It’s time for Dorothy to ditch those ruby slippers for a pair of running shoes.
The 12th annual Garmin Marathon — “In the Land of Oz” — takes place Saturday.
More than 4,500 people are expected to participate in the races, which start and finish at the Garmin headquarters near 151st and Ridgeview streets in Olathe.
The event features a 10K, half marathon, full marathon, a Munchkin Marathon designed for children and a team relay option.
The race, which is produced by the Olathe Chamber of Commerce, the city of Olathe and the Olathe Convention & Visitors Bureau, winds through city streets.
Runners from across the globe will be triumphantly crossing the finish line. The marathon draws people from all over the world, many whom had never even heard of Olathe before the race.
“The Wizard of Oz theme definitely attracts a lot of people,” said Ashley Arnold, vice president of the Olathe Convention & Visitors Bureau and the race director. “That movie made Kansas famous. People come dressed up as Dorothy, or even the Tin Man, and it’s so fun to see.”
It’s a sellout weekend for Olathe hotels, Arnold said. She also said the marathon jump-starts business at local restaurants and helps promote nearby attractions.
“It lights a spark for the entire area,” she said. “After every race, I talk to runners from other parts of the country who are so appreciative of our friendliness and Midwest charm. Everyone, from the volunteers to the police officers, make them feel at home.”
Every year, the marathon has steadily grown, especially since Garmin became the title sponsor five years ago.
Last year, the number of participants was just shy of 4,000. This year, there will be 500 more.
To deal with the growing numbers, marathon organizers work closely with police and fire crews on emergency plans, for weather and safety.
They carefully map out detours for drivers. The city cleans the streets and sweeps the routes of debris.
“It’s a major effort behind the scenes,” Arnold said. “We have about 400 volunteers helping out this year. It’s a huge deal.”
The most important part of the marathon is making it a safe and clean environment for participants and the spectators who wish to cheer them on, she added.
This year, marathon organizers have added a little bit of fun: the Olathe South High School marching band will be playing along the route.
“When you’re running 26 miles, it’s nice to have a cheerful distraction,” Arnold said, with a laugh.
The marathon weekend doesn’t just include the races.
At 7 p.m. Friday runners are invited to load up on carbs at the 3rd annual Pasta Dinner at the Hilton Garden Inn Olathe. Tickets are $30 for the event, sponsored by Enterprise Bank. Timothy O’Donnell, a renowned American triathlete, will be the guest speaker.
The marathon starts at 6:45 a.m. Saturday, April 18.
For more details about the race and registration, people are welcome to visit www.garminmarathon.com.
Those interested in the pasta dinner should contact Brett Vena, sales manager for the Olathe Convention & Visitors Bureau, at firstname.lastname@example.org.