McAllen Marathon logistics require ‘massive undertaking’

BENJAMIN TREVIÑO | STAFF WRITER

In the early morning hours, well before the first runners cross the starting line of the McAllen Marathon Scott Crane Memorial Run, a small army of city workers and volunteers will fan out across the city. Water stations have to be supplied and staffed. Barriers must be erected. Streets must be blocked off. Medical personnel will take their places along the race route.

The carefully-orchestrated deployment is but one aspect of a complex race day operation that will have involved a year’s worth of planning and the effort by an estimated 200 city workers, 400 volunteers, and others who are tasked with ensuring a safe and successful run.

“The logistics behind it are a massive undertaking,” said U.S. District Judge Randall Crane, who serves as chairman of the advisory committee for the annual road race which bears his late brother’s name.

“We need (traffic) cones along the course, and water stations at every mile,” Crane added, “There’s the logistics of getting tables, tents, portable latrines. We have to find volunteer groups to help man those water stations. There needs to be a stage for opening remarks.

We have to order things in advance like finishers’ medals, awards for all the different categories, we have to arrange a special timing company to supply bibs with timing chips in them.”

Crane is in his second year as race committee chairman. He assumed oversight after the marathon’s second year and put together an advisory board whose members collectively had run over 100 marathons, iron man triathlons, and other races. The group redesigned the full marathon route, which now covers almost the entire length of the city from south to north and runs past nearly every iconic landmark. The goal was to make the course fast, flat, and safe, while at the same time adhering to the rigorous certification standards of USA Track and Field (USATF).

For any road race to be accepted as a record or be nationally ranked, it must be run on a USATF-certified course. The certification program benefits the average road racer, as well as experienced runners. Most runners like to compare performances run on different courses, and such comparisons are difficult if course distances are not reliable.

“They (USATF) come down, and in a very meticulous manner, they measure the course to make sure that it is exactly 26.2 miles,” Crane explained. “All the mile points along the course have to be marked visually, because runners have an expectation. They want to know where they are along the course and so we have large banners that we used last year to mark each mile.”

Street closures have to be timed so that the entire city isn’t shut down for the entire marathon, which can take upwards of 4.5 hours to complete. Every component of the race’s logistics is laid out in a giant spreadsheet, including the deployment of fire department medical personnel.

“The number and locations of our medical stations are still being sorted out,” said McAllen Fire Department Operations Deputy Chief, Juan Angel Gloria. “There will be about 20 personnel, and about seven medical stations throughout the route, and at the convention center. We will also have personnel in pickup trucks and on ATVs with additional medical equipment. Those vehicles will be ‘satellite’ vehicles, moving up and down the proximity of the route.”

Further complicating the planning process is the fact that the Scott Crane Memorial Run is not just one race, but several races over a two-day period. The full marathon, half marathon, and the five-person relay marathon will be held Sunday, January 20. A 5K run, a 10K run, and the final mile of the McAllen Kids Marathon will be held the day before on Saturday, January 19. An estimated 7,500 McAllen elementary school students kicked off the youth race last September, and since that time, they’ve been incrementally logging various distances in order to complete the final one-mile leg on race day.

“This is the fifth year of the McAllen Kids Marathon,” said McAllen ISD Health and Physical Education Coordinator, Mario Reyna. “We give them from September to January to accumulate their miles. This event is designed to motivate kids to own their health, that they are responsible for their health and fitness. If we can instill that when they’re in elementary school, then when they grow up they already know that connection of being responsible.”

Now in its seventh year, the McAllen Marathon Scott Crane Memorial Run honors the legacy of the late city commissioner who tragically died in 2014 after suffering a heart attack while running the race which he created. Now at the helm of the event, his brother says the burden that comes with planning such a complex endeavor is well worth it.

“Scott had this vision that the city would have an event that would promote the health and fitness of his citizens and that it would continue in perpetuity,” said Judge Crane. “He wanted to spark a cultural change in how our kids look at active lifestyles so that it just becomes a way of life. That was the wellspring behind this marathon. The city has embraced it and I share the same feeling that the city does, that a healthier community is a better community.”

McAllen Marathon Scott Crane Memorial Run Events

Saturday, January 19
McAllen Marathon 5K
McAllen Marathon 10K
Start Times: 7 a.m.
McAllen Kids Marathon (Final Mile)
Start Time: 9 a.m.

Sunday, January 20
Full Marathon (26.2 miles)
Half Marathon (13.1 miles)
Five-Person Relay Marathon (26.2 miles)
All Start Times: 7 a.m.

Elite Qualifying Times
Female 3:05:30
Male 2:44:30
Time Limits: 7 hours maximum
Course closes at 2 p.m.

Online registration deadline: 5 p.m. Saturday

(Note: In-person registration deadline may be extended at city’s discretion)

For more information, visit www.mcallenmarathon.com or call (956) 681-3320