” Program

    • NYRR was able to provide free race entry to 100 need-based participants.

The New York City Marathon is clearly much more than a typical long distance race. It is a cultural event that bonds the entire city, and its participants inspire millions to push themselves to their limits. Its positive social impact spreads through large and local businesses, charities and nonprofits across the globe, and the residents right in the community of New York City.


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