WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) With the annual Prairie Fire Marathon returning to Wichita Sunday, a community comes together to remember a runner killed by a lightning strike during a Sept. 28, 50-kilometer race in Montgomery County.
Those in the running community remember Thomas Stanley as more than a fellow runner. He was a husband father of three and, they say, a friend to many.
Stanley's wife, Ashley Stanley plans to run the Prairie Fire's 5-kilometer race Sunday in her husband's honor. Fellow runners, people in the Wichita community and at least one local business are also using the event to honor Stanley.
Andrew Gough, owner of Reverie Roasters, along the Prairie Fire route on East Douglas, says each year, his business supports runners in the annual race, but Sunday's race will be different. Gough, who knew Stanley, is displaying a large sign at Reverie that reads "WE RUN FOR THOMAS."
"I want to fill this entire block full of people to celebrate the marathoners, and also the legacy that Thomas is leaving behind," Gough says.
Fellow runner Jacob Wyman got to know Stanley through church and the pair grew close. He says a recent photo shared by the Prairie Fire Marathon inspired him to do something to honor his friend.
"It was a picture of Thomas and Ashley, husband a wife, a photo of their first marathon back in 2010. And it said this was their first marathon as a couple together and so I instantly called the Prairie Fire Marathon and that kind of just escalated everything from there," Wyman says.
It led to custom bibs and cowbells for the runners, saying "I run for Thomas." A local company even provided custom jerseys to honor Stanley at the Prairie Fire Marathon.
Wyman says Stanley didn't like the spotlight.
"He would say, 'really, this is for me?' and then probably make a joke about it," Wyman says.
He wishes he could go back and take more long runs with his friend, but says seeing the impact Stanley left on the community is comforting.
"They just see a person who lived his life like everybody should live their life, as a servant leader, always giving back and always helping others," Wyman says. "It's very powerful."
If you'd like to wear a custom bib or pick up a cowbell to celebrate Thomas Stanley at Sunday's Prairie Fire Marathon, for a donation, you can get them Saturday at the Prairie Fire Expo at Century II. All donation go toward the Stanley Children's Fund to help take care of Stanley's three children.
You can also go online to purchase a t-shirt honoring Thomas Stanley.