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Runners praise new route for McAllen Marathon Scott Crane Memorial Run

January 16, 2017 GMT

McALLEN — The best way to see a place is on foot, according to Robert Lopez, McAllen Chamber of Commerce’s director of sales and sports tourism.

If that’s true, the nearly 1,300 runners had a great view of the city racing along the McAllen Marathon Scott Crane Memorial Run route, which started and finished at the McAllen Convention Center.

“It’s really a beautiful route and I think it’s a great way for us to showcase the city,” said Lopez, who has run the half marathon since it began four years ago.

The marathon adopted the name of former McAllen City Commissioner Scott Crane, who suffered a fatal heart attack during the race’s second year.

“I really appreciate the city of McAllen’s efforts to continue Scott’s vision and his passion,” said the late commissioner’s widow Sasha Crane in a news release. “He had a vision of a healthy lifestyle for all ages. He wanted everybody, whether you’re an avid runner or a novice, he wanted you to just get out and be active in our great city.”

Lopez called the marathon McAllen’s “signature health and wellness sporting event.”

McAllen Parks and Recreation Director Mike Hernandez said the largest logistical challenge was having enough race staff, which consisted of more than 200 city employees and nearly 200 volunteers donating their time.

The marathon can’t happen without many different departments and volunteers coming together, he said.

Iowa native Tom Naert was the first to finish the full marathon. The avid runner was in town for business, and “was really just looking for a good run down here (to) try to stay in shape” when he signed up for the race Friday, he said.

Because of an internet search, Narert said he learned the course was flat, fast and a Boston Marathon qualifier. Though he’d already qualified for Boston last year, the race’s specs were appealing to him.

He wasn’t disappointed.

“It was awesome. I’ve run six or seven marathons now, and this is by far one of the best,” Narert said. “The course itself, the course management, the supporters (and) the volunteers were awesome.”

Hernandez said he’d received a lot of positive feedback about the course, and blamed less than ideal registration numbers to the event changing locations and dates. Sometimes runners wait for feedback on new courses, he said.

Officials are always evaluating how to improve events, and Hernandez mentioned adding the McAllen Kids Marathon as an example. They’re also looking into adding a 10K.

For McAllen, the marathon is only a component of its healthy initiatives, like the B-Cycle bike renting program or maintaining hike and bike trails, according to Hernandez.

Hernandez connected people’s preparation for races and their use of public spaces.

“There are a lot of groups that call to say (they’re on) early morning runs using the trails and parks,” he said. “It’s good to know people are taking advantage of everything McAllen has to offer.”

The key to the success of McAllen events, according to Hernandez, is thinking regionally.

Runners from across the Rio Grande Valley, Texas, the United States, Mexico and beyond are drawn to the race.

“There used to be nothing around here,” said Weslaco native Jose Saenz, who was one of the first half-marathon finishers. “Every now and then there was a 5K. Now, every weekend you have a choice.”

Saenz has helped train first-time runners through Team in Training. He’s seen the group grow in recent years.

As more runners finished relays, half and full marathons, the convention center park began to bustle with activity.

Liz Galaviz, owner of Pro Sports Massage Clinic, rubbed the calf of a recent finisher who was sprawled out on a table.

“Our goal here at the race is to educate people about the importance of maintenance, not just pre- and post- but throughout training,” Galaviz said.

After a long run, muscles become tight and runners risk tears, she said.

Galaviz advised her clients running the race to hydrate because of the humidity and heat.

“Humidity wasn’t a surprise,” said KRGV meteorologist Alan Shoemaker after finishing the half marathon. “It looked like it would be all week. When it’s humid, you sweat a lot more.”

Shoemaker has lived in the Valley for 11 years and has noticed a lot more active things to do then there used to be.

“Even if you don’t pay to participate in a run, it costs very little to walk or run around your neighborhood,” Shoemaker said.

Narert said runs are great because they bring communities together.

“Everyone has trained for this for so long. It’s kind of the culmination of a lot of hard work and sweat. everybody can bond over that,” said the marathon winner. “It’s just a great environment.

“It’s done wonders for me in not only my health but my well being and quality of life.”

dflores@themonitor.com