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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Life is a competitive sport.


April L. Jones

During my time with the program, I have had the privilege of working with outstanding individuals and future professionals.  From being involved in the program, my whole perspective of involvement and service oriented learning has grown.  The program can be analogous to wearing contact lenses; imagine that your doctor has given you a prescription to wear corrective lenses.  If you only wore one contact lens, your vision would be foggy and unclear.  Before Peer Power came to many schools, the aspirations and mental pictures of the many were bleak, foggy, and dim.  Yet once the fusion of Peer Power and the Memphis City School systems began, the goals and expectations of students became clearer and more focused in the same way as a great pair of contacts.  I am convinced that this program will continuously reach new pinnacles as fresh ideas and different individuals blend.  I am an eye witness to this each time I meet a new scholar and college mentor.