Popular race series expected to draw thousands of visitors next spring
On June 27, in the Keeneland library, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray announced that next spring the city will host thousands of visitors thanks to the newly minted Rock ‘n Roll Lexington Half Marathon.
“We are so proud of our great city, and we look forward to showing off our city and our world class landscape to everybody who is going to come here,” he said at the announcement ceremony alongside Keeneland President-Elect Bill Thomason, Chairman of Competitor Group Peter Englehart, Event Director and Lexenomics President Eric Patrick Marr and the U.S. 50K record holder, Josh Cox. “This represents so much more than just a race, it’s an investment in Lexington … It’s a great boost to our economy, it’s great for our people, so I want to give a huge thanks to all of those who made this happen.”
The race, which will take over the reins from the two-year-old RunTheBluegrass hosted by Marr’s Lexenomics Group, is expected to draw approximately 5,000 runners for the March 30, 2013, race — which is more than double in size from last year’s race held at Keeneland Race Course and the surrounding farms and scenic countryside.
The Rock ‘N Roll Marathon Series hosts more than 25 races throughout the United States and the world, drawing more than 500,000 participants every year in total. Previously, the closest Rock ‘N Roll race was in Nashville. Cities comparable in size to Lexington, like Newport, R.I., saw an economic impact of approximately $7 million from last year’s Rock ‘N Roll race. It is the nation’s most popular marathon series and its parent Competitor Group owns the world’s largest runner database, five related magazines, and hosts 125 expos around the world where Lexington will now be showcased in addition to the other race locations.
Englehart, who initially approached Marr earlier this spring, said Lexington is the right kind of market for the Rock ‘N Roll series and with the “tremendous promotional platform” afforded by the Competitor Group, he only sees positives for the city in welcoming a 10-year contract with the race.
“We think Lexington is a great city … We think it’s a destination city,” he said. “Lots of people in our country have not been to Lexington, they need a reason to come to Lexington and now they have another one.
“We think the runners who are going to come here next year are a little different from the runners you have previously experienced,” he continued. “If the model holds true — and we have no reason to doubt that it won’t — 70 percent of the runners will come from out of market, and that obviously is a huge plus and differentiating factor about the series.”
Englehart noted the race series’ strengths lie in the experience, the enterprise and the economic impact. Rock ‘N Roll marathons and half marathons are known for their energetic environments that include bands, cheerleaders and plenty of hype, as well as for their world-class health and fitness expos. They also focus on partnering with other local and national businesses. Englehart cited Lexington-based Swim Bike Run as an example of the “wonderful partners” in Lexington’s race-related business scene. And as for the economic impact afforded by the series, he noted that the series generated more than $600 million across the board for its host cities last year.