Saturday, October 13, 2012
On a whim in 1999, Jon Holmes of Peck agreed to run a marathon with some of his Boeing co-workers. They asked him to join in just weeks before the race.
"I didn't really know how much goes into it," Holmes said.
He had to walk a little, but he finished in about five hours.
"A couple years later I decided, 'What if I actually trained for it? How well could I do then?'" Holmes said.
He soon found out what that training could help him accomplish.
"I went from a five-hour marathon to a nearly three-hour 30-minute marathon," Holmes said.
Now with 19 marathons under his belt, he's pushing himself to reach a new personal record when he races in Wichita's Prairie Fire Marathon.
He'll be joined by about 4,800 other runners Sunday. The runners have come from 42 states and more than 480 communities, organizers said.
That's a big increase from 1999 when Holmes says there were maybe 500 runners total.
"This will be the largest marathon ever held in the state of Kansas," said Bob Hanson, President and CEO of the Wichita Area Sports Commission and the Race Director.
Organizers say as the years have gone by, the event has evolved. It now includes the Fit For Life Health Expo the day before the race. That's where all the runners pick up their race materials.
"The expo shows we are well-organized and we are trying to do the right thing for the runners," Hanson said.
At the expo, organizers provide runners access to all kinds of health groups and vendors. The expo also helps to make a full weekend out of the race. That translates into a win-win situation for the runners and the city of Wichita.
"They are staying in hotels in our town, they are eating food here, they are buying gas here, and they are probably shopping," Hanson said.
As far as the marathon has come, there are still some big goals organizers would like to achieve.
"I think we can virtually take this to 10,000 runners," Hanson said. "They do it in other communities and we think we can do it here, too."
Holmes echoes that optimism.
"I'm a proud Wichitan and it'd be nice to see this double in size and put it more on the map," Holmes said.
Not only does he share in the goals for the race as a whole, he has his own goals he'll work on Sunday morning.
"I want to qualify for (the) Boston (Marathon)," Holmes said.