Blustery weather helps trim Whidbey Marathon profits

The numbers are in and while the 2011 Whidbey Island Marathon in Oak Harbor saw a rise in participation, revenue is down from last year.

The 10th annual weekend event, which is composed of 5K, full and half-marathon races, was held this past April on courses that stretched from Cornet Bay to the Monroe Landing area just south of Oak Harbor.

Although Oak Harbor City Administrator Paul Schmidt presented contrary information to the city council during its meeting last week, it has since been confirmed that total participation is up from last year. The number of runners increased from 1,731 in 2010 to 1,893 this year.

That’s despite “blustery” weather conditions this spring, especially during race time. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, sustained winds during race time peaked at 31 mph with gusts topping out at 40 mph. Temperatures during the same time period ranged between a low of 40 degrees and a high of 51 degrees.

However, while participation is up revenue after expenses decreased from $22,564 in 2010 to just $4,617 this year. According to Schmidt’s report, the 2011 event grossed $157,884 while expenses totaled $153,267. That stacks up to $169,576 grossed last year with expenses totaling $147,012.

In a later interview, Schmidt said profits are less this year partly because of new expenses. Revenue is always reinvested back into the marathon and, for the first time, about $15,500 was spent on an employee who worked on the race’s website, he said.

The marathon was founded in 2001. It grew by leaps and bounds for years until 2008 when the course and finish line were rerouted away from Coupeville. Oak Harbor city bought the race in 2009 for $50,000 and has been putting it on ever since.

Last year, a premiere international travel company, Lonely Planet, named the marathon one of the 10 best in the world. Comparing it with events in locations ranging from the Great Wall of China, Antarctica, and South Africa, it was the only race in the U.S. to place in the company’s review. Along with earning a degree of international fame, the marathon is a shot in the arm for Oak Harbor’s economy. Of the participants in this years race, 1,471 were from locations other than  Whidbey Island.

The vast majority, along with any family and friends that tag along, stay at hotels and eat out at restaurants. Schmidt said it’s difficult to tabulate the total impact of the event, but that the estimate for this year is about $296,600 of which an estimated $266,600 was “off-island dollars,” he said.

He went on to thank all the event sponsors, city employees and the more than 400 volunteers who worked on the marathon. Without them, the event would not have been possible, he said.

“We thought it was a great success again for 2011 and we look forward to 2012,” Schmidt said.

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