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Columbus firefighter Dan Smith is hoping that, even after the first Mill Race Marathon, local runners have another race in them.
Danny Fisher does.
Fisher, who won the Mill Race Marathon, has confirmed with Smith that he will participate in Saturday’s 15K event, the second Columbus Firemen’s Cheer Fund Challenge, which begins and ends at Station Two, 2736 Arnold St.
“Our 15K run is very competitive,” said Smith, who is the race director of the Cheer Fund Challenge. “It’s a who’s who of Bartholomew County runners.”
Defending 15K champion Cole Smith is back to defend his title, and Dan Smith said several other competitive runners will challenge for the custom-made fire helmet that goes to the winner of the race.
Winning last year’s inaugural event was no jog in the park for Cole Smith. The champion must not only beat the competitors in the 15K event but must also beat all the teams that sign up for the 15K relay as well. The relay teams consist of three runners who each run five kilometers.
Five individuals beat the top-finishing relay team a year ago.
Besides the longer run, the Cheer Fund Challenge also includes a 5K run and a 5K walk. The 15K individual and relay races begin at 8 a.m. along with the 5K walk. The 5K run begins at 8:10 a.m.
Last year’s event drew 221 entries, and those entry fees purchased a lot of toys that were delivered to more than 1,000 Bartholomew County children who otherwise wouldn’t have received gifts on Christmas. Dan Smith expected even more runners this year but found that his event got lost a bit in the excitement during the marathon.
“We were way behind up until the day of the Mill Race Marathon,” Dan Smith said. “We had less than 50 percent of the registrants that we had last year. Since then, we’ve rebounded some, but we still are about 40 people behind as of Monday.
“The first marathon was such a big deal, with everyone so focused on it,” he said. “We are so soon afterward that I don’t think a lot of people are thinking about it. I’m sure there are a lot of people who ran in the marathon who might not be recovered yet.”
If the legs are working, though, Dan Smith hopes that people will sign up for an important cause.
He said the Columbus Firemen’s Cheer Fund is the oldest continuous charity in Bartholomew County, originating in 1930. The firefighters collect gently used and new toys as well as funds to purchase toys and distribute them to needy children (this year on Dec. 14). Other fundraisers, such as the fire department’s Chili Cook-off, also generate funds.
Firefighters and volunteers from the community deliver the toys.
“If we only make Christmas mean something to one kid, then all the effort is worth it,” Dan Smith said. “We have had people contact us in the past and tell us that they remembered the Cheer Fund bringing them presents and what it meant to them, what a big deal it was.
“To be perfectly honest, I know if we are serving 1,200 kids, that not all of them will have a great appreciation, but if we have made Christmas a better experience, it all is worth it. I know in this economic environment, a lot of people are struggling.”
The registration fee for the event is $20 for the 5K run and walk and an additional $5 for a shirt. The 15K individual run is $25, with another $5 to include a shirt. Each competitor in the 15K relay pays the 5K run fees.
Dan Smith, who has three children, 7-year-old Cord, 6-year-old Case and 3-year-old Kodi, with wife Chasity, became race director for the inaugural event last year because he thought it was a good fit for the fire department.
“It’s a great charity, and, as firemen, we need to keep ourselves active and to stay in shape for what we do,” he said.
Whether the event changes its date due to the Mill Race Marathon’s popularity remains to be seen.
“We would probably benefit being farther away from the marathon,” Dan Smith said. “We can’t compete.”
Those who want to help the cause can sign up online at www.cheerfund.com (go to the Cheer Fund Challenge link) or at www.crossroadsofindiana.com.
Online registration ends at noon Wednesday. Runners and walkers can sign up from 6:45 until 7:45 a.m. Saturday at Station Two. For more information, Dan Smith can be reached at 812-344-4757
Jay Heater is the Republic sports editor. He can be reached at email@example.com or 379-5632.
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