This weekend’s (14 April) Adidas Manchester Marathon has seen unprecedented demand for places, with organisers Human Race announcing back in January that it had sold out in record time despite an increase in capacity.

Human Race CEO Andrew Smith (pictured) says long-distance events, including marathons, half marathons and ultramarathons, are thriving – as is the city of Manchester. New additions to the city include Co-op Live (cap. 23,500) Aviva Studios (5,000) and Salford’s We Invented the Weekend festival.

“Whether it’s a report over the last calendar year about finance or sport, or the combination of both, Manchester always indexes high across Europe,” says Smith. “They’ve got a forward-thinking mayor, public transport and a nighttime economy advisor, which even a city like London doesn’t have.”

The Manchester Marathon attracts more than 30,000 participants each year. The 26.2-mile route includes landmarks such as Manchester United’s Old Trafford Stadium, Manchester Opera House and Spinningfields.

“It’s the city’s busiest event of the year, which slightly surprised me when I joined,” adds Smith. “But with all the metrics in terms of transport, the various networks that Manchester has, it’s considerably busier than Man United and Man City matches for example. That’s probably because of the spectators – you might have 30,000 people run a marathon, but they’ll probably bring four times that in terms of spectators.”

Smith says the size of the footprint is the main challenge of organising the event. “You’re not dealing with a fixed venue that knows the exact movement of spectators. When you’re going 26 miles across Greater Manchester it creates challenges. You have to adapt to changes in road layouts. That kind of movement is the complex element, but we’re used to that both in Manchester and London.”

This year Human Race increased the capacity of the marathon by 2,000, which meant the organisers had to make several small adjustments including adapting the route in the city centre. Smith says Human Race has also grown the community aspect of the event through the event’s partner Adidas, including introducing free local club runs.

Human Race is the UK arm of Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), owners of Le Tour de France. Smith says Human Race has a collaborative relationship with ASO, which also runs the Paris Marathon: “They’ve been a big part of the growth of the company since they acquired us [in 2016]. With their Paris event and our two Manchester events, the numbers are huge – by far the biggest in the world delivering on scale and size like that. We can always learn from each other.

“As part of the expansion, we now have fewer events but they’re bigger in size and scale. That’s been the big positive change in working with them.”

Looking ahead, Smith expects to see growth in smaller companies that hopefully return to their pre-pandemic levels: “For the likes of us who have already exceeded those levels, it’s about developing the products that we’ve got. At the centre of our products is giving people as much choice as possible in the registration process.”

Smith adds, “It’s an Olympic year this year, which for running and athletics is massive. ASO are quite involved in that which is nice for us. Normally you get a bit of a lift after an Olympic year, so I see the industry going from strength to strength.”