Absence apparently makes the heart of the Raintree Run distance runner grow fonder.
A record throng of more than 1,100 runners participated in Sunday morning's race along the South Lawrence Trafficway.
"It's the biggest field we've had," said Steve Riley who manages the annual event with his wife Marcia.
The race, which usually raises around $20,000 for Lawrence's Raintree Montessori School, was canceled last year after a fire destroyed one of the school buildings.
So the Rileys, who live in Lawrence and teach in the Perry-Lecompton school district, were a little worried that participation might drop off.
"We were kind of concerned, but it sure didn't happen," Riley said. "It was a great turnout."
No doubt the weather helped. In the past, the event has been dogged by cold, rain and wind. On Sunday morning, the temperature was in the mid-50s and climbed quickly.
"It was maybe a little warm and humid," said Riley, a distance runner himself. "The conditions weren't perfect, but they were certainly better than they were at a lot of them."
Participants competed in a half-marathon and a 5K, as well as a mile fun run. No records were broken.
Defending champion Mark Curp of Lee's Summit, Mo., won the half-marathon in one hour, 10 minutes and 29 seconds. Curp is a half-marathon specialist who once held the American record in the 13-mile plus race.
Curp beat state half-marathon record holder Wayne Strohman of Lenexa by 22 seconds, preventing a Strohman sweep. Shelly Strohman, Wayne's wife, won the women's half-marathon in 1:25:23. Kim Fritzie of Overland Park was runner-up, 23 seconds behind.
Chris Ronan, a former Kansas University distance runner and former Cable Six sportscaster who now works for Hallmark Cards, won the men's 5K. LeeAnn Reed, who coaches track at Olathe South, was the women's 5K winner.
More than 200 volunteers served as course judges, timers and water-station workers.
One of the volunteers was, of course, Riley whose commitment to meet management precludes his participation.
"Heck, I haven't even had time to lift weights this week," he said, smiling, "but I have a full slate ahead of me. There's a 13-mile trail run in St. Marys next week. It used to conflict with our meet, so I'm really looking forward to it."