By Kevin McClintock
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Thousands of runners, some of them world-class, will participate in the Joplin Memorial Run this morning. It includes a half-marathon, a five-kilometer run and a one-mile run for children.
“We’re right up to the 3,000 (runner) mark,” Audie Dennis, co-director of the Joplin Memorial Run, said Friday afternoon. “We’ll end up with 3,200 to 3,300 runners.”
Runners are coming to Joplin from 33 states and from as far away as the Netherlands.
“We’re very pleased with the (overall) response,” Dennis said. “We had no idea what to expect, but interest in Joplin from the nation and world had been so magnified, we knew there would be a lot of interest.”
The Joplin Memorial Run takes the place of the Boomtown Half-Marathon and 5K, and was created as a way to honor the 161 people who lost their lives because of the May 22 tornado. The Memorial Run and related activities are being overseen by a new organization, Active Lifestyle Events Inc. Dennis is president of the Active Lifestyle Events board of directors and co-director of the 2012 race with Ruth Sawkins, of Rufus Racing.
The goal is for the run to become an annual event that continues to draw thousands to Joplin, Dennis said.
“We were overwhelmed by the support of the running community after canceling the 2011 event,” he added.
The 2011 Boomtown run had been scheduled to coincide with Boomtown Days in early June, but the event was canceled after the tornado struck. Instead, runners donated their registration fees to tornado relief, and June 9 became a day of service, with 325 runners nationwide coming to Joplin to help with tornado recovery efforts.
Today’s event begins with pre-race ceremonies at 6:15 a.m. Included in this will be the national anthem sung by tornado survivor Brianna Bushnell, a 161-balloon launch and a 161-second moment of silence.
The half-marathon, which should have close to 2,000 runners, begins at 6:30 a.m. The 5K race, with 1,200 registered runners as of Friday afternoon, launches at 6:40 a.m., while the one-mile children’s run, with 250 runners, starts at 6:50 a.m. All three races begin on Joplin Avenue between Seventh and Eighth streets in downtown Joplin.
Pam Praytor, mother of 27-year-old Christopher Lucas, who died trying to protect others in the Joplin Pizza Hut on Range Line Road during the tornado, will start the half-marathon, Dennis said. Quinton Anderson, a Joplin High School senior who was injured on May 22 and was a finalist for the High School Football Rudy Awards, will start the 5K; and Lexi Prater, one of the Red Cross Everyday Heroes who alerted her family on May 22, will start the children’s run.