McAllen Marathon Runners Excited About Course: Local celebrities and out of town folks ready for a good race

by Office of Communications | Jan 13, 2017

(McAllen, TX)  As over 1,100 runners plan to traverse the City of McAllen this weekend at the McAllen Marathon-Scott Crane Memorial Run in either the Full-26.2 miles; the Half-13.1 miles; or the Relay-five person team, all runners are looking forward to a flat, fast race; a well-organized event, improving their time and getting to know the local landscape.  However, runners from throughout the United States and Mexico all have some very different reasons in mind for participating in Sunday’s race.

Runners like Nancy Espinoza of Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Mexico or Kike Casillas of Valle Hermoso, Tamaulipas, Mexico are running for sentimental reasons.  For Espinoza, it will be her birthday and this is her gift to herself, while for Casillas, the McAllen Marathon was his first marathon ever.  He likens his affection for the race like a “first love” and intends to always run this marathon. 

However, for transplanted McAllen natives, such as Esli Patterson and brothers Jonathon and Peter Keirn, the sentimentality runs deep. Patterson really enjoys seeing people in the community volunteering and cheering runners.  “It’s pretty neat to see all the new developments transforming McAllen each returning year,” she added who now calls Atlanta, Georgia home. 

Jonathon Keirn, who has only done one marathon before ever is looking forward to the hot weather – he’s been training in freezing, snowing and icy weather training in Syracuse, New York – his family and of course, Mexican food.  Newly minted McAllen resident Ami Angell, who has only been in the area since August as part of Teach for America, also said she is looking forward to eating tacos after the race.  She is also really excited to see McAllen as it was meant to be seen – on foot and making new friends and like-minded runners. 

Other runners who are very familiar with McAllen because of friends or family and who visit frequently from their hometowns of Reynosa, Mexico City, Monterrey or Saltillo also cite getting to know the city in a different aspect and look forward to the other amenities found here, including, of course, the shopping.  Brian Mann of Iowa, who comes down to visit his mother who winters in the area, has run 70 marathons in all 50 states.  He is looking forward to his first McAllen Marathon.

Getting away from the cold weather is what is driving a lot of the runners to McAllen, some for the first time, like Kelly Bruett also of Iowa who is bringing her husband and mom who can’t wait to “spend the morning outdoors” and Gary Brown and his wife from North Carolina who are looking forward to “great scenery.” 

Lic. Jesus Luna of Reynosa has a singular focus for this race:  to further his training for two future marathons in Torreon, Coahuila, Mexico and Los Angeles, California in the upcoming months.   Also from Reynosa is relay marathon team, Unqualified Team, led by Martha Salazar, whose team participates in various marathons in the U.S. and hope to run the individual marathon next year. 

Another seasoned marathon runner is Brownsville native and now Santa Monica, California resident Alfredo Korzenik.  Aside from the draw of running with family and friends in the crowd, he sites his youth as motivation for running, because “he never ran as a kid…couldn’t even run a mile back in high school.”  He is excited to participate because his mother has never seen him run.  While this will be the first time he will run the McAllen Marathon, Korzenik will be running his 64th marathon.  He is “a Boston Marathon legacy runner with 17 Bostons in a row, including the 2013 bombing race” and is already qualified for his 18th race. 

“Running has been good to me and I’d just like to give the people of McAllen and the Valley one more ounce of encouragement so one day those little girls and boys and folks who watch might get motivated to train and run a marathon someday.”

McAllen and Rio Grande Valley natives make up the bulk of the runners, including celebrities and first time runners, such as City Manager Roel “Roy” Rodriguez, P.E. who will be running the Half-Marathon on Sunday. A long-time runner, he would often run 10Ks and other shorter races and found his motivation by looking around and looking to his side.  “I have been inspired by others who have done it, especially, my spouse, Noelia.” He went on to say that Valley residents are truly thinking about how to improve their lives and health.  “”They’re working to make themselves better, I think I can do the same and maybe inspire others.  I am running distance that I had never run before and it feels great.” 

McAllen News Photographer Jose Esqueda will be running the McAllen Marathon Half-Marathon for the second time this Sunday, points out he wasn’t always runner.  But he stresses that is he can do it, anyone can do it.  He encourages anyone thinking about running a marathon to start out slow and don’t get discouraged. 

A long-time runner is District 6 Commissioner Veronica Whitacre, who is dedicating her fourth run in the relay marathon to the late Scott Crane, a former McAllen City Commissioner for whom the marathon is now named and with whom she shared a passion for running.  Instrumental in helping the City of McAllen to be the first community in the United States designated by First Lady Michelle Obama as a Let’s Move! City, Whitacre hopes to stress the importance of being healthy active and involved. 

“I am running the marathon because I am an example to all that anybody can run. I enjoy running. I am also proud to be representing our city and feel it's important to participate and be actively involved,” concluded the commissioner.

“My motivation for staying fit and healthy is my daughters.  I always want to set a good example and I want to be around for them for a long time to come,” said Assistant City Manager Michelle Leftwich.  She cites the common situation of clothes fitting tight so armed with a brand new Fitbit, she began running and competing in various local 5K and 10 K races.  She made it a goal to reach 10,000 steps every day which she has accomplished since last April.  She decided her next big goal for the bucket list would be to complete her first half-marathon. 

“So here I am – excited to be trained and ready to join thousands of great runners this Sunday in the McAllen Marathon.  I know I won’t set any land speed records, but to me it’s simply about having a goal and making steady progress, which is the message I want to send my daughters who are my motivation and are so proud of me.  Oh, and thanks also goes to my Fitbit family for helping keep me motivated daily!”

However, perhaps the most inspirational runners this Sunday are Michigan natives Jim Reeve, a 74-year old marathon runner, who had open heart and bypass surgery in June, 2016 and his daughter Jennifer, a non-runner, who promised him that she would walk a marathon with him, to help encourage him in his recovery efforts.  He suggested the half-marathon and are both looking forward to coming to enjoy the McAllen, Texas weather for their first marathon together.  Since his surgery, Reeve has run marathon 700 and 701.  “I am proud of my Dad – beyond these words – and I am thrilled to walk 701.5 with him.”


The McAllen Marathon kicks off at 7:00 a.m. on Sunday, January 15, 2017 from the McAllen Convention Center.  For more information, visit


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