How Toronto could become a destination for tourists who love to run

With two marathons and numerous races, councillor Mary Fragedakis says Toronto is missing an opportunity to sell itself as a runner's destination.

City councillor wants Toronto to develop a marketing plan to sell the city’s races and marathons.

City Running Tours offers 10K trips around Toronto for joggers who want to see the sights during a workout. (Dan Grant/City Running Tours Toronto)

Dan Grant makes a living by showing off Toronto to tourists who love to run.

"I had runners from Sweden and the UK and Germany through the winter," he told CBC Toronto. "Mostly, I get Americans."

He is a tour-guide with City Running tours, and takes tourists on 10K runs through the downtown.

More than 25,000 people ran in three Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon races on October 16, 2016. (Athletics Canada/Twitter)

"I'm a marathoner," he explained, saying he's never out of breath when talking about the history of local attractions along the way.

Coun. Mary Fragedakis wants Toronto to do more to attract this kind of tourists, especially since Toronto offers running events throughout the year, along with the Toronto Marathon in the spring, and the Waterfront Marathon in the fall.

"I think other cities have taken better advantage of their marathons to boost tourism and effectively the marketing of their city," she said. "We have a lot going on in this city and we need to market it better."

She points to Boston as an example.  A recent study by the Boston Athletics Association estimated the 2017 Boston Marathon boosted the local economy by an estimated $192.2 million US.

She wants to persuade her fellow city councilors to set up a working group staffed by tourism officials and race organizers to look at better ways to promote Toronto's running events around the world.

"If we were more proactive with how we promote these events," she said, "then we could boost tourism."

There is a large percentage of people who spend significant amounts of money to travel to races.- Dan Way, Canadian Running Magazine

Dan Way who writes a race guide for Canadian Running Magazine, says Toronto's hotels and restaurants could see a big boost if the city is sold properly.

"There is a large percentage of people who spend significant amounts of money to travel to races," he said. "Race directors need to offer an entire city experience."

In the past, many organizers have faced opposition from residents and politicians over street closures.

Way says they've been flexible, changing the dates for some events to spread out planned closures.

Mayor John Tory has even encouraged event organizers to hold fewer events downtown as a way to alleviate congestion, but Way says that location is key when it comes to attracting runners.

"Part of the reason that people run these events is because they get to run in amazing places that showcase our amazing city."

He says the city's ravines can't handle the logistics involved with organizing large groups of runners, and says just holding events in city parks won't be much of a draw. "To have people do loops on a track is not going to attract the same number of people."

Coun. Mary Fragedakis says the city could also do more to attract spectators along the route, helping to give runners a positive impression of the city's residents.

I run," said Fragedakis, "and I know I get a lot of positive energy from people cheering me on."

The City's Economic Development committee will review the motion May 30. It still needs to be approved by council.

Fragedakis hopes the working group can present its recommendations by next spring.


Mike Wise

Host, CBC Toronto News at 11

Mike Wise is the anchor of CBC Toronto News at 11. Mike grew up in Brampton, but now calls North York home. He started at CBC when he was just 17 years old, as part of a high-school Co-Op placement. Mike is married and teaches journalism part-time at Humber College.