Fun Run for youngsters will help kick off race festivities
By Chris Jones
More than 1,000 local elementary students are expected to run for fun Friday, in the process hoping to help win money for their school fitness program.
So far, 629 kids have registered for the Mill Race Marathon Kids Fun Run, but organizers expect hundreds more last-minute registrations, event co-coordinator Tara Hagan said.
Preregistration jumped from 374 to 609 entrants in just one week, Sept. 10 to 17, according to data provided by marathon lead sponsor Cummins Inc.
Registration will continue through Friday’s 6 p.m. start at Mill Race Park, Kids Fun Run co-coordinator Beth Morris said.
Race organizers are planning for as many as 1,500 kids to compete. Last year, in the first year for the event, 857 runners competed.
While the race promotes wellness in schools, Parkside Elementary School physical education teacher Nora Coleman said her students have been hard at work training for the event with hopes to take home first place in a competition challenge.
Coleman said at least 132 of her students have signed up so far. Last year, her students took first place with 143 students running, representing nearly 17 percent of the total runners in the fun run.
To keep her students involved, Coleman has promoted the event to her class every day for the past two weeks and asked that a reminder be read during morning announcements from the school’s intercom system.
Now that the race is just days away, Coleman said she’s starting to imagine what the sights and sounds will be like compared with last year’s fun run.
“It’s like mass mania when you arrive, and you have to get there early because there are so many people,” she said. “Last year, (the kids) were like animals in a pen. They had roped areas off, and they were side by side. It was like a stampede!”
In order to get a bigger turnout, organizers decided to encourage students and their parents to use online registration instead of a paper form, said Man Sung, an organizer and Southside Elementary School teacher.
Sung said the paper forms usually were sent home with schools’ newsletters and announcements but often were thrown away or lost. Making the registration process easier and available online, along with word of mouth and advertising, contributed to the recent uptick in pre-registration numbers, he said.
Sung said the event could easily be described as organized chaos.
“You see the innocence of it. You see some kids go before they’re supposed to. It’s comical. It’s fun,” he said. “It ranges from the kids that are there just to run to the kids that cry two steps into the race. You might see a kid break down midrace; and next thing you know, you see a parents helping out.”
The Kids Fun Run consists of five age-specific distance races for competitors.
Participation is free and open to all kids, but those from the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. elementary schools ages 12 and under are competing for prize money for their schools.
Schools with fun run entrants are divided into three categories based on school size. The three schools by category with the largest turnout of registered runners who complete the course will be awarded first place and $500 for their school to spend at Hoosiers Sporting Goods in downtown Columbus. Three second-place prizes of $250 also will be awarded.
The event is sponsored by donations from MainSource Bank and Reach Healthy Communities and support from the Columbus Running Club and Cummins, Hagan said.
Hagan said there will be about 129 volunteers working at the Kids Fun Run.
Students will have the school they attend marked on their bib tag, and as they cross the finish line, organizers pull off the tag. The week following the race, the tags are counted to determine how many children crossed the finish line for each school.
The race is part of the Healthy Communities Initiative, which began through Columbus Regional Health in 1994. The initiative is designed to improve the health and quality of life for Bartholomew County residents.
Coleman said most of the kids are just excited to run, showing their family and friends what they are capable of and having fun, while others get really serious about competing in the race.
“Some turn it into a real competition with their friends,” she said. “I’ve got a lot of kids doing it Friday night, and then they’re going to run the bigger laps and longer miles on Saturday.”
Those students who compete in the 5K and half-marathon and are in fifth or sixth grade, she said.
Parkside Elementary School has won first place in the large-schools category as part of the Mill Race Marathon in 2013 and the Mill Race Race and Mayor’s Walk event in the past, Coleman said. With the first-place prize, she has purchased gym equipment, medals to honor students and stability balls for students to sit on, among other items.
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