Runners in the Honolulu Marathon receive water at an aid station while competing in the annual event. This year's field is expected to attract 26,000 entrants, down from 30,428 last year.

Military call-ups
deplete marathon field

The Honolulu event is projected
to have 14.6% fewer entrants
and likely will return less
to Hawaii's economy

The Honolulu Marathon, which had an estimated economic impact of $81.7 million in Hawaii last year, is projected to have a 14.6 percent decrease in entrants this year in part because of the call-up of military personnel.

The Honolulu Marathon Association projects that this Sunday's marathon, the 31st year for the race, will attract up to 26,000 entrants, down from 30,428 last year. The marathon will continue to be among the most popular in the world, probably ranking this year as the sixth-largest marathon, said Pat Bigold, marathon spokesman.

An estimated 15,000 to 16,000 entrants are expected to come from Japan this year, a drop from 17,266 entrants last year, but still making up the largest bloc of runners.

Another 4,000 to 5,000 Japanese visitors are expected to participate in the annual race-day walk, said Jim Barahal, association president.

The marathon may have lost possibly 1,000 local military entrants called up to war in Iraq or Afghanistan, Barahal said.

"We've lost substantially there," Bigold said.

Economic factors also may have contributed to the drop, as well as reduced flights from Japan and the fact that last year's marathon was the 30th anniversary.

Still, the marathon represents a small bright spot for the state's $10.6 billion tourism industry during the seasonal lull right before the winter holidays.

Jerome Agrusa, a professor with the Hawaii Pacific University's Travel Industry Management program, conducted a study last year that estimated the marathon's impact at $81.7 million, more than $57 million of which came from runners from Japan alone.

Agrusa's students interviewed runners from seven nations and 14 states a few days before the 2002 marathon, and the surveys were distributed and collected by student Atsuko Hirobe.

Some 36 percent of last year's Japanese visitors said it was their first visit to Honolulu, while nearly 58 percent of English-speaking runners said it was their first visit. Agrusa said he is conducting a similar study of this year's marathon.


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