Marathon to take place in three states, along Route 66

Thursday, December 17, 2009 | 4:27 p.m. CST

JOPLIN — Organizers have high hopes for the first Mother Road Marathon, which is slated for next October.

The date — 10-10-10 — should be easy to remember, and runners will travel Route 66 through three states.

The event will involve cities from Miami, Okla., to Joplin, and officials from several cities along the route gathered Wednesday to announce the inaugural run.

"It's going to be a great challenge and opportunity," said Vince Lindstrom, executive director of the Joplin Convention and Visitors Bureau.

He said the 26.2-mile route will start in Miami, and a companion half-marathon will start east of Riverton, Kan. Both will end at the Joplin Sports Complex.

"Communities along the route will be involved, so it will be a way to promote the entire region," he said.

The marathon will be produced by Reinke Sports Group. Dean Reinke, the group's president, said he is "impressed with what's been accomplished" by local organizers.

"The buzz is out already, and the fact that it will go through three states and along Route 66 will attract a lot of runners," he said. "I really think you'll get runners from 30 to 40 states, and from around the world."

James Kirby, the newly elected president of the Joplin Roadrunners, said the connection to Route 66 could draw runners from Europe, "where Route 66 is big."

Kirby, 35, said he is thrilled about the chance to run in the marathon next year. He said he has done half-marathons before, but never the full 26.2 miles.

"It will be good for the economy and bring more people here; the more, the better," he said. "It's going to be a welcome addition to the Joplin running calendar."

Reinke said he would not be surprised if the first marathon attracted at least 1,000 runners. He said the half-marathon will be part of the nationwide USRA Half Marathon Series produced by his group. He said recent inaugural events attracted 1,500 participants in Clarksville, Tenn., and 1,200 in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Larry Eller, community development director for Miami, Michael Hart, mayor of Commerce, Okla., and Dale Oglesby, mayor of Galena, Kan., were on hand for the announcement, along with others involved in planning for volunteers and security. Officials in their communities are helping with the planning, the three said.

"We're excited because of the recognition it will bring to towns in the area," Hart said.

Area residents can cheer along the marathon routes, work as volunteers and attend race events, Lindstrom said.

"We're hoping lots of residents will plan to run," he said. "With 10 months to train, this could be the start of a healthier lifestyle."

The marathon weekend will start Oct. 9 with a Runners' Health and Fitness Expo. In addition to aid stations, music will be planned for sites along the course. A post-race party also is planned.

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