In just a few weeks, a contingent of somewhere in the vicinity of 1,500 runners will converge on Berl Huffman Park and then begin a 26.2-mile counter-clockwise journey around Loop 289. That’s right, it is almost time for the Mayor’s Marathon, which will begin at 8 a.m. April 28.

For those who may not be up to a full marathon, this year’s event includes a half-marathon (13.1 miles), a 5K (3.1 miles) and a two-kilometer kids’ fun run (for youngsters age 12 and under). One of the cool deals about the kids’ race is the first 100 entries will receive a free pair of running shoes.

It marks the second time the Mayor’s Marathon has taken place, and it has become something of a signature event under the auspices of the Mayor’s Fitness Council.

A primary drawing card beyond the fact that this year’s race serves as a qualifier for the Boston Marathon is the opportunity for participants to run around the loop. Turns out Loop 289 is 26.2 miles, and it requires the effort of a lot of volunteers, law enforcement and the Texas Department of Transportation to ensure an enjoyable running experience for all competitors.

The Mayor’s Fitness Council is a group of citizens who are advocates for living a healthy lifestyle. Not everyone is a marathon runner (or any kind of runner), but the group also organizes and oversees gatherings such as park walks and shorter hikes around the community designed to connect people with physical activities that can be enjoyed by friends and family.

First, let’s clear up what might be a misconception. The event does not “shut down” Loop 289. Participants run on the outside two lanes. Last year’s event ran smoothly, and organizers said the loop was open west of Interstate 27 before 11 a.m. One of the benefits of the event is it gives city officials a chance to run the emergency operations center and drill on procedures and protocols as the race unfolds so it’s also a learning exercise for city staff.

Organizers are committed to making the 2019 Mayor’s Marathon an even better experience for participants and spectators. They expect to have a number of food trucks in the Berl Huffman parking lot as well as other entertainment touches meant to enhance the event’s family-friendly appeal.

Make no mistake, this is an important event for Lubbock. It is more than a run. It is a chance for large number of visitors to sample hospitality and enjoy all of what Lubbock has to offer (so let’s hope for one of those Chamber of Commerce days weather-wise). People who come to Lubbock to compete will be staying in local hotels, eating at local restaurants and shopping at local retail outlets. There is an economic impact associated.

There are other important impacts as well. Funds generated by the event are returned to the community through grants given to organizations doing vital work. Last year’s event generated enough revenue that the Mayor’s Fitness Council, which has a group of volunteers dedicated to overseeing this process, gave some $30,000 to support the efforts of 17 nonprofits.

This is an event that has capacity for substantial growth over the years. The impression it makes on the regional (and beyond) running community will be critical as these types of races typically grow best through word-of-mouth recommendations. It is our hope that the dedicated work of the fitness council, the City of Lubbock, and hundreds of volunteers keeps this race moving in the right direction.