Marathon interest still healthy despite battered economy - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Marathon interest still healthy despite battered economy

Tai Blecthta Tai Blecthta

By Mari-Ela David - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - Hawaii's economy could get a potential multi-million dollar boost this weekend, as thousands of runners fly in for the Honolulu Marathon.

Organizers say fewer people signed up for the marathon - about 4,000 fewer than last year so far, although runners can still register up until the day of the race. But analysts say the event is still healthy enough to stay on track as America's third largest marathon.

It's considered the largest single sporting event in Hawaii, attracting more than 20,000 athletes.

In 2007, the Honolulu Marathon generated $100 million in sales, and $3 million in state taxes.

But that financial adrenaline rush may be different in these tough times. At the Honolulu Marathon Expo held at the Hawaii Convention Center in Waikiki - some fear among local businesses.

"We were a little worried, the marathon and just the sports industry in general in Hawaii," said business owner Tai Blechta.

This year drew fewer entries.

"Which is significant but not as damaging as we would've thought," said Jerry Agrusa, Travel Industry Management Professor at Hawaii Pacific University.

Agrusa says one reason is 60% of the runners are from Japan, and the Japanese yen is 16% stronger than the U.S. dollar.

"So if they usually spend $1000, then they're spending $1160 so that's going to help us, especially in shopping," said Agrusa.

"It's really reasonable because coming from Switzerland, it's like if you buy running shoes here, they're about half the price of what we pay in Switzerland so I do all my Christmas shopping here," said Reto Cavelti, who has participated in the Honolulu Marathon the last 28 years.

Many out-of-towners, planned this trip before the global economy collapsed.

"We had been planning for this since about 8 months ago, so we did have savings specifically for this marathon," said Ulan Sarmiento, a marathon runner who flew in from the Philippines.

Participants say sweating out a little pain in their wallets is worth a runner's high in paradise.

To cash in on the foot traffic the race brings, a lot of businesses, like sports shops, have special sales and/or extended hours.

The Honolulu Marathon starts at 5:00 a.m. on Sunday.

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