Learning about the historical context of the phrase “Land Run” and its meaning to the indigenous population of Oklahoma inspired race organizer Bobby Wintle to change the name.
Wintle explained the decision in a recent article published at the Radavist:
“Naming our event Land Run 100 did immediately correlate us with the past, however, and that was never my intention. My intentions with Land Run 100 as an event was and always will be for people to realize just how much they are capable of accomplishing by moving their bodies, no matter what the conditions are or what the forecast holds. Once our small crew and myself realized that the correlation with the original Land Run of 1889 was offensive to others we had to make a change.”
Following the Civil War, Oklahoma’s Indian Territory was one of the last areas white settlers were prohibited from settling. A proclamation signed in March 1889 by President Benjamin Harrison opened up the “Unassigned Lands” (Native American lands) to white settlement beginning at noon on April 22, 1889. The ensuing rush to claim the lands by white settlers is now known as the Land Run.
“The land rush symbolizes the climax of the various experiences and mechanisms that were utilized to divorce the Native people from the continent,” University of Oklahoma professor Daniel Swan said. “This was the end.”
Despite the popularity of the established event, Wintle clearly had history weighing on his mind more than brand continuity regarding the name. He went on further in the Radavist article to address the specific historical connotation directly.
“Without knowing the truth behind what actually occurred in 1889 I ignorantly named our event after the opening of the ‘Unassigned Lands,'” Wintle wrote. “I want every person that comes here to feel a positive energy that is hard to describe. I want zero barriers to exist for a person to want to be a part of this experience. As we’ve grown a barrier has come to our attention and the time to remove it is now.”
What started as a modest-sized event in 2013 with just 145 registrants, the now-Mid-South grew quickly in popularity, with registration capped at 1000 participants since 2017. Podiums in recent years have been graced with such gravel stalwarts as Amanda Nauman, Payson McElveen, Ted King and many others.
The signature features of the course are the local red dirt roads that racers face, which are beautiful when dry, but become deadly to drivetrains and race aspirations when wet. As Nick Legan outlines in his book, Gravel Cycling, a mud scraper and a spare derailleur hanger are must-have items as part of your race-day gear.
Moving forward, the event will be known as the Mid South. Wintle explains the race’s new name on the race website:
The Mid South is a name that we can give our own definition to through our experiences on these deeply red roads. This new name is an evolution of all the ways this event has changed over the last 7 years. To me, The Mid South represents everything we’ve wanted to share since realizing how ridiculously good these roads are. This is our party. This is our place and time to be ourselves and to continue to invite others to join us. The Mid South is a place to get rowdy, to race, to finish, and to celebrate.
The Mid South in 2020 will continue as it has in recent years as a two-day event on March 13th and 14th and will include several shorter distances along with the traditional 100-miler, as well as the recently added 50k ultramarathon running race. The ultra-run also serves as an opener for participants who wish to compete in “The Double,” which is a separate contest measuring the lowest cumulative time for racers participating in both the ultra-run and the full-distance bike race.
More information can be found at midsouthgravel.com.
Featured image: 241 Photography
Neil Schirmer and Zachary Schuster contributed to this report.