Kansas City’s oldest race — Hospital Hill Run — returns Saturday: ‘It’s like generations’

It’s about time to lace ‘em up in Kansas City — for the 51st year.

The Kansas City Sports Commission is producing this year’s Hospital Hill Run — set for 7 a.m. on Saturday — after taking ownership of the longtime KC tradition in June 2023. This year’s nonprofit beneficiary is Children’s Mercy Kansas City, and a portion of each registration goes toward supporting medical care for children in the KC area.

“The Kansas City Sports Commission is dedicated to improving the lives of Kansas Citians through sports,” the KC Sports Commission said in a news release. “One way the organization does this is by producing some of Kansas City’s best endurance events.”

“We are so honored to continue this kind of iconic Kansas City tradition,” KC Sports Commission director of marketing and communications Elliott Scott added to KCTV5 on Wednesday.

The Hospital Hill Run is the oldest road race in Kansas City, dating back to 1974. Because of that, it features generations of runners who will share the road on Saturday.

“People have been doing it now — it’s like generations,” Scott said on KCTV5. “I know people who run it with their grandparents still. It’s so cool.

“It’s also one of the runs that still goes through downtown Kansas City. We have a lot of infrastructure projects; it’s increasingly difficult to do these runs. But it’s so rewarding because you get to see the city in a completely unique way.”

With new ownership also comes some new changes, according to the Kansas City Sports Commission. This year’s race will have an expanded “Finish Line Festival” with new vendors and activities, a “Children’s Mercy Cheer Zone” and a Big Slick VIP tent for participants who fundraise over $100 for Children’s Mercy.

Another new part of this year’s race: the introduction of honorary grand marshals to represent Children’s Mercy Kansas City. This year’s honorary grand marshal is a 9-year-old Children’s Mercy patient named Arrow, along with her parents, Ali and Brian, and her pediatric endocrinology provider, Dr. Kavitha Dileepan.

Arrow was born without a thyroid, but the team at Children’s Mercy has helped give her a healthy, active life — and possibly inspired her, too. She hopes to be a doctor someday.

“With four kids, we’ve seen just about every department at (Children’s Mercy),” Ali said in the release. “Some of those moments have been scarier than others — surgery is more intense than speech therapy. We’ve experienced incredible care throughout the hospital ... from the people greeting you and walking you to the elevator to the security guards at the Broadway clinic.

“... Holistically, for our whole family, we’re really thankful for Children’s Mercy.”

The honorary grand marshals will lead the countdown to the race start, with three different distances to suit the preferences of more than 3,000 participants: 5K, 10K and half marathon. All participants and spectators are welcome to enjoy the live music and other festivities at the “Finish Line Festival,” a race release noted.

The race is officially underway on Saturday, June 1, at 7 a.m., but participants can still register through until 8 p.m. on May 31.