Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Okie Relays

Years ago, there was a yearly race in our state that actually began in Kansas and finished in Texas. It was a 4-person relay, and drew hundreds of runners each year from a 5-state area. 

According to WIKI,

The Okie Relays was a four-person relay race on a 40.4 mile course between Elkhart, Kansas and Texoma, Texas, on the third Saturday in May. The race was promoted as a way of claiming that one has run across the entire state of Oklahoma (when actually the course merely bisects the narrow panhandle of Oklahoma.) The last two years the race was held, the direction was reversed and ended in Elkhart, Kansas. The race was held 1968 to 1996.

News OK recently republished this article.

Okie Relays a tri-state run

Mark Turner | Modified: June 6, 1982 at 12:00 am | Published: June 6, 1982
Usually highway 95 running from Elkhart, Kan., to Texhoma, which sits astride the Texas-Oklahoma line, is fairly quiet. Except for an occasional farm truck or car passing through the flat countryside, the highway's tranquillity is uninterrupted.

But once a year the Kansas and Oklahoma border towns are briefly awakened for the coming of spring and the Okie Relays, the world's longest four-man relay. The race begins at the Kansas line in Elkhart and ends at the Texas line in Texhoma, a distance of 41 miles. This year's contestants ranged from local runners to runners from as far away as Norway. Their ages ranged from seven to 63.

The runners' occupations varied, too. There were doctors, lawyers, teachers, professors, civil service workers, store managers, farmers, and assorted college and high school students.

This wide variety of runner provided some interesting team names: "The Amarillo Hose Heads," "Time and Motions," "The Night Crawlers," "The Road Runners," and "The Wichita Wunners."

What possesses these people of different walks of life to run, and run far--some 40 miles a week?

Jim Butler, a 63-year-old retired civil service worker from Oklahoma City said, "I like the competition, and it makes me feel great. It also keeps my appetite up."

Butler said, "I run up to 30 miles a week when I'm not preparing for a marathon, but I run at least 40 miles a week when I do decide to enter one."

A runner with the "Time and Motion" team said, "It's insanity, of course."

Many of those who ran in the field of 50 teams and 200 runners were serious about their running, checking their wrist stop watches immediately after crossing the hand-off point, some stopping their second hands before allowing their knees to buckle to the ground.

Others came tiptoeing in lightly, knowing they hadn't set the road or green pastures on fire with any spectacular time.

The run, known for its 41-mile jog touching three states--Kansas, the Oklahoma Panhandle and the Texas border is frequently marked with torturing high winds, up to 35 miles per hour in 1981, or rain, or any other thing that Mother Nature is known to unleash during spring across the plains.

But on the morning of May 15 this year, one would have thought Mother Nature was in a particularly benevolent mood. There was just a slight cool breeze stirring the trees from the northeast, coupled with a bright crisp sunny day.

Around 7:30 that morning, one-half hour before the start of the race, all runners were gathered on the outskirts of Elkhart, comparing running shoes and predicting which part of the race would be the hardest.

The first team of runners faced the easiest part of the course, mostly flat and level. The second 10.25 mile-leg wasn't any more fierce, with a few gently rolling hills, unnoticed by the well-trained runners.

For 59-year-old Morrisine Chandler, a professor of English at Central State University in Edmond who chose to run the last leg independently, the pace was slow but steady. It took her more than two hours to make it to the finish line, but she came in smiling.

"I like to run for the fun of it," she said, "I only run when they have races, and I enjoy it." She didn't compete on a team because, "I didn't want to slow anyone down."

Chandler wasn't the only one who showed the younger generation a thing or two. Roy Jones,40, of Abilene, Texas, became the third runner ever to make the entire distance.

Jones, a journalist, left Elkhart at 6:43, and finished six hours, 10 minutes and 10 seconds later, crossing the finish line a few minutes before one o'clock.

Jones' formula for a successful 41 miles? Simple: run 70 miles a week.

"The teammates I had rounded up for the race dropped out one by one," he said, "but I decided to run the course anyway. A state trooper got in front of me," he continued, "and I didn't want to feel stupid, so I kept running. That's when I got tired."

Jones said, "It's like "Chariots of Fire'. I don't run fast. I run for the glory of God; not much speed, but lots of endurance."

Dr. Ken Osgood, a pediatrician from Las Vegas, N. M., and a five-time veteran of the race, recalled some past experiences when running wasn't for those caught up in the latest fad.

"I can recall back in the 50's when I was arrested in Los Angeles while running because some policemen thought I had stolen something and was running away."

Just after 11 o'clock the first team of runners began coming into sight at the edge of Texhoma, population about 1,300. Some crossed the finish line in full stride with courage mustered up from who knows where; others staggered in rather pale with shirts and shorts soaked in perspiration.

The first runner to come across the line was Robert Stuemky of the "Ponca City Road Runners," winners in the open class competition.

Stuemky had the best time of the day with a 58:34, and his team completed the course in 4:04:23.

Moments later the first high school division team finished the race, the Perryton, Texas,"Pace Setters," as the anchor man crossed the line to give his team a finishing time of 4:22:52.

In the masters division, the "Kay Payners," from Stillwater, devastated the old record set in 1981 by better than 30 minutes as they crossed the line with a time of 4:22:24.

And what would a relay be without the old college try, as the "Recon Runners," also from Stillwater, finished with a time of 4:27:30, to take first place in the college and under 30 division.

And last, but certainly not least, came the women's division "Road Huggers" from Oklahoma City. "The Road Huggers" finished in first place in their division, beating many teams of the opposite sex with a time of 5:38:08.

As the awards were handed out and pictures taken, many runners vowed they would return next year, some vowed they would make a stronger showing, and a few vowed they would never run again.

Archive ID: 70609

I find is particularly amusing that one runner talked of running over 40 miles per week. For most of my ultra-friends, 40 miles is an off-week. The Road Huggers women's team winning with a time of 5:38 is good, but I have witnessed one solo woman winning a 50 mile race outright in 6 hours flat.

But the Okie Relays is where ultra-running began in Oklahoma. There were a FEW solo runners in the later years who ran the whole way. Today, that would be considered a medium run in the kids I run with. There has been a bit of talk about reviving the Okie Relays. I, for one, would be interested in this--particularly going solo. How bout it--anyone else crazy enough to consider it?

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