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City to the Sea race draws over 1,800 runners to SLO, hotels near capacity

Posted at 6:35 AM, Oct 11, 2019

Hundreds of runners will take their place at the starting line Sunday for the annual City to the Sea Half Marathon and 5K, which runs from Downtown San Luis Obispo to Shell Beach.

More than 1,800 athletes were registered for the race as of Friday morning.

The race started in 1995 as a way to honor the former editor of the San Luis Obispo Tribune, his wife and daughter, who all died in a car crash on the way home from their other daughter's track meet. The money raised from the race benefits Cuesta College student athletes in the Fairbanks Family's honor.

Since the race began nearly 25 years ago, participation has nearly tripled.

"Back then, we had no 5k and no kids races," City to the Sea Director Jani Johnson said. "Now we have about 6-700 in the 5k. This year is gonna be our biggest kids races with about 150 kids."

That swell in visitors to Downtown San Luis Obispo is a big pay day for local businesses.

"We do know all the visitors that are going to be watching the race and cheering people on will be stopping in to have breakfast," Downtown San Luis Obispo CEO Bettina Swigger said. "So we do expect an economic uptick within our downtown boundaries."

The San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce calls area hotels every Thursday afternoon to get a sense for how the hospitality industry is doing week to week. Dusty Colyer-Worth, the manager of the Visitor Center, said most hotels report having limited availability this weekend and many of them are sold out.

Just in time for the big race day, the new San Luis Obispo Hotel is open on Palm Street. The hotel's reservations department said Thursday it's seeing 70 percent capacity for the weekend ahead.

The flood of athletes, including visitors from up and down California, across the country and even around the globe, makes for controlled chaos in downtown. But San Luis Obispo City leaders say they are prepared.

"We have very busy weeks like Cal Poly graduation weekend and wow week, Week of Welcome, where we see our market go from 4,000 to sometimes upwards of 9 to even 11,000 attendees," Swigger said.

The half marathon starts at 7 a.m. at the intersection of Higuera and Court streets and same day registration is available for $100.