Tom and Mary Anne McBrayer were on the board and actively involved in many areas of the marathon for over 25 years, beginning in 1972. Mary Anne coordinated the 1992 Women's Olympic Trials in Houston and Tom has measured every marathon, half-marathon and 5K course for the last 20 years.
Like most marathons originating at the beginning of the running boom of the 1970's, the Houston Marathon started small. There were less than a hundred finishers for that first five-loop course event held at Memorial Park in December 1972.
The Houston Marathon used the original Memorial Park course in 1972, 1973 and 1975. There was no Houston Marathon in 1974 because the race scheduled for December 1974 was moved to January 1975. In 1976, George Kleeman measured a three-loop course, which included portions of the original course while expanding into an adjoining neighborhood. George took over as race director in 1977 and continued through 1980. During his tenure, he brought on board a major sponsor, Tenneco, and measured a new two-loop course with a start and finish in the downtown area to utilize the comforts of the convention center.
In 1980, a 10K run was held in Houston that featured Jeff Galloway, the 1972 Olympian. After winning the race, Jeff promptly told the race director the course he ran was not a 10K - it was short. The resulting investigation revealed the calibration course used for the measurement was 50 feet short of the presumed Â½ mile distance. All the recently certified courses were immediately suspect including the 1978, '79 and '80 marathons. The calibration course was corrected by a professional surveyor.
In 1984, a delegation from Houston was invited to visit the New York City Marathon. Representatives of the Houston Marathon, Houston Police Department and the mayor's office rode in the lead vehicle to observe how a big city-wide marathon worked. Realizing the advantages of a race involving all of Houston's varied neighborhoods, the City of Houston offered full backing for a city-wide marathon.
The first city-wide marathon was run in 1986, leading runners through Houston's downtown district, Near Northside, Midtown, Hermann Park, the Texas Medical Center, West University, the Galleria and Memorial areas. Today's marathon course is very similar to the original 1986 course, with some minor changes incorporating Montrose and the Heights, as well as a start-line move in 1989 to take advantage of the newly built George R. Brown Convention Center.
The Houston Marathon has grown steadily over the years, topping 4000 finishers in 1995 and 5000 in 2004. A 5K run was added in 1995, which proved popular with spouses and relatives of the marathoners waiting for the marathon to finish. In addition, a half marathon debuted in 2003 and was an instant hit with runners not quite ready for the full distance. In 2006, the half marathon was bigger than the marathon, boasting 7,236 finishers to the marathon's 5,414.