The Prairie Fire race series has expanded and race director Bob Hanson thinks the newly-minted spring half marathon on Sunday is on its way to becoming as popular as the full marathon in the fall.
After receiving overwhelming positive feedback in the fall, Hanson, the president of the Greater Wichita Area Sports Commission, decided to pursue a takeover of what was formerly known as Johnston’s Half Marathon.
Hanson has overhauled the course, added a 5-kilometer race, fun run/walk and a mile race for children, and put the Prairie Fire stamp on it.
“We’re trying to make it as good as it possibly can be,” Hanson said. “We want the people to help make it as good as it possibly be. I think they’re really going to like it.”
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What has many of the local runners excited about the new branding of the race is the new course, which around 150 runners were privileged to a sneak preview two weeks ago.
The heart of the race still belongs to downtown Wichita, but new branches that reach into the Delano District and the campus of Friends University provide runners a new look at the city.
“Running through the core of the city is always special, but I love that Bob has expanded the race to reach out to the Friends University community and also the Delano District,” said Greg Klenda, one of runners that tested the course. “Those are very cool parts of Wichita and I think the new course is going to be exceptionally well-received.”
After more than 4,600 signed up to race in the fall, Hanson said it was a “no-brainer” to pursue adding a spring addition.
Hanson is expecting around 2,000 to attend on Sunday, with the half marathon kicking off the morning’s events at 7:30 a.m., but has been pleasantly surprised by the hype generated by the running community.
As running becomes more and more popular and the running community in Wichita expands, Hanson says visions of the spring half marathon growing as large as the fall marathon are realistic.
“That’s what we want,” Hanson said. “This first year, we tried to make it new and make it different and make it better. I think the runners will really enjoy it.”