By Wally Kennedy
The first Route 66 Mother Road Marathon, scheduled for later this year, is being postponed until next year.
The planning committee for the marathon needs more time to obtain official certification of the course from the Association of International Marathons.
In addition, the economic crisis that has gripped the nation might abate by next year, creating a greater opportunity of generating sponsorship support of the event.
The Joplin City Council, which provided a $20,000 grant this year to develop the project, has been told the marathon could cost $80,000 to stage.
Vince Lindstrom, head of the Joplin Convention and Visitors Bureau, said, “This would be the first regional event where everyone in our area benefits. We have one chance to make a first impression. We don’t want to blow it with a bad marathon where they won’t come back.”
Gaining certification of the marathon course by October of this year would have been difficult to achieve. Lindstrom said the organizing committee did not want to promote a marathon as certified if the participants could not use it to qualify for other national races, such as the Boston or New York marathons.
“We have to verify elevations, that the course would be closed and that its length is exactly 26.2 miles,” he said. “The marathon starts in Miami (Okla.) and concludes in Joplin. It would involve three states, three counties and several different municipal jurisdictions.
“That has become more of a challenge than we anticipated. We cannot tell runners that it is a sanctioned course until it is officially certified.”
By delaying it one year, the affected communities will have more time to budget for the financial impact of the marathon. In addition to Miami and Joplin, the other communities are Galena and Baxter Springs in Kansas, and Quapaw and Commerce in Oklahoma.
Planning for the event will continue over the next year and a half, Lindstrom said. Anyone interested in participating as a volunteer should visit the CVB’s Web site at www.visitjoplinmo.com and click on the Mother Road Marathon icon.
Lindstrom said local runners will still be able to participate in the half-marathon that is part of Boomtown Days in June.
The Mother Road
In his famous social commentary, “The Grapes of Wrath,” John Steinbeck proclaimed Route 66 the “Mother Road.” Steinbeck’s classic 1939 novel, combined with the 1940 film of the novel, served to immortalize Route 66 in the American consciousness, according to David Knudson, director of the National Historic Route 66 Federation in Lake Arrowhead, Calif. An estimated 210,000 people migrated to California to escape the despair of the Dust Bowl.