April 5, 2013
The Charlottesville Marathon is bringing thousands of visitors to the city this weekend. And they are giving a much-needed boost to local businesses, who have been suffering through a colder-than-normal Spring.
Friday afternoon was busier than usual at Bizou on the Downtown Mall.
"Our patio is a huge part of our business," said server Brook Burgess. "Just having more people around really picks up our business."
The Omni Hotel, also on the mall, has every room booked Friday night. The rooms have been booked for weeks.
"It actually brings not only the runners but also the fans," said Matthew Early at the Omni. "We get a lot of folks cheering outside the hotel, a lot of folks coming in for breakfast and lunch."
"It brings a lot of revenue to the city," said Francesca Conte, who works for Bad to the Bone, the company putting on the marathon. "All the hotels are full. People go out on the Downtown Mall. They eat at the restaurants. They shop at the shops."
Conte has been planning for this day for months. She is responsible for making sure the runners have everything they need, and selling them on how unique Charlottesville is.
"It's a great way to showcase the city," said Conte. "There really is no better way to see it."
There are 2,500 racers signed up. Add in their families and friends and it makes a big difference on the mall.
"It's a fun group to have in," said Early. "A lot of folks energized and ready to be up bright and early."
Some of those people are running a marathon for the first time.
Dina Varlamova came all the way from Connecticut to run in the Charlottesville Marathon. And training in Connecticut in the winter has not been easy.
"Put a lot of layers on," said Varlamova. "Cold, sleet, snow. Nothing matters. You have that goal in front of you. I've always wanted to join and be part of that elite group, and finally I'm like, 'Yeah, let's do it!'"
Charlottesville resident Mike Shackelford is running his first marathon on Saturday, too.
"I want to run well," said Shackelford. "I want to run a fast time, but being a first marathon I think I ought to run smart and not try to do that."
Both runners say, the good thing about running 26 miles is that the day before, you get to eat as much as you want.
"Today I'll eat everything I can get my hands on," said Shackelford. "I just had a big breakfast, pancakes, eggs. This evening I'll probably have spaghetti and pizza."
"Pretty much try to stuff ourselves silly," said Varlamova. But she can't do the traditional carbo-load because she doesn't eat gluten. So what is she eating instead?
"A whole bowl of buckwheat," said Varlamova. "A lot of veggies, too."