Kansas City must share misery, fun of street-clogging runs

03/23/2014 7:18 PM

03/23/2014 7:18 PM

Spring always brings out more runners and complaints from people in Kansas City’s tonier neighborhoods about the inconveniences the events cause.

Sometimes thousands of people fill the streets for the 5K, 10K, half marathon or marathon events. But one of the saddest things about the runs to raise money for worthy causes is that they seem to repeatedly appear in the same parts of town.

It’s so predictable. The route starts downtown and then plows south to Westport and the Plaza, over onto Ward Parkway, and then to about 75th or 85th streets.

Some end back downtown. The neat thing about the events is they expose out-of-town runners and area residents to parts of the city they otherwise wouldn’t visit.

They get to see the beauty of the streets, architecture, parks and people up close and at a slower, more personal pace.

The River Market, Power & Light District, Crossroads, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, Sprint Center and Crown Center look mighty impressive. Union Station and Penn Valley Park with the Liberty Memorial are standouts.

Runners then want to return to Westport and the Plaza for leisurely strolls to visit shops, bars and restaurants. The beautiful boulevard system and the grand homes on Ward Parkway are eye candy, and they take runners’ minds off their fatigued bodies.

But groups that sponsor races shouldn’t wear out their welcome in one part of town. Residents of those neighborhoods are fed up with delayed weekend outings or figuring alternative routes around runners and walkers.

There are the jackrabbit runners seeking the best time, and then there are miles of stragglers, who keep streets blocked for hours. That is an inconvenience that no part of the city should bear alone.

City officials who issue permits should be like traffic cops, limiting the number of runs in any area to no more than one per year. Other runs then would have to go through different Kansas City neighborhoods.

But think how exciting that would be. The city could even create themed runs.

One that might begin on Southwest Boulevard, home of the Boulevard brewery. It could be called “The Boulevard Beer Run.”

It might head toward downtown, go along Broadway and then run on the 12th Street viaduct into the West Bottoms. It could do a broad loop around Kemper Arena come back across the 23rd Street viaduct and end back at the brewery, where people could enjoy beer and food at many of the West Side’s Mexican restaurants.

Another run could begin in the River Market and go through Berkley Riverfront Park. It could enter Kessler Park and head east on beautiful Cliff Drive. Runners would be directed to Gladstone Boulevard in the Northeast area and on to Belmont Boulevard to Independence Avenue and then back to the River Market.

Call it the Founders’ Run because of the area’s history in welcoming the first immigrants and then each new wave into Kansas City. But the city also should have a run that begins in the 18th and Vine Jazz District.

That American Jazz Run could head east to Prospect Avenue and then south to 85th Street. Runners and walkers then could turn west to the Paseo to 75th Street. At 75th Street the run might head west to Troost Avenue and then follow Troost north to 18th Street where it would return east past the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority headquarters to an 18th and Vine streets finish, where people could enjoy the jazz, food, museums and drinks.

A run through Swope Park could include the Kansas City Zoo and Starlight Theatre. Runs hosted through different parts of the city could compel City Hall to do more upgrades of long neglected areas for visitors. It also would help sell those areas to folks who otherwise wouldn’t go there.

Everyone wins, and the misery of the inconvenience is shared.

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