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Joplin ends Mother Road Marathon December 3, 2013

Posted by Ron Warnick in Events, Sports.
Tags: ,

The city council of Joplin, Mo., voted 5-3 on Monday night to end the city’s annual Mother Road Marathon because of financial losses and declining participation, reported the Joplin Globe.

According to the newspaper, the 26.2-mile event that ran from Commerce, Okla., through Kansas and ended in Joplin dropped from 1,657 participants its inaugural year of 2010 to just 572 last month.

Then there were the costs:

Councilman Mike Woolston cited the event’s costs. The expenses were $70,070 and the revenue generated from entry fees was $35,582, costing the city about $34,500. “I think it’s losing money and it’s just not taking off,” he said. He said he would vote to fund it one more year as a transitional year if it were to be handed over to someone else to manage.

Councilors asked whether the Joplin Sports Authority or a running club could take over the race, but was told the authority didn’t have the budget for such a large event.

Other things hurt the marathon:

  • The inaugural race’s organizer became embroiled with complaints and a lawsuit. The problems were big enough that they probably kept runners from coming back the next year.
  • The Joplin tornado of 2011 sucked valuable time away from the city and chamber of commerce. There were too many other important things to worry about instead of organizing a marathon.
  • The October Mother Road Marathon probably is too close to Tulsa’s Route 66 Marathon in November. The Tulsa event, which is only a two-hour drive from Joplin, continues to grow more popular. It undoubtedly drew away prospective runners.

In hindsight, it should have been a warning sign the Mother Road Marathon would run into trouble when it announced the event before checking the course’s actual length. The certification problems were big enough, organizers delayed the event by a year.

On a happy note, here was this interesting little item from the council meeting:

Councilman Gary Shaw said he would regret losing the regional promotion of the area and the relationships among the towns. Tuttle said it might be possible to preserve those ties by promoting a different event, such as the Route 66 festival. He said the area could bid on playing host to the festival again in 2016.

The 2013 International Route 66 Festival was such a success in Joplin, it isn’t surprising city officials are looking at getting it again.


1. Ron Hart - December 3, 2013

Another factor in this year’s Marathon was the nasty weather. Heavy rains preceded the event and let up within minutes of the start. It was also not just chilly but downright cold. That combination took a toll as many runners (and spectators) failed to show.

A month or two ago I spoke with Patrick Tuttle (Joplin’s CVB Director) about having a continuing annual Route 66 Heritage Festival much like Litchfield and other communities have established along the Route. At that time, he stated that the City could not be as involved as it was with the International event but would lend it’s support to an organization that wished to promote one.

If enough interest exists in the Route 66 Community, an annual Joplin festival could be put together, and the Tri-State Marathon could become a part of that event, albeit on a smaller scale and with a local Running club doing the planning and management.

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