By Debby Woodin
JOPLIN, Mo. —
City officials plan discussions with the Joplin Sports Authority and others to look at ways to try to attract more runners to the Mother Road Marathon.
Patrick Tuttle, director of the Joplin Convention and Visitors Bureau, told the Joplin City Council on Monday night that the annual October event is treading water in terms of the number of participants since a decline during its debut in 2010. This year’s run attracted 772 participants but left the city in the red by about $30,000, a loss city officials say they want to try to stem.
Tuttle said there are several reasons that race participation has dropped. One reason is that some runners go to inaugural events and have not returned since the marathon’s first year. Last year the race was affected by the tornado damage.
“The overall enthusiasm of the runners this year was very positive,” Tuttle told the council. The bulk of runners, in a post-race survey, rate it as a good or excellent event. Organizers were praised for providing “strong communication” to the participants, Tuttle said.
Additionally, the course itself is gaining a reputation because it is uphill the last several miles. “The course is a very tough one,” Tuttle said, with the grade from Riverton east to Joplin uphill. “This is something we have started embracing in our marketing message,” with this year’s message “One Tough Mother Runner,” added to the marathon’s billing of running Old Route 66 from Oklahoma to Missouri: “3 States, 6 Cities, 1 Road.”
Tuttle said the participants, in the survey, were asked to report how much they spent in the area. That totaled about $33,000, an average of $181 per runner. He said hotels reported booking 74 rooms though runners reported a total of 108 motel rooms were used. All flights at Joplin Regional Airport were sold out from Wednesday through the day of the race on a Sunday, Tuttle reported, which amounted to an increase of 80 passengers during those days.
He recommended that the council look at the possibility of hiring a race promoter.
That had its drawbacks previously.
The city hired a race director, Dean Reinke, to attract runners to the 2010 inaugural race. That drew about 1,500 participants. The run was conceived by Vince Lindstrom, former director of the Joplin Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The city and Reinke wound up in a lawsuit when Reinke filed trademarks on the race and contended that he owned it. The city disputed that in the lawsuit, and Reinke’s claims were settled for a $30,000 payment by the city late last year.
Council members Morris Glaze and Bill Scearce said they want to consider appointing or hiring a race director to try to increase participation. Council member Michael Seibert said corporate sponsorships should be explored to help offset costs.
Council members Gary Shaw and Scearce recommended discussions with the Joplin Sports Authority. The council gave informal approval to the idea.
“The Joplin Sports Authority would welcome any communication from the city and the CVB on a partnership for this event,” said JSA Director Craig Hull.
The male and female marathon records for 2012 was set by James Webb, of Webb City, at 2:46:04 and Katie Kramer, of Oklahoma City, at 3:13:31. The half-marathon record was set by Mark Dolph, of Tulsa, at 1:19:11 and Jenna Mutz, of Joplin, at 1:32:15.