More than 40 South Florida Amateur Radio volunteers supported event and emergency communications on January 29 at the 15th running of the Miami Marathon and Half Marathon. Amateur Radio has been a critical part of this major international event each year. Depending on their assignments, volunteers report as early as 4:30 AM for the start of the event and may remain in place for up to 9 hours. Many of the hams who turned out this year have volunteered for all or many of the 15 Miami Marathon events.
Operating from a mobile command unit at the finish area, two net control stations (NCS) manage traffic from all of radio amateurs deployed throughout the course. The command unit offers NCSs immediate access to police, fire, public safety, medical, and race officials. Hams at each of the 23 aid stations along the 26-mile course coordinate communication with aid station captains and public service officials to ensure a rapid and accurate flow of critical information to command, including information on injured runners, medical supply requests, traffic, weather, and other critical situations.
Amateur Radio volunteers also are stationed at the course start, finish, course split, medical tent, and SAG wagon, as well as in the lead vehicles. For redundancy and backup, both primary and secondary UHF and VHF repeaters cover the entire course. With hundreds of thousands of spectators on hand to cheer the runners, ham radio has proven consistently to be the most reliable form of emergency communication in the race environment, said Miami Marathon Communications Director Benjamin Nemser, WA4DZS, who is also a Miami-Dade County ARES member.
From the first Miami Marathon in 2003, the event has grown from some 3,000 runners to more than 25,000 from all over the world, and it’s become one of the top marathons in the US. Runners in the Miami Marathon raise millions of dollars for a multitude of charities benefiting childhood cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and other causes. Athletes with disabilities also compete, as do more than 4,000 middle school youngsters. The Kids Run (Run for Something Better) is a year-round program in which participants run a total of 25 miles during the school year, and then complete the last 1.2 miles of the Marathon. — Thanks to Benjamin Nemser, WA4DZS, Communications Director, Miami Marathon, Miami-Dade County ARES via the ARRL ARES E-Letter