February 11, 2016

Prairie Punisher set for July 12 at local park

Prairie Punisher athletes race off the starting line during the 2012 event. The 2013 event was rained out. Submitted photo

Prairie Punisher athletes race off the starting line during the 2012 event. The 2013 event was rained out. Submitted photo

Danedri Thompson
Dozens of athletes will go the distance in Gardner on July 12. For the 13th year, the city will host the annual Prairie Punisher.
The event features a duathlon, a 5K run, followed by a 34.5K bike race and concluding with another 5K run.
It’s punishing, but not every athlete will go that distance, Matt McClure, Gardner recreation supervisor said.
In conjunction with the duathlon, the city will also host a 5K walk, a 5K run and new this year, a 10K run.
McClure anticipates between 100 and 125 duathletes will compete. While most of the participants in the challenging duathlon will be serious athletes, there will be a diverse mix of ability levels.
The 2012 duathlon winner completed the 5K run, 34.5K bike ride, and second 5K run in one hour and 33 minutes. The fastest 5K time was 15 minutes and 33 seconds. Those times shouldn’t intimidate potential participants, however. The final racer crossed the duathlon finish line in two hours and 50 minutes.
The 2013 Prairie Punisher was canceled due to rain and lightning.
Racers will also earn points towards awards for a series of races, McClure explained.
“This year, our race is tied in with two other races in the area,” he said.
Racers who ran in the HP3 Race in Olathe last month earned points that will carry over to the Prairie Punisher, and points from both races will be added to points earned in the Leaveworth Dog Dayz race.
“We’ve kind of tied our races together to create a series,” he said. “You get so many points for finishing at a certain level. Obviously the more races you compete in, the more points you earn.”
At the conclusion of Leavenworth’s race in August, high combined points winners will receive awards for the three-race series. McClure said prizes will be awarded to the top two point earners overall and for the top 10 point earners in each age category.
“We hope it sparks some more interest in the duatholon by combining our races,” McClure said. “Hopefully, we can get a good turnout, and it’s something we can continue.”
Already, the Prairie Punisher competition draws visitors from all over the state. It also shutters area roads.
On race morning, Kill Creek Road will be closed to through traffic. Volunteers will be stationed at various intersections along the Punisher route to ensure races are safe as they plow through the streets of Gardner and the county.
The race will kick-off on Saturday, July 12 at Celebration Park, and registration to participate at the event is ongoing at city hall. McClure and parks and recreation staff are also still seeking volunteers to be used at intersections to stop traffic and at water stations.
“We have volunteers throughout the course to make sure runners are staying on the right path and to provide water,” he said.
McClure anticipates that the majority of volunteers will be needed from 6:30 a.m. to approximately 10:30 a.m. on July 12.
Those interested in volunteering should contact Matt McClure at (913)856-0913 by phone or by email at mmcclure@gardnerkansas.gov.

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