The starting gate was a blurring sea of color that burst forth Sunday morning as the Prairie Fire Marathon.
More than 4,000 people ran at least a portion, if not all, of the 26.2-mile course or the 13.1 miles in the half-marathon route.
Most didn’t mind pushing their limits on a crisp fall day.
“It was a beautiful morning,” said Chris Burnett, a senior at Wichita State University. Burnett ran the half-marathon in 1:04:24, breaking a state record and qualifying him for the Olympic Trials Marathon.
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“It was a great day to try and run fast,” he said. “It was nice and cool, and there was no wind.”
His WSU teammates were along the course cheering. Strangers waved cowbells at the finish and continued the cheers.
At the end of the course, families presented bouquets and more cheers as their loved ones crossed the finish line.
“This was my first half-marathon,” said Brian Thompson of Maize. “The last few miles were a little tough. But I turned 40 in August and am doing this to get back in shape. I made a goal to train, and with a good friend from college, we ran the race together.”
Bob Hanson, president of the Greater Wichita Area Sports Commission, was working on little sleep Sunday.
He’d stayed up until 3:30 a.m. Sunday finishing the details for the race. He was back at the site at 6:30 a.m., in time for the start of the marathon and the half-marathon’s start at 7:30 and the mayor’s 5K challenge at 7:50.
“There were lots of glitches,” Hanson said early Sunday afternoon, “but, thankfully, they were only little things. When you have this kind of event, you can’t run it perfect. But you can run it really good.”
Runners from four countries and across the nation came to Wichita this weekend to participate in the marathon. There were Kansans representing 500 towns and cities, Hanson said.
There were young runners and old runners. One 86-year-old woman ran the half-marathon, and a 70-year-old qualified for the Boston Marathon, he said.
In running the full marathon, Raquel Stucky of Wichita broke the women’s state record, which had been standing for 32 years. She ran the marathon in 2:44:57.
“I’ve been running competitively since I was in middle school track,” the 39-year-old Stucky said.