This past weekend, at our headquarters in Olathe, KS, thousands of runners came together to not only participate in the Garmin Marathon In the Land of Oz full marathon, half marathon and 5k, yet also to show the world that the senseless acts that occurred in Boston won't keep them from lacing up their shoes. These runners, representing nearly every U.S. state, and several countries from around the world, came to reclaim the streets and trails where runners find freedom.
The weekend started off with the Garmin Marathon Speaker Series where runners, including the Urban Rangers of Kansas City (a local group of young boys who trained for their first 5k), were able to hear from industry pros like Dr. Tony Phillips, who spoke about common running injuries and had some great tips on how to stay healthy! Next up were Garmin-sponsored professional triathletes Ben Collins and Jenny Fletcher giving us insight on how to manage busy schedules and still find time to train, sleep and eat healthy. The next presentation was from Garmin designers who talked about the designs behind the Forerunner lineup. The final presentation was a town hall format with three of the top American runners out there, Josh Cox, Desi Davila and Scott Jurek speaking about the life of an elite athlete and fielding great questions from a packed house.
After getting some autographs and mingling around the expo, runners headed to the Olathe Hilton Garden Inn for the pasta dinner and to listen to the keynote speech from Scott Jurek. I have been to many pasta dinners before, yet I have to take my hat off to the race organizers at the Olathe Chamber of Commerce for selecting the Hilton Garden Inn, as the food was WAY beyond expectations. Attendees within the sold-out crowd could be heard giving praise to the selection of pastas, salads, vegan options and deserts. Author and ultra marathoner Scott Jurek then took the stage and told stories from his numerous and amazing running feats (and his book Eat & Run) as well as talked about his vast knowledge on nutrition. Jurek once ran 165 miles in 24 hrs--that's 6.5 marathons!
The next morning, runners awoke to clear skies and brisk spring air as they began to flock toward the Garmin campus. Garmin's Jake, who is not one to turn down a new adventure, started his emcee duties high above Olathe in a hot air balloon. After an emotional moment of silence for the the victims and those affected by the acts in Boston, it was time to toe the line and show the world runners push on!
Running in near perfect weather conditions, runners were joined by Garmin pro athletes and those dressed in Wizard of Oz costumes. On course, they were supported by over 200 Garmin employees who manned the aid stations and cheered on runners. Just before noon, a sea of blue and yellow could be seen in the distance heading toward the finish line and facing every local news outlet in Kansas City, who were gathered to capture every step. This was a local group, The Runner's Edge of KC, who had competed in Boston and had several runners stopped just short of the line after the Boston course was shut off. These runners wanted to cross the line to complete their journey and to honor those who we lost that day. The finish line was five deep with screaming and clapping fans ushering in the runners. They were greeted by their coach, Eladio Valdez, who gave them their Boston medals and a memorable hug!
Another amazing story out of the Garmin Marathon comes from Bobby Ballard. It was just two years ago that Bobby had a near-fatal heart attack and was actually pronounced dead before coming back to life. Bobby ran his first marathon with us and was greeted at the finish line by his loving wife (photo below).
A HUGE thank you to the Olathe Police and Fire Departments for helping keep runners safe along the course and fans reassured at the finish line and at home!