PLANS are up and running to attract 20,000 competitors to the Antrim Coast Half Marathon in a bid to capitalise on the big boost this year’s event received by the presence of Sir Mo Farah.
‘Ballymena Daily’ can reveal a report set to tabled at a meeting of Mid & East Antrim Borough Council this Monday shows that the race organisers and council officials believe the hugely expanded event will really showcase the area.
The race normally attracts around 2,000 runners but in 2021, according to the report, the plan is for 10,000 people to be hitting the tarmac of the Coast Road and for the number of competitors to rise to 20,000 in 2023.
The report says the long term aim is for many of the runners to come from overseas and bring with them spending power to the local economy.
Formerly known as the Larne Half Marathon the event has been going since 1993 and according to the report, prepared by council officers, ‘is highly regarded and very popular within the running fraternity in Northern Ireland and has helped raise the profile of the borough’.
The report says the race is confirmed as one of the fastest half marathon courses in Europe and adds: ‘The Association of International Marathons and Distance Races has confirmed that the course is a ‘world ranking event’ which makes it more attractive to the world’s elite athletes for future years’.
The Council report says the pandemic impacted on the 2020 event but the profile was boosted by the participation of multiple Olympic, World and European Champion Sir Mo Farah.
The report said the event reached one million people on social media with 70,000 online viewers and the extensive coverage gave the Council the chance to showcase the Antrim coast.
The report says the race organisers estimate that £300,000 was spent in the local economy as a result of the event in 2020.
The race is due to take place in August 2021 and the Council report says it can be an international event and ‘offers huge potential to become a significant economic and tourism driver’ for the area.
The report says targets for the race include 10,000 entries in 2021 rising to 20,000 in 2023.
Another target is getting 80 per cent of entries from outside Northern Ireland. The report says 98 per cent of entrants in 2019 were from County Antrim.
The Council dossier says it is also hoped to attract ten per cent of runners from the USA and a seven-night package deal would be in place.
The report says other targets involve engaging with broadcasters for live coverage and broadcast packages; improved course infrastructure and they would like to get boat clubs to help ‘animate the sea along the course’.
The report says the race organisers intend to apply to the Council’s grant programme for £50,000 funding.
The report continues: ‘The organisers are convinced that with sufficient investment from the public and private sector, the event will become a powerful vehicle to promote tourism numbers, provide a significant wider economic benefit for Mid and East Antrim, boost the reputation of the Borough and encourage sports engagement within the community.’
Councillors will be asked to note the success of the 2020 event and support the new development plans and also back the application to the Council’s grants programme.
Another recommendation to elected representatives is to ‘agree the engagement of various Council departments with the organisers and reasonable in-kind support to help deliver on Council’s targets and objectives within the Corporate Plan’.
The Council report says the aim is to ‘showcase our Borough as a must-visit tourism destination around the world’.
The report says town centre retailers would benefit from additional visitor spend and a programme of ‘off-course activities and entertainment to extend visitors’ stay and contribute to the whole experience of the weekend would be planned’.
In return for financial backing the Council would become a ‘key event partner,’ councillors will be told.
The report says that as well as 10,000 competitors the event would also bring in spending from friends and family of those running and spectators.