By Emily Younker
Globe Staff Writer
JOPLIN, Mo. —
The final three miles of his 13.1-mile race Sunday morning hurt, Josh Pingel said.
After his last sprint, he didn’t even remember crossing the finish line. But what he does remember about the race: the support he got from spectators.
“It’s always great to have people cheering you along the way. That’s the best part,” said Pingel, of Joplin. “It’s great motivation, so when you’ve got a big group and they’re all cheering, it makes you pick up your stride a little.”
Pingel was one of hundreds who ran Sunday morning in the third annual Mother Road Marathon, which featured marathon, half-marathon and five-kilometer races along historic Route 66 across three states, ending at the Joplin Athletic Complex near Schifferdecker Park. Those who weren’t running turned out along the way to offer their support for the participants.
Perhaps the largest — and certainly the most energetic — group of supporters standing along the sidelines at the athletic complex was the Smokin’ Hot Mamas, an Internet-based women’s empowerment group. Roughly 60 women strong and easily recognized by their pink attire, including pink capes, they loudly cheered the runners as they went past on their way to the finish line.
“We cheer for everybody because everyone worked hard; everyone deserves a pat on the back,” said Laura Mitchell, a Smokin’ Hot Mama from El Paso, Texas, who was unable to run because of a stress fracture. “We’re totally epic cheerleaders, and by the end of the day, come noon, we will have no voice.”
Jill Maraman, a Smokin’ Hot Mama from St. Louis who also was unable to participate because of an injury, took her place along the sidelines with a cowbell, which she rang for each runner who sprinted past.
“Everyone worked hard for this, and we just want them to cross that finish line and feel good and know that the training was worth it, and somebody noticed,” she said.
Christopher Trevarrow, of Joplin, credited the support along the race course as motivation to keep going in what he called a “long and grueling” half-marathon. He said that even though he was wearing headphones, he could still hear cheers as he ran.
“Every time you got to a mile marker or a water station, there were people cheering,” he said. “Even some of the runners were very energetic.”
Trevarrow said his biggest motivation came from some supporters he knows well: his wife, Barbi, and two young children, Max, 4, and Leota, 16 months.
“Max put his hand out to give me a high-five at the end,” he said. “Actually that was when I started sprinting.”
Kayla Allen, of Emporia, Kan., made the trip to Joplin specifically to support her sister, Kirsten Pyle, also of Emporia, who was running the half-marathon.
“She’s never done this before. She’s actually never run anything before except for one 5K,” Allen said. “She’s come a long way, and I’m just really proud of her.”
As Pyle came sprinting down the final stretch of the course, Allen held up her hand-drawn sign, which listed the various costs associated with the race (an entry fee of $40, a hotel room for $75) plus the most important aspect of all: “Finishing 13.1 miles — priceless.”
As her sister cheered her on, Pyle ran by with a smile on her face.
Jenna Baldwin, of Shell Knob, finished the 5K race with a 49-minute time she was happy with, then took up a place along the course near the finish line. She said it was “absolutely” important to her to stay to support not only her daughter, Cindi, who was running the marathon, but also all other participants.
“People were cheering for me, and now I’m going to cheer for these people,” she said. “It makes you feel good when someone’s cheering for you.”
Angela Moore, of Lamar, completed her first Mother Road 5K race with a time of about 29 minutes. She said she was proud of having run the entire distance and of finishing third in her age group.
“I’ve just gotten into running,” she said. “I turned 40 this year and decided I’d start running. I’ve always walked, but thought I could bump it up.”
The best part of the day, besides finishing her race, was seeing some friends from high school who also turned up at the event.
“They’re runners; they’re kind of my inspiration,” she said. “They post a lot (on Facebook) about their running. By following them, I thought I could try it. They’re the reason I started running.”
A post-race party for Mother Road runners was held Sunday morning at the Joplin Athletic Complex. It featured food, live music and awards ceremonies.