Grand Strand cashes in on growing sport

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – Running sports are sweeping the nation. According to an industry report, the number of participants in major road running events has been growing at a steady rate since 1990.

It's a lucrative industry and the Grand Strand is cashing in on some of the industry's success.

The Mini-Marathon is this Sunday morning and about 4,000 runners are expected to hit the street of Myrtle Beach. The big crowd is expected to generate millions of dollars for the local economy.

Two other local major running events are the Myrtle Beach Marathon and new to the roster is the Diva Half Marathon.

The Grand Strand is also seeing the newer trend in the running world, mud runs. Next year will be the third year for the local mud run events on Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends. Each one attracts about 850 participants. Organizers tell WMBF News they plan to put more money into marketing the events this year and expect to get more participants.

Diva Half Marathon and Mini-Marathon organizer Robert Pozo says this market is a prime location.

Pozo says the combination of the ability to attract participants with the major road running events and the allure of the destination, makes for a winning combination.

"It's just a formula that we find in very few places. It's really made easier than a lot of different cities that we go to," said Pozo.

The Diva Half Marathon was held in North Myrtle Beach last April and attracted about 4500 women.

According to City of North Myrtle Beach Park and Recreation Director John Bullard, the Dive run raked in $4.3 million for local businesses over the course of the weekend. Bullard also says most of the participants were first time visitors to the North Strand and this creates new opportunities for repeat guests in the long haul. On the heels of the successful run, the city is working to reel in more similar events.

"We enjoy that type of event here. Our merchants and our businesses, they really appreciate the fact that we're going out a recruiting those type of events," said Bullard.

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