Reaching the finish line: Final Joplin Memorial Run, Walk of Silence set for Friday, Saturday

May 16—About 2,000 runners are expected to participate in the final Joplin Memorial Run and its associated events Friday and Saturday.

Organizers announced in November that this year's run would be the last. They cited several reasons including a general decline in most runs nationwide, declining participation in the Joplin event, and volunteer fatigue because of the number of hours it takes to plan and stage the annual event.

The run became a memorial event after the May 22, 2011, tornado in Joplin took 161 lives and destroyed 8,000 structures in the city.

Since then, the event produced $295,211 that has been donated to nonprofits for tornado relief, rebuilding, grants for local healthy activities, and to install a 17-foot sculpture memorializing the 161 killed, organizers reported on the run's website.

Banners bearing the names of the 161 whose lives were lost in the deadly storm have been displayed each year. The final Walk of Silence through those banners is planned for 7 p.m. Friday starting at Eighth Street and Joplin Avenue.

That walk is free and open to the public.

The banners will be distributed to those who asked for them after Saturday's races at 11:30 a.m. at the memorial sculpture near the corner of Eighth Street and Joplin Avenue.

All events start in the area of the Harry M. Cornell Arts & Entertainment Complex in that block.

Races to be held Saturday:

—The Freeman half-marathon starts at 6:30 a.m.

—The Sparklight 10K starts at 6:30 a.m.

—The Liberty 5K starts at 6:45 a.m.

—The Sign Designs Kids fun run starts at 11 a.m.

The events will go rain or shine, organizers said. The race director will announce whether there is a cancellation if unsafe weather is forecast for the times of the events.

The forecast for Joplin is for light rain Friday afternoon and mostly sunny conditions Saturday.