Elementary school students have a chance to experience the Mill Race Marathon with a kid-sized event, the fifth annual Kids Fun Run on Sept. 22.

The Kids Fun Run, which each year draws about 1,000 youngsters from toddlers through sixth-graders, will have six heats with the first one starting at 6 p.m., said Tara Hagan from Healthy Communities, which joins forces with MainSource Bank and the Columbus Running Club to put the race together each year.

The sponsorships allow free registration for all participants, and there’s still time to sign up.

“We have a committee of people who are advertising at the schools for us, getting the word out,” Hagan said. “It’s open to anyone and anybody.”

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Physical education teacher Jill Garris heads the running club at Columbus Signature Academy — Fodrea Campus, which has a high Fun Run participation level.

The Fodrea running club meets every Tuesday and Thursday for about 45 minutes after starting school six weeks before the race each year.

“We just do running activities and things like that to try to get them prepared for the race, so they have a little bit of an idea on the distance and things like that.” Garris said. “We do have quite a few who are decent runners who can finish top-10 or close, so we get them going.”

The club has a challenge group for student runners who are a bit more advanced, and they complete more extensive running activities. Some even compete the following morning in the Mill Race 5K run.

The Fun Run rewards schools, in three size categories, with the highest percentage of participating students — and Fodrea has been among the top schools most years, Garris said.

Each runner is given a bib tag representing their school before the race, and it is collected once they cross the finish line at.

The school with the highest participation percentage in its category wins a $500 gift certificate from Hoosier Sporting Goods. The second-place school receives a $250 gift certificate. There is a separate category for participating preschools, with a $200 certificate for first place and $100 certificate for second place.

The Girls on the Run and Trailblazers running programs always have participated Mill Race weekend in some capacity in past years, often times specifically with the Fun Run. This year, Girls on the Run will be staffing one of the water stations during the marathon.

Hagan said it is exciting to see so many kids get involved in Fun Run and Mill Race running events.

“It’s really neat how it’s all come together and it’s really become known as a thing that the kids like to do,” Hagan said. “Some of these kids have gotten really good and love it.”

Kids Fun Run

When: 6 p.m. Sept. 22

Number of heats: Six

Ages: Toddlers to sixth-graders

Cost: Free

Race information and registration: millracemarathon.com/fun_run