Destinations Marathons

How Much Money Does A Big City Marathon Bring To The City?

Big city Marathon
Written by Charlie

Big city marathons are really big. London, New York, Berlin, Chicago, Boston, Tokyo – these cities are all major cities and really do their best to put the city on display as they host tens of thousands of marathoner runners on their streets each year. These marathons have over 30,000 runners and these runners run every one of the 26.2 miles through some of the biggest, busiest cities in the world.

Big city Marathon

New York City Marathon from Runners World

Big Cost For Major Marathons

While small city and town marathons also put on some incredible races, the cost difference between those marathons and the big city marathons is immense. The small town marathon committee is a volunteer one with the race director(s) doing his or her job as an act of love for the sport. When it comes to the big marathons, these events are just that – massive events that rival most events in these cities. Their full-time staff numbers in the hundreds in order to bring the marathon about.

The costs, for example, the New York City Marathon are high, due in part to the fact that they are paying for the police along the course. That is a large expense, and it mostly gets passed on to the runners. This year, a New York Road Runner member must pay $216, non-members living in the US must pay $255, with non-US residents paying the most at $347. With around 60,000 people registering for that event, it brings in an (approximate) average of $16 million just in registration! That is big money! That kind of money and the pressure to run an event worthy of that registration fee is what requires the NYRR staff to be around 150 paid workers with over 700 full and part time employees hard at work as the race draws nigh.

What Does The City Make During Race Weekend?

Even though the race association and the runners all win from well-put on races, one of the big winners for such an event is the city itself. New York City alone brings in almost $400 million in revenue from the existence of the NYC Marathon. That is larger than most cities budgets and that is all brought in as a result of the marathon! It is estimated that each NYC marathon participant spend over $1,800 during their weekend in New York City (on the average). That is huge!

These races bring tens of thousands of people into town and with that traffic comes a lot of money. The hotels, transportation lines, tourist attractions, vendors and retailers, and restaurants are some of the places where the tourists will drop their money during the weekend stay in New York City.

The Chicago Marathon brought in a record (for them) of $249 million last year in revenue for the city because of the 2013 Chicago Marathon. Again, that is big money and the city is the big winner as host of the marathon. People visit these large cities and spend a lot of money in a very short time as they live up and breathe the memory of running the big city marathon.

That is a lot of money to be sure, and it is really good for everyone – the city, the businesses, the organizers, the charities (NYRR’s goal is to raise $30 million for charity from the NYC Marathon), and last but certainly not least is the runner. For some runners, it is the goal of a lifetime to run one of these events and being able to finish it is totally worth whatever they have spent to get there.

But, just remember – it is completely possible to make sure that the money you are spending for marathon weekend does not go to travel or hotels. 🙂 That is, after all, what Running with Miles is all about!

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About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.


  • Does $400 million account for revenue lost due to other travelers staying away? In other words, I’m sure some of these cities get a lot of visitors anyway. Hotels are often close to full or have high rates in some of these cities. Is $400 million incremental revenue? If a hotel would ordinarily bring in $1 million for a weekend but brings in $1.1 million for a marathon, then it seems the marathon only adds $100 thousand.

    • I am sure what you are saying is the case, to a point. The truth is that these major races are not held at peak times of the year for tourism and are on weekends. So, it is not taking away from travelers that would be there for business or the majority of tourists. Also, the hotels in the cities still have a lot of availability on race weekends, so it is not the loss of one to make up for the other.