With eyes cast toward the fictitious Emerald City, more than 4,200 runners from all 50 states and nine countries raced for their own ruby slippers April 21 during the 16th annual Garmin Marathon, “In the Land of Oz.”
The field was the largest in the history of the race — which is organized by the Olathe Chamber of Commerce, the city of Olathe, and the Olathe Conventions & Visitors Bureau — and included runners from all 50 states for the first time.
This year’s theme was “The Year of Dorothy” with race medals and T-shirts designed with a motif honoring Dorothy’s iconic ruby slippers.
The course itself wound through Olathe’s streets and park trails, with an Emerald City Festival awaiting runners at the end of the yellow brick road (i.e. Garmin headquarters).
The race brought a variety of runners for the marathon, half marathon, 10-kilometer race, and Munchkin Marathon for children. Some runners have completed a marathon in every state, while others, such as Tori and Jill Kruse, made their distance-running debut at the Garmin Marathon.
The Kruses, a mother and daughter from St. Charles, Missouri, ran the half marathon side-by-side and celebrated crossing the finish line hand in hand.
“Jill’s studying to be a teacher and this was a project for school,” Tori said. “We decided to run it together and we’ve been training the last couple of months.”
Through the years, the Garmin Marathon has earned a reputation for being both competitive and colorful. The latest race lived up to that billing with dozens of participants racing in Wizard of Oz-themed costumes.
While some costumes were understated, others showed over-the-top ingenuity and creativity, such as Heather Herrmann’s imaginative yellow-brick-road ensemble.
From Dorothy to the Tin Man and from the Wicked Witch of the West to the Wizard himself, every character from the movie was represented.
Dorothy, of course, was the most popular choice, including for Karen King from Joplin, Missouri.
“I love the ‘Year of Dorothy,’” said King, a veteran of more than 20 half marathons. “The medals are cute and I got a lot of attention in this costume.”
As much as the race is every year and as inviting as it is for showcasing Olathe’s vibrancy, the real winners are the kids and community members the funds raised from the event benefit.
“This race supports the Olathe Mayor’s Christmas Tree Fund and we certainly couldn’t be happier with the support we get from our entire community,” race director Bubba Gaeddert said. “We love hearing stories about all of our runners and the connection they make with our Garmin Marathon and the Land of Oz theme.”
Andy Koziatek of St. Louis won the marathon in 2 hours, 47 minutes and 16 seconds. Xin Xin was the top female finisher in 2:58:40.
Amy Regan won the half marathon in 1:20:35, while Walter Summers was the top male finisher in 1:25:15.
Finally, Jeremiah Estes won the 10K in 33:32 seconds and Lindsey McDonald was the top female finisher in 40:42.