Support of marathon benefits community

IN a little more than a week, Columbus will host the third annual Mill Race Marathon. Participants will compete in either the marathon, half-marathon or the 5K run and see the city’s architectural gems along the routes. Along with thousands of spectators, they will have a chance for fun at the after-race party.

The event is creating a niche among runners because of its community offerings and that fact that it serves as a qualifier for the Boston Marathon.

What’s also notable — and equally important — is the impact the marathon has on the Columbus community and its efforts to promote a lifestyle of physical activity and healthy foods. That impact goes beyond providing an opportunity or people to run in a race or drawing visitors. The impact is the benefit to residents in their daily lives.

Proceeds from the marathon are reinvested into community through Columbus Regional Health’s Reach Healthy Communities and the Columbus Park Foundation. Both have received $40,000 each of the past two years to put toward community health and wellness initiatives.

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The Park Foundation put all of its money from the 2013 race toward expansion of the city’s People Trails system, used by walkers, runners and bicyclists. The People Trails is an important quality-of-life amenity that provides opportunity for exercise and transportation routes. Last year, the Park Foundation put half the money toward the trails system and used the other half to buy barricades, which were then donated to the Columbus Parks and Recreation Department.

Reach Healthy Communities used its 2013 grant to aid nutritional health in adults. It used about $30,000 to support community food and hunger organizations. The remainder went toward a program to double the value of SNAP vouchers — previously known as food stamps — so participants could buy $2 worth of food for $1 at local farmers markets. Those efforts helped make food more available to residents who struggle with challenges of access to food and cost.

Last year Reach Healthy Communities put all of its money toward starting or expanding a school gardens program at Columbus Signature Academy-New Tech, Columbus East High School and Parkside Elementary. Students are more likely to experiment with healthier foods if they’ve grown them, the agency said.

Funds from this year’s marathon could benefit Columbus residents with a new offering. The Park Foundation and Reach Healthy Communities are considering using their grants to fund a bike-share program in the city. That would meet both transportation and exercise needs and could be a nice way for tourists to see Columbus.

The Mill Race Marathon, the two shorter races and the post-race party are Sept. 26. Circle the date, then plan to go.

Whether you’re a participant or a spectator, your involvement plays into a larger impact on the Columbus community, one that benefits all residents.