Categories: Thrive

St. Pete Run Fest gives the economy, as well as runners, a healthy boost (audio)

Click the arrow above to listen to the full audio interview with Ryan Jordan, co-founder of Run Fest, Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin, and Veatrice Farrell, executive director of the Deuces Live Inc.

The St. Pete Run Fest creates hundreds of thousands of dollars in economic impact, while contributing to the culture of health in the city and highlighting several city neighborhoods.

This year’s festival, scheduled Nov. 15-17, is the third annual Run Fest. There will be several separate races — a half-marathon, 10K, 5K, 1 mile and a children’s race  — as well as a health and wellness expo in the area between the Mahaffey Theater and the Salvador Dalí Museum.

St. Pete Run Fest is projected to draw more than 6,500 attendees in 2019, up from 3,500 in 2017 and 5,500 in 2018, and this year is expected to attract about 1,400 people from out of town, said co-founder Ryan Jordan. There’s exposure for local brands that sponsor the event, and a charitable component, as well as the intangible benefit of showcasing St. Petersburg for decision-makers in business.

“The running demographic is an attractive one in terms of average age is in mid 40s,” Jordan told the St. Pete Catalyst. “We are heavily slanted towards women, as is the running industry. We are 65 percent female, highly educated, higher income. When you look at economic impact, that market spending time in downtown St. Pete will have a lot of impact on our local businesses. And you get a lot of folks that make decisions — the women that run households are running in this race. It’s an inspiring group and also very attractive from a demographic standpoint.”

Here’s his breakdown on dollars spent.

Direct economic impact. “We want people to come to our beautiful city, experience it, and tell others about it and ultimately spend money in our community. The way we gauge that is in terms of number of folks from over 100 miles away. That means, they are spending nights in our hotels and time in downtown St. Pete. Last year we had just around 1,000 from over 100 miles away. This year, we’re forecasting over 1,400. Typically that’s going to be 1.5 to 2 times that number in terms of bed nights, and of course and the per diems that come with it.  Race industry experts factor that as a much higher number than I would, but if you use per diem numbers of $30 to $50 a day, two days and a hotel night for those 1,400 people , and you can quickly add up that we’re looking at over $500,000 a year in raw spend coming to our community.”

Race participants will travel through unique parts of the city.

“It would be more cost-effective to use the Pinellas Trail, or just go up and back on the water. We wanted to show off places like the Innovation District and the Warehouse Arts District and Deuces Live and Grand Central and right down Central Avenue. It’s cool for the city to show off the businesses there and it’s more interesting and motivating from a running experience,” Jordan said.

Spending by organizers. “We want it to be a unique experience so we have a budget in excess of $400,000 we invest into the community to build the event,” Jordan said. A lot of that goes for city services such as police, traffic control, emergency management and sanitation.

“Closing down 13 miles of urban road is expensive, considering we have to have a minimum of one police officer per intersection for a minimum of three hours,” he said.

There also are high-quality premium items for the athletes, ranging from finisher medals, locally sourced shirts and towels, and Tervis Tumblers and other reusable products. There are no single-use plastics or styrofoam, he said.

Brand exposure. Organizers work to help partners and sponsors activate their brands and provide a unique experience at the finish line.

“For example, in Albert Whitted Park, which is where our post-race party takes place, Three Daughters and Green Bench are our two big sponsors. We’re going to make a beer garden and a beach bar. We build a Rollin Oats pop up store right in the middle of Albert Whitted  … We spare no expense in terms of making it unique experience for the athletes, and also making sure and our local brands get an opportunity to show off and engage.”

Philanthropy. “TransAmerica is our partner on a Miles for Meals program. We donate 20-cents per mile to the St. Pete Free Clinic with a  goal of providing 4,000+ free meals  after the event.”

Net proceeds from the kid’s race go to Gold Together, a pediatric cancer research initiative from the American Cancer Society.

Related story: The St. Pete Run Fest origin story

Health and wellness are woven into the fabric of the race, including a “rookie runners” program for new runners, as discussed in the audio interview above with Catalyst Publisher Joe Hamilton, Jordan, Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin and Veatrice Farrell, executive director, The Deuces Live Inc.

Tomalin, one of the rookie runners, launched the “Healthy St. Pete” program in 2014.

“We’re looking for ways to live, shop, eat and play healthier as a community. The  St. Pete Run Fest exemplifies that effort. It’s not a recruitment campaign in the sense of your local government being preachy about your choices. It’s more of an encouragement of an understanding that St. Pete is an awesome place to live, and the only way to take advantage of all of its awesome advantages is if we are our healthiest best selves,” Tomalin said.

Tomalin said she already had picked all the low-hanging fitness fruit. She was eating and shopping healthier and doing easy exercise routines. Run Fest, she said, is a new challenge. “When I started, I could barely run a quarter mile. Now I’m running a mile and a half without stopping … So I encourage people, whether you are trying this, or you are trying whatever it is, push yourself and it’s just so rewarding.”

The 10-week rookie runners program draw on coaches from the St. Pete Running Company, who take the new runners all over the city for practice runs, said Farrell, also a rookie runner. There also are experts such as kinesiologists, physical therapists and nutritionists.

The coaches also help runners get over mental hurdles, Farrell said.

“It’s so exciting to know I’m going to be crossing that finish line,” she said. “This is really good for me mentally. It’s easy to say I can’t do that. It’s much better to say, a month later, look at what I did.”

For more information on the schedule, registration, sponsorships and other details, click here.

Margie Manning

Margie started her journalism career as a radio news reporter in St. Louis, before putting down her microphone and picking up a pen to work at the St. Louis Business Journal. Unable to resist the call of warm weather and beaches, Margie took an entrepreneurial detour to run an ice cream shop in Treasure Island with her husband. Before joining the Catalyst, Margie spent 14 years at the Tampa Bay Business Journal where she wrote about business successes, failures and the exciting world of innovation and start-ups. Her writing coaches are Bonnie the Dog and Coffee the Cat, joined recently by a new edition, Jack the Cat. Margie can be contacted at

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