Thousands compete in 2021 KC Marathon

Participants gathering at the starting line.

Alvar Negrete-Baños

Chilly morning air swept over a massive crowd gathered in front of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art for the annual Garmin Kansas City Marathon. 

The crowd was made up of runners, families, volunteers and staff from across the United States. It was 43 degrees Fahrenheit when the first racers left the starting line at 7 a.m., but the cold air did little to dampen the energy from roaring shouts of encouragement. 

Spectators across the city cheered on the participants with homemade signs, drumlines and raised voices. The feelings of positivity and support were so overwhelming that an onlooker would be forgiven for dropping what they were doing and joining in.

Shane Whitehead, a student at the UMKC School of Medicine, was one of the runners in the marathon.

“One of the most memorable parts was all the spectators throughout the course that were cheering everybody on and just making everything a lot more high energy,” Whitehead said. 

Last year’s KC Marathon was canceled due to COVID. This year’s marathon, held on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, marked the 42nd year that the marathon has been in existence. The run had been redesigned to implement some safety measures this year, such as mandatory face coverings for everyone not actively running.

For some, last year’s canceled marathon allowed for more training time. Whitehead had been training since January to prepare for her first marathon. 

“I had done a 21-mile run prior, so five more miles didn’t seem terrible,” Whitehead said. “Those last five miles ended up being very challenging, and my legs were extremely tired and sore by the end.”

Whitehead was one of 4,909 total participants who crossed the finish line. Runners reaped the fruits from months of training in the marathon, half marathon, 10k and 5k events. 

“Looking back, I think I have a lot to work on with regards to pacing and just increasing my endurance in the next couple of years,” Whitehead said. “I hear the marathon takes years to master, which is an exciting challenge for me!”

The UMKC School of Medicine, which is currently celebrating its 50th anniversary, was a gold sponsor for the event. 

“The School of Medicine has been involved in the KC Marathon, along with its hospital partner University Health, for many years,” said Lisa Mallow, UMKC School of Medicine Marketing and Media Services Manager. “Our students also volunteer to help staff the medical tent, which is overseen by University Health’s sports medicine department.”

UMKC and UMKC Athletics also sponsored the event this year, donating its parking garages for runners and spectators to use.

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