Banff Marathon gives back to community

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Striving to become the greenest marathon in the world, the Banff Marathon generated $4.2 million worth of economic activity in the community, according to numbers released by race organizers on Monday (Oct. 19).

Speaking at a new conference at the Banff YWCA, race director Paul Regensburg said he believes sporting events must give back to the community, socially, environmentally and economically, noting the race had an unmatchable environmental record.

“When it comes to Banff National Park, we had always committed to strong stewardship,” Regensburg said, pointing to the race’s aggressive sustainability plan.

“We truly believe this is an event that can define Banff on the world map. A lot of communities are defined by their marathons – Boston, London and Berlin. In summer sport, to be known for the Banff marathon would be incredible.

Economically, Regensburg said based on Travel Alberta calculations, the race generated $2.74 million in direct spending for Banff, drawing an estimated 6,654 visitors for the one-day event, which resulted in an estimated 5,515 hotel room stays and $170,113 in estimated Parks Canada gate revenue.

Regensburg said feedback from the event was extremely positive and now more groups are asking to be a part of the 2016 race, which will take place on June 19. Registration for the race opens on Nov. 6, 2015.

“We have multiple tour operators from Asia asking if they can bring groups to the Banff marathon. That’s exciting. It bodes well for tourism and the international flavour is excellent,” Regensburg said. “We also had a very aggressive model for sustainability, with 10-plus programs implemented and well done. Most marathons around the world have some sustainability components, but nothing close to what we did here. I think we’re world leading in that category.”

Joey O’Brien said the marathon launched a 10-point environmental play, which diverted 94.7 per cent of waste from land fills, offset all greenhouse gas emissions with certified Retired Energy Credits and used green energy for the entire event.

The race also donated $2,000 to the Rotary Science Fair, recognized Talia Dixon, Alina Arvisais, Jessica Orchin and Meghan Keelan for their science fair success, and gave $5,000 to YWCA Banff to combat violence against women. He also introduced several other initiatives, such as bio digestible cups, a zero waste swag bag, air quality monitoring and an increased educational component to the race.

Regensburg has plans to make next year’s marathon even better, with a larger Sport Expo and improved traffic flow.

“We had almost no road closures. Most marathons shut down an entire city. It was pretty cool we were able to make an event with the town and Parks to allow people to move around freely and still have our event going. We’d still like to make it smoother over time,” Regensburg said.

Sustainability expert O’Brien said the race proved sustainable races are possible and profitable in the Bow Valley.

“My hope is to have many, many, many events. We’ve proven the model a few times. We have the model to make the world’s greenest events, and they pay, which is really cool. The opportunity is to grow this exponentially,” O’Brien said.

He’s in talks with about 35 races across five provinces that want to copy the green model, which is truly a legacy of the Banff/Canmore Alberta Winter Games.

“I still can’t get the attention of some of the events. It really depends if the event leaders have drunk the golden Kool-Aid. If they are predisposed to sustainability, it’s easy. If they’re not, then it’s not easy,” O’Brien said.

“People used to be told sustainability costs, you can’t afford it. We figured out a model. Thank the winter games committee. They built the model. I’m just taking it and commercializing it.”

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