Half marathon becomes first footrace across Big River Crossing

October 13th, 2017

WMC Action News 5 | Joe Birch

The very first competitive running event on the Big River Crossing happens Saturday, October 21 at a half marathon and 5K named for the longest pedestrian bridge across the Mississippi River.

“This trail and this race on Saturday are the kind of thing we’d hoped the Big River Crossing would spawn in the first place,” said Dow McVean, son of the father of the BRC, Charlie McVean.

Starting on Riverside Drive at Beale Street, the first three miles of the half marathon roll through Downtown Memphis.

Runners will take the trek across the now-famous pedestrian bridge on the way to the 4-mile marker and the Arkansas floodplain directly across from the Downtown Memphis skyline.

Crews are putting the final touches on the all-new Big River Trail. It’s reclaimed asphalt that’s been put down, rolled and sealed.

“We think it’s an outstanding surface for biking and running,” said McVean. “It’s designed in such a way that it will be able to withstand the occasional flooding we do get over here in the floodplain. But if it didn’t flood, we wouldn’t have all this acreage available right now across from a major downtown on the biggest river in the country."

The Big River Trail takes runners alongside the riverbank and then moves west, encircling Dacus Lake and eventually returning to the Big River Crossing where speedsters and slowpokes will return to Memphis, running through Martyrs Park and eventually Tom Lee Park and the finish line.

The half marathoners will start their two state trek at 8 a.m. on Saturday, followed by a 5K starting at 8:30 that’ll remain on the Tennessee side of the mighty Mississippi.

The event benefits Peer Power Foundation, a non-profit organization that recruits and trains high-performing students to tutor and mentor their peers, encourage active learning, value education and be personally accountable for their futures.

McVean pioneered Peer Power at his alma mater, East High School. The program has expanded dramatically in recent years with the University of Memphis and Shelby County Schools uniting with Peer Power to pay tutors and help more students succeed.  

The younger McVean, a principal of McVean Trading and Investments, LLC, a commodity trading company his father founded, is working on the development of a 1,700 acre Delta Regional River Park on the farmland half marathoners will cross on Saturday.

The State of Arkansas made a $1M grant to prepare the trails and make other improvements to the land that McVean dreams will one day become an Arkansas state park.

“It’s all about jobs, tourism jobs and attracting and keeping local talent - millennials who want to live in Harbortown, Downtown or Midtown,” McVean said. “Shelby Farms is amazing. I go there a lot. But if you live Downtown, this is a really wonderful opportunity, I think."

The businessman said the1,700-acre park can be created with an investment of $5M, funds he’s now trying to raise through appeals to private funders.  

Huge 100-year-old limestone blocks that once held up a BSNF Railroad Bridge have been repurposed as benches along parts of the Big River Trail.

Spectacular views of Downtown, the river and all of Memphis’  major bridges are available from the Arkansas side of old man river. Half marathoners will be among the first to experience the new looks next Saturday.

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I want to be somebody, someday!

Kylea Spradley

I am currently a sophomore studying Biomedical Engineering at the University of Memphis. I also work as a success coach for Peer Power at East High School and I absolutely adore my job. The satisfaction from helping and encouraging young scholars is an overwhelmingly positive feeling that fills me with determination to constantly do better not only in my educational life, but in my personal life too. I take great pride walking into East High School knowing that I am not only a resource for the students, but also a mentor. I am that friend to talk to when something is going on, or even the outside opinion on a situation that shines the light onto a new viewpoint.

Peer Power to me is helping motivate students to graduate on time, and with dignity. Peer Power to me means inspiring that scholar to take the ACT again and raise their score, even if it is just by one more point. That one point can be the difference of a 2,000-dollar scholarship for college. Peer Power to me is getting the students excited for the endless possibilities past graduation, whether it be college or joining the work force. Peer Power to me is igniting the fire of determination and motivation under every student, and to welcome them into our world, post high school, with arms wide open, as that shoulder to lean on, as that support system when they need it.

Another reason why I love Peer Power so very much, is that it helps me to revisit old topics that I may have forgotten about when I was in high school. In turn, it benefits me in my college classes. As a biomedical engineering student, I take a ton of math classes. As a math success coach at East High, I get a refresh on topics that I haven’t seen in a long while, And if I am able to explain a topic, such as proofs in Geometry or absolute value functions in Algebra 2, to a student who may or may not have seen said topic before and for the students to understand it even just a little better, then I know that I fully understand the topic myself.

The relationships I have built during my time as a success coach at East High School are ones I will remember forever. Whether it be with my team leads, my teacher, students, and even other success coaches, the entirety of it all feels like a second family. I know that I have a support system at Peer Power, one that will always be there to pick me up when I am down, to congratulate me when I succeed, and one I can reply on in the future of my academic career.