GC Half Marathon gearing up for success
Almost 1,000 runners registered to run in May 17 race
GRAND CANYON, Ariz. - More than 1,000 runners and their families will descend on Tusayan to take part in Vacation Races' Grand Canyon Half Marathon on May 17.
In its first year, Grand Canyon Half Marathon is part of Vacation Races' National Park series. The 13.5 mile race route starts in Tusayan, loops through Forest Service roads and ends at the Imax Theater. Runners will not enter into the Grand Canyon National Park.
Race organizer Salem Stanley, who started Vacation Races in 2012, said the total economic gains, based on information from other races in the series, come to around $908,000. By the third year, Vacation Races estimates the number will grow to $3 million.
"We targeted the most visited parks," Stanley said. "Obviously the Grand Canyon is the second most visited park so that was kind of a high priority for us. We like to target the location of the race where the classic visitation happens. That's obviously the South Rim and Tusayan."
So far, 982 runners have already registered for the half marathon, which is capped at 1,200 competitors. If all goes well, Vacation Races plans to double the registration number next year to 2,400.
Interestingly, out of the 982 runners registered so far, 717 are female. Nationally, the percentage in a running race is usually 60/40, Stanley said.
"That's a really big number. Most of our races are turning out to be 75 or 80 percent women," he said.
This year, national park race series is made up of six races. As the series grows in popularity, Vacation Races hopes to put more races on the schedule.
"There's no overall prize, we're likely going to be launching achievements. If you run three races you get a medal, that kind of thing," Stanley said.
The race anticipates participants will travel from all over the country to Tusayan, and usually bring two other people with them, which is a promising sign for local business.
"Tusayan has been super helpful. We reach out to local tourism, chambers and stuff because we require local support," Stanley said. "We launched last year and right after we did, the chamber reached out to us and we have a good relationship going now."
All the hotels in Tusayan are sponsoring the race, and are offering varying discounts. Because many Tusayan hotels are close to selling out, Vacation Races is contacting hotels inside the national park, as well as Williams and Flagstaff.
"Because it's such a small area, in and out of a park, I think with about 1000 runners in town, whether you're a hotel or restaurant or any other kind of service, we should all do well, especially if we make them feel welcome," Grand Canyon Chamber of Commerce President Freda Rahnenfuehrer said.
Closer to the date of the race, Vacation Races will seek local volunteers to help with registration, marshalling and manning the rest stops. Those who are interested may contact the website, grandcanyonhalfmarathon.com, or by searching the race on Facebook.
"It's so great that Salem wants to make it an annual event, and it looks like we're off to a great start," Rahnenfuehrer said. "It will be a nice way for us to kick off the season and work together to increase revenue."