Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Okie "Panhandle" Relays

There's been considerable interest among the running community in getting the Okie Relays resurrected in a format that could be sustained. For the uninitiated, the Okie Relays was a relay race from border to border across the Oklahoma panhandle. I believe it started in the late 60's or early to mid 70's. I personally had occasion to participate in it five times. The course was 41.2 miles long consisting of four legs of around 10.3 miles each. For more than twenty years if started in Elkhart, KS at the KS/OK border and finished in Texhoma, OK at the OK/TX border. The event was conducted by the Texhoma community and they furnished a bean feed at the finish line. For some reason, they chose to discontinue the event and Elkhart picked up the reins and conducted the event a few more years. The second year that Elkhart conducted it, it was considered more feasible to start the race in Texhoma and finish it at Elkhart, since Elkhart was then hosting the event. It was finally discontinued due to lack of pre-registrations for the last scheduled event. This was sometime in the 90's.
I conducted a survey previously through running club newsletters, namely SWFTR (South West Fun Time Runners) and LSRC (Lone Star Runner's Club) and rec'd feedback from many who hope for a return of the event. I've also visited in person with many past participants of the event and rec'd more feedback. I've also heard from some who never ran it, but wish to do so in the future. I've compiled ideas and suggestions of ways that this event could be revived. SWFTR now has an exploratory committee to investigate some options to pursue this course of action. If you are a SWFTR member, you're invited to volunteer for this committee. If you don't wish to join SWFTR, but are interested in the future of the Okie Relays event, please contact me as one aspect of this is to develop a list of contacts for a Steering Committee that could be in charge ot conducting the event. The Steering Committee would be independent of the SWFTR exploratory committee and of SWFTR itself, although SWFTR would like to be involved.
One potential avenue to explore could be how to recruit interested entities in Elkhart, Texhoma and other nearby communities. One suggestion is to make the event a fund-raiser for a common cause such as scholarships. This could also be broadened to include Panhandle State University as both a sponsor of the race and a tie-in for the scholarships. For instance, students from Elkhart and Texhoma could receive future scholarships to PSU from this fundraising. In addition, not only might the Elkhart, Texhoma and Goodwell communities benefit from the commerce generated, but this might extend to Guymon, Stratford, and around the area, so too then, could the sponsorship be spread over a larger area. Sponsorship could be in the form of donated goods, services, cash, etc. Publicity could include newspaper articles in a five state area, PSA'a on radio and TV calendars, Runner's World, Running Times, Oklahoma Runner, club newsletters, etc. There's even be a potential for some corporate sponsorship with a little luck and some persistence. Possibly a celebrity runner or starter could also be involved. I think it very likely that Olympian Thane Baker and/or miler Wes Santee might be persuaded to lend a hand. They could be an official starter, or they might write letters to potential corporate sponsors Would it be possible to attract a current star such as Dean Karnazes? Maybe Don Kardong would run it and cover it for RW. Beginning (I think) in 1982, the Okie Relays added an ultra category for those intending to run the full 41.2 miles. They were given an early start at 7:00 a.m. while the teams began at 8:00 a.m.
I think there would also be an opportunity for cooperation between SWFTR and LSRC to provide expertise and support for the event. A cooperative effort between Elkhart and Texhoma might include taking turns hosting the finish line. A relay team runner could then run the event eight times without running the same thing twice (four different legs going north and four different legs going south). It would probably even out the work and benefit between both communities overall that way.
That's a few of the high spots for now, and if you have comments or suggestions to add, please feel free to comment online or e-mail me. I aldo invite off-the-wall ideas since those help get the brainstorms circulating outside the box. -- Emery

1 comment:

  1. I remember the Okie Relays with fondness and ran it in 1986. It always drew the top runners from Amarillo as well as Kansas and the Oklahoma panhandle.