By Don Lowe

The 13th and final Freeman Joplin Memorial Run (JMR) is set for Saturday, May 18, and Race Director Ruth Sawkins, owner/founder of Rufus Racing, LLC, says, “The Joplin community jumped in right away to help rebuild (after the 2011 tornado) and make the changes that needed to be made. 

“The support of the JMR all those years has been major, and people are really embracing our final year and wanting to finish this strong. It’s special because runners will see the whole town of Joplin and will run through the tornado-impacted areas.” 

Festivities get under way Friday, May 17, in downtown Joplin at Memorial Hall/Cornell Art Complex with the Amcor packet pick-up from noon to 6:45 p.m., followed by the U.S. Bank Walk of Silence at 7 p.m. The Saturday morning events include Freeman Half Marathon, Sparklight 10K, Liberty 5K and Sign Designs Kids’ Half-mile Run. 

As the finale approaches in a couple of weeks, Sawkins says, “The Freeman Joplin Memorial Run has been the major event (fundraiser) for the Joplin tornado the past 13 years. 

“This has been a keystone event for Joplin to showcase our city and the resilience our wonderful community has continued to have over the last 13 years. ‘Run, Remember, Rebuild’ has been our motto since day one, and we have strived to keep that going all the way through these 13 years.” 

By late March, Sawkins sensed this last hurrah would be sensational. “Our committee is working hard to make every aspect of this race as good as we can. We are excited to say that our registrations have responded as well, and we expect a big crowd of 2,500 runners for our final event.” 

 Participants expect all facets of an event to go smoothly for them and Sawkins says, “Runners are looking for a well-organized, fun event. We try and make the entire runner experience top-notch, along with the course, packet pick-up, atmosphere, goody bags, medals, shirts, post-race food and entertainment.” 

Although it would be impossible to salute everyone who has been instrumental in putting the event together annually, Sawkins notes, “Active Lifestyle Events is our parent company, and they’ve overseen the event the past 13 years. Freeman Health System has been our title sponsor the entire time and has been so important to the process.” 

The thing that has made this worthwhile for Sawkins personally is “producing a high-quality running event hosted in my hometown and inviting so many runners from so many states to be involved. It’s been a huge honor for me to be race director and seeing all the different people in different roles and all walks of life coming together to make this event happen year after year. 

The 161 who lost their lives will still be remembered well past this event with our 17-foot banner at Cornell Art Complex as well as other memorials around town. 

“You can see how much Joplin has rebuilt and grown through all of this.” 

The 13th Annual (and final) Joplin Memorial Run Fast Facts 

By the Numbers: More than 2,000 runners are expected to compete, with more than 400 volunteers assisting in various tasks. Organizers anticipate more than 6,000 spectators, volunteers and participants in attendance. 

Helping Others: More than $300,000 has been donated to various organizations since its inception. After initially helping with tornado relief and rebuilding organizations, funds raised have gone toward trail improvements, Joplin Humane Society, bikes for school children, scholarships for YMCA programs and more. 

Award Categories: Half Marathon, 10K and 5K awards will be given for the top three overall finishers, plus first through third place male and female finishers in the following age divisions: 12-Under (5K race only), 13-15 (5K race only), 16-19 (5K race only), 19-Under, 20-24, 25-29, 30-34, 35-39, 40-44, 45-49, 50-54, 55-59, 60-64, 65-69 and 70-Over. 

161 Remembered: Following all the post-race activities Saturday, May 18, at 11:30 a.m., race organizers will distribute 161 banners/flags to family members of those lost during the tornado. (Note: Additional banners/flags may be requested at

May 17 & 18, 2024

To Register:

More photos can be seen in the May 2024 print and digital editions