JOPLIN, MO – At 6:45 a.m. Saturday morning (5/7), more than 1,600 runners took off from the Start/Finish line at 26th Street and Maiden Lane in Joplin.

Those in the initial “sea” of people were made up of men and women from nearly 20 different states, including some from other countries.

All of the runners participated in one of four events: The 5K, 10K, Relay and Half-Marathon.

One out-of-town runner was Detroit, Michigan resident, Debbee Lotito.

Lotito made the 800-mile trip so she could celebrate Mother’s Day this weekend with her mom, who lives in Joplin.

Since the Memorial Run was scheduled during Lotito’s weekend trip to Joplin, she made the decision to become a first-time race participant.

“I have a goal before my fifth birthday this year, and it is to run a whole marathon. I didn’t think I could do a whole one, considering I just started out running over the last couple of years,” said Lotito.

SLIDESHOW: Photos From The Record-Breaking “Memorial Run”

Participants in this year’s Memorial Run had a new course layout to look forward to; one that created a better experience by requiring less turns which resulted in a more streamlined flow.

“I wasn’t anticipating all of the hills, which was a real bear, but it was a great challenge anyway and so now I know what to look forward to in the future,” said Lotito.

This morning’s run required over 30 law enforcement officers from around Jasper County, who assisted with traffic control and made sure all participants were safe throughout the course.

Several hundred volunteers were also needed to ensure the area’s largest running event would go smoothly.

“Here we are, literally running like the wind out there, as much as I hate to say it this way, but an EF-5 is complete destruction, and when you’re out there, when you’re running, you kind of have to have that same mentality of just blowing through it,” said Lotito.

Bentonville, Arkansas resident, Erin Edminister was the first to cross the finish line this morning, after running in the half-marathon.

Her total run time: 1:18 minutes, which set a new course record.

Edminister was also the first woman ever to win the Joplin Memorial Run.

“I cried when I crossed the finish line, I still can’t believe I did it. The whole time I just saw the finish line in my head, that was my goal was to get through it injury free, which I did, and I was exhilarated and I just managed to accomplish a goal that I’ve been waiting to do for quite a while,” said Lotito.

While today’s runners are still recovering from the challenging race, planning for the next Joplin Memorial Run in 2023 is already well underway.

“Oh, I’ve already started. I start a year before for sure. It’s not heavy, but we’ve got to get started on it for sure,” said Ruth Sawkins, Race Director for the Joplin Memorial Run.