Grafton – There have been eyes on the route for weeks as public safety officials seek to make sure everything is safe for runners and spectators alike.
Barricades have been staged throughout five municipalities and will be cautiously moved into place in wee hours of the morning of Oct. 2.
Efficiency and organization are paramount to making sure everything goes off without a hitch.
The powers that be who have been involved with putting together the 36th Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon had one thing in common the week before the major local event: they were calm, collected and certain the race would be a success.
“The Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon is really something that is embraced by all of the communities it involves,” said race director Erin Smith. “The runner experience is of the utmost importance to all 1,200 volunteers who work diligently to make sure everything about the event runs as smoothly as possible.”
With Grafton as the starting point, that hard work and diligence starts months ahead of time.
“We’ve hosted this event for several years, so we’ve long since established an operation plan that addresses crowd control, traffic plans, traffic flow and general emergency preparedness,” said Grafton Police Chief Normand Crepeau Jr. “Ultimately, it is our job to make sure there are elements in place that ensure the integrity and safety of the starting area.”
Crepeau is registered to run in what will be the 23rd year Grafton will be home to the starting line for Wisconsin’s largest full marathon, which is expected to include more than 3,000 runners from more than 40 states and five countries.
“We do everything we can to make sure everything is run safely and securely, and we start watching the area weeks beforehand to see to it that everything is successful,” he said.
Though plans are in place months beforehand, staging happens throughout the week prior to the race.
“Overall, this is such a well-organized event that is planned throughout the year to make sure everything is in order as far as logistics and making sure everyone involved is safe and enjoys the race,” said Joe Gabrish, who is captain of operations for the Grafton Police Department and is a point person for the department on planning and organization of the event.
The 26.2-mile race begins at Grafton High School at 7:30 a.m. Oct. 2, but preparations have been underway for weeks to ensure the race continues on its path through Mequon and Milwaukee County safely and with just the right amount of fun for participants. The race concludes at Veterans Park on the shore of Lake Michigan in Milwaukee.
And with everything kicking off in the heart of the village at Grafton High School, Grafton Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Pam King says the event has a lot to offer the community as well.
“Any time an event of this magnitude comes to Grafton, it is sure to have a positive impact for our local businesses,” she said. “Our restaurants, retailers and hotels do see an increase in revenue as a result of the race.”
The same is true for each of the communities the race impacts, Smith said, but the general response from those affected is one of sincere appreciation and support.
“It’s not just one but all of the communities coming together to support everything that’s happening throughout the race” said Smith, who cited several examples of spectator support through the years. “We’ve had everything from people playing an accordion to families running sprinklers on particularly hot year. It all goes to show the impact an event like this has on the sense of community.”