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Editorial: Plan to boost Student 5K participation offers benefits

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Bartholomew County takes its mission to improve the health of its residents seriously. The Mill Race Marathon is the latest example of promoting an active lifestyle.

Now race organizers are going the extra mile to help more children get fit.

As of late July, fewer than 40 runners had registered for the Student 5K — representing 2 percent of total entrants. The lagging number of entries concerned organizers because more than 800 students participated in the Kids Fun Run last year and more than 4,000 participated in the marathon and its shorter races combined.

But race organizers came up with a solution that should make participating in the Student 5K difficult to resist. They are making it easier for students 18 and younger to participate by slashing the entry fee from $25 to $10, and they plan to help students train for that distance.

That’s like taking Running 101 for free.

Dave Appel and Evan Gilbert, executives with race sponsor Quality Mill Supplies, are organizing an eight-week, after-school 5K training program at Columbus middle and high schools. They’re working with Randy Stafford, president of the Columbus Running Club and a key Mill Race Marathon organizer.

This concentrated effort by those invested in the race fits well with county programs intended to promote healthy lifestyles in children and address other health issues such as childhood obesity.

For example, participation in Girls on the Run has increased from five in 2008 to about 250 thanks to the dedication of program leader Jen Shaver. Trailblazers, a newer program designed for boys ages 8 to 13,

had nearly 50 participate in a June event.

Healthy Communities Initiative began in 1994 to improve the health and quality of life of Bartholomew County residents. It helped the county secure a $2 million, two-year Communities Putting Prevention To Work grant in March 2010. The grant was intended to support local initiatives designed to reduce obesity rates, increase physical activity and improve nutrition.

Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. began offering healthier food options for its students and changed how meals are prepared — such as removing deep fryers.

Local running programs and Mill Race Marathon activities give county residents greater opportunities — and fewer excuses — to get off the couch, set down electronic devices and become active.

And with race organizers providing a wallet-friendly entry fee for the Student 5K and training, parents should encourage their children to give the event a try.

The result could be a fun time and contribute to a healthier, more active lifestyle.

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