Parley P. Pratt memorial run


Church member Jason Black — dressed as Parley P. Pratt — helps his 2-year-old son, Josiah, wash food off his face in the water fountain. Photos by MEGAN STROUP/Missourian

The Parley P. Pratt Memorial Freedom Run commemorates Pratt’s 1839 escape from the Boone County Jail, where he was being held because of his religious affiliation. Pratt was a Mormon who escaped the jail with fellow church leaders on July 4, 1839. The annual event is organized by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

“More than anything else, this is a celebration of freedom,” master of ceremonies Sheldon Slade said during his welcoming speech.

The mile runners waited for the 1-minute mark to begin their race, so the 4-mile runners could get a quick start. The mile race had 65 registered participants, and 125 people participated in the 4-mile run, from age 3 (in a stroller) to 76 years old.

The crowd gathered for the Pledge of Allegiance, singing of “My Country Tis of Thee” and prayer before the race. Organizer Newell Kitchen then told the story of Pratt’s escape, and volunteers from the church sang a song penned by Pratt and sung on the night of his escape.

The song began:

Lord, cause their foolish plans to fail
And let them faint or die:
Our souls would quit this poor old jail
And fly to Illinois.

The event had two options for participants: a 1-mile run/walk or a 4-mile run along the MKT Trail. The winners were as follows:


  • 6 and under: Matthew Houser and Ruth Webb
  • 7 – 9 years old: James Harris and Elizabeth Cayou
  • 10 – 12 years old: Stirling White and Savannah Kitchen
  • 13 – 16 years old: Elias Lot and Cassidy Jacobson


  • 18 and under: Bren Bremer and Emily Shaw
  • 19 – 34 years old: Matt Dreier and Anne Shadle (overall women’s winner)
  • 35 – 49 years old: Andy Starostka (overall winner) and Margaret Shimkus

  • 50 and older: Phil Schaefer and Fabiola Lopez
  • “We’re like the tortoises in this race,” Dan Martin joked as he crossed the finish line with his wife, Liesel, and his daughters, Ariana (2 months) and Laneia (2 years, in the stroller). They participated in the 1-mile run/walk.

    A youth group at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints painted the traditional prizes for each age bracket – watermelons.

    Ryan Lacey and Cori Day run the last hundred feet of the 4-mile race. Neither are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, but heard about the event from friends. Lacey’s boss is a member of the Columbia Track Club, and Day has a friend active in the church.

    A new activity was available during the 1-mile race this year. The first 40 runners under 12 years old to catch “Parley P. Pratt” (played by church member Jason Black) received a prize of candy after the race. After catching Pratt, Josh Slade, 5, collects his treat from Mary Dirks.


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