NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - It's the fourth year runners are grabbing their sneakers and water bottle, and heading to North Myrtle Beach for the Divas Half Marathon and 5K.
Every year this event falls the weekend after Easter, to draw in the crowds and kick off tourism season.
For the past three years, the race has seen an upward trend in growth. This year, things are a bit different. Event organizers are expecting about 5,000 runners, which is about 200 less from last year. They believe it's because the race falls on the same weekend as another big run in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Since the goal is to see more each year, organizers will change the date for next year. In 2016, the race will be on the first weekend of May. Not to worry, we will still see a large crowd in town this weekend, because golfers are also here for the Monday after the Masters.
All in all, this year is attracting a more diverse crowd. This race has runners coming in from every single state and visitors from Canada and Puerto Rico. Organizers say this year, participation is up in states you might not expect.
"What we noticed is the 'feeder' markets, not so much the northeast this year, were seeing a lot in the southeast and more towards the midwestern states," said VP of Operations at Oceana Resorts, Kim Sanborne.
One thing is for sure, the Divas are contracted to return for at least the next four years. This is welcome news for local restaurants like Deckerz because when the Divas are here, business is up.
"It's very busy - they bring in a lot of people with them," said General Manager of Deckerz Alan Lusk. "A lot of people come to participate."
These runners don't just hit the Grand Strand for the race, they make it a weekend-long event. Since about 85 percent of the runners live more than an hour and a half away, they start pouring into town as early as today.
"We tend to see participants stay for more than one night," Sanborne said. "So, we know they are taking in some of the local entertainment and going to some restaurants in the area so we do think they extend the visit beyond just the period they need for the run."
They don't just come alone, they bring family members and friends, which cashes in at an economic impact of more than $7 million dollars to the Grand Strand.