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Marathon study: Race worth $219 million to Chicago

Hordes runners start 2011 Chicago Marath| Sun-Times files

Hordes of runners at the start of the 2011 Chicago Marathon | Sun-Times files

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Updated: September 30, 2012 6:25AM

Though city dwellers may feel a little crowded as they watch 45,000 runners brave the annual Bank of America Chicago Marathon, the runners and their families and entourages last year boosted the city’s economy by $219.7 million — the most in the event’s history — by staying in local hotels, shopping and sightseeing, ordering pre-race pasta dinners and otherwise being tourists, according to a report to be issued Wednesday.

That’s equivalent to creating 1,520 full-time jobs and $74.58 million worth of wages and salary income, according to the study done for Bank of America by the Regional Economics Applications Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The $219.7 million total marked the first time business activity exceeded the $200 million level and was 28 percent greater than the impact in 2010, the study showed.

Each dollar spent by a race participant generated another $1.29 worth of activity, the report said.

“The world comes to Chicago for the marathon — not only elite runners, but running clubs, people running for charity and others pursuing their personal bests,” Bank of America spokeswoman Diane Wagner said.

The city gets a bonus because participants usually arrive on Friday to pick up their entry packets and participate in a health and fitness expo, and stay for a long weekend because Columbus Day falls on the day after the race, Wagner said.

The marathon starts at 7:30 a.m. Oct. 7 in Grant Park. This year, the race reached its 45,000-participant limit in six days, compared with 31 days in 2011, Wagner said.

Last year, runners raised a collective $13.4 million for charity, up 34 percent from 2010, she said.

The Chicago Sun-Times is a media sponsor of the marathon.

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