The Long Beach Marathon, returning for the 38th year this weekend, leads runners through a scenic 26.2 miles through Downtown Long Beach, Shoreline Village, Belmont Shore and around Cal State Long Beach’s campus.

“It truly is one of the most scenic 26.2-mile races in the country,” said race organizer Dan Cruz. “The Long Beach Marathon is the premier fall marathon in Southern California.”

That’s why thousands of runners from across LA County, the state and the country are flocking to Long Beach this weekend—not only to participate in the full marathon, but also for the half marathon, the bike tour and the Aquarium of the Pacific 5K, Cruz said.

It’s an event that offers a significant boost to the local economy. According to the most recent economic status report, conducted in 2018, the marathon weekend generates an estimated $4 million for the LA County area, a number that Cruz expects will be relatively similar this year.

The marathon hit its historic highs in participation around a decade ago, when over 20,000 people participated. This year, about 15,000 runners are joining the weekend’s events—a stark rebound from the 10,000 athletes who participated last year, Cruz said.

“It’s going to be one of the largest endurance events in the state of California since the pandemic,” Cruz said.

While around 90% of participants hail from Southern California, the remaining 10% are traveling from 44 states and 21 countries this year, Cruz said.

Top visiting states are Arizona, Texas, Nevada, Colorado and Washington, and while the majority of international participants are from Mexico and Canada, the marathon has registered runners from as far away as Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Peru, Cruz said.

“Running is a global sport,” Cruz said. “It truly is a sport that transcends culture and geography.”

The race drives a significant amount of spending, particularly in restaurants, retail and hotels, Cruz said. Plus, runners don’t typically attend the event alone—they bring family members or friends with them, even further boosting Long Beach’s hospitality sector, he said.

Each year, around 20% to 25% of runners are first-time participants, Cruz said.

“So when you’re doing something for the very first time, you’re not skipping on expenses you want. You’ll remember that day for the rest of your life,” Cruz said. “It’s a special occasion to cross that finish line. You’re more inclined to order that dessert or book your massage.”

According to the report, the 2018 race brought over 11,300 visitors to the Long Beach area, 45% of whom stayed in the Long Beach area for at least one night.

“The tourism industry is an industry that was decimated by the pandemic, much like the events industry,” Cruz said. “To see these two industries come together to support one another, with runners staying at the hotels Downtown, easy walking distance to the start line and the finish line, truly is a recipe for a fantastic visitor experience.”

In 2018, 35% of total visitors paid for overnight stays, contributing $547,093 to local hotels, motels and resorts, according to the report. About 4% of visitors stayed in vacation rentals, contributing $67,072.

Long Beach Airport also saw a boost—1,660 visiting runners flew into the airport.

Cruz estimates that the numbers will be similar this year, although there is still a level of pandemic hesitancy that may prevent some out-of-town runners from attending, he said.

“You still might have that group of folks that are not quite yet (ready) to get on a plane or travel across the country . . . So, we might not quite be all the way back from a tourism perspective out of the pandemic,” Cruz said. “But it’s certainly events like the marathon . . .  that really kind of give people that excuse to get back out there to travel again.”

While the 2021 marathon weekend was clouded by uncertainty, the energy surrounding this year’s event is entirely different, Cruz said.

“The enthusiasm in the community, the excitement from the run clubs and the charity partners, to really just kind of be back and celebrate what we lost, it’s gonna be a special weekend,” he said.

“They say Disneyland is one of the happiest places on earth,” Cruz said. “They’ve never been to the Long Beach Marathon finish line.”

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story provided the incorrect percentage of runners who are first-time participants in the Long Beach Marathon. The story has been updated.