During last year’s Kansas Half Marathon, a spectator mistakenly flipped a sign that threw about 500 runners off course. The incident caused an uproar in the community and its beneficiary Health Care Access listened.
This year, there is a new event coordinator and race director, and it already has 1,838 participants registered — 400 more than last year.
“We took all of the comments from last year’s event and applied them to this year,” said Kim Johnson, event coordinator. “We took the negative and turned it into a positive.”
The April 22 event includes a half marathon and 5K race, and one-mile children’s fun run. There will not be a 10K race this year. The event also will start and finish in downtown Lawrence at Ninth and New Hampshire streets. There will be about 200 volunteers helping with the event, including 70 course directors.
“Everyone is so energized for it this year. There’s a lot of positive energy flowing around it,” Johnson said.
This year’s race director is Troy Fitzgerald, of KC Running Company, and he puts on more than 100 running events in Kansas. “He’s seasoned and amazing,” Johnson said.
So far there are:
• 1,455 people — participating in the half marathon (13.1 miles). The route will go through the East Lawrence, Kansas University campus and to the intersection of Clinton Parkway and Crestline Drive and then back to the downtown area. It starts at 7:30 a.m. Cost is $55.
• 248 — in the 5K (3.1 miles). It winds through East Lawrence and starts at 7:45 a.m. Cost is $30.
• 135 — in the one-mile Kids Fun Run, which begins at 8:30 a.m. and will be in the downtown area. It is free and for children ages 12 and younger.
The awards ceremony will be at 10 a.m. and the after-race celebration will continue until about 11:30 a.m. There will be music, food, drinks and massages. The Lawrence Arts Center will be providing children’s activities.
Johnson said participants are coming from as far away as Florida and California, but many are from the neighboring states of Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri and Oklahoma. About 450 are from Lawrence.
To sign up or volunteer for the event, visit kansashalfmarathon.com. Registration forms also are available at the Lawrence Hy-Vee stores and Health Care Access, 330 Maine. For more information, call the clinic at 841-5760. The cost will go up $5 for the races on April 19.
“We want it to be a memorable and fun event for the runners, and we want it to succeed,” Johnson said.
It is the largest annual fundraiser for Health Care Access, a clinic that provides medical care for the uninsured of Douglas County. Last year’s event raised $27,000 — about 8 percent of the nonprofit’s annual budget. It serves about 3,000 patients.
Johnson said the clinic has expanded its services to include legal and mental services. It also has a wellness program that it extends to the general public. The program includes educational classes on topics such as depression and nutrition and an hour-long walking and stretching program that’s offered weekdays.
Among the participants is Juin Thomas, 63, who said it has helped her stay active and flexible since retiring from Hallmark Cards three years ago.
“I was used to running around and jumping and then all of sudden, I wasn’t doing as much and I was just getting stiffer and stiffer and stiffer,” Thomas said.
Then, she joined the walking group with a close friend who uses Health Care Access, and now is the most dedicated member, participating every day. She’s up to two miles and might participate in this year’s Kansas Half Marathon’s 5K race. The registration fee is being waived for the walking program’s participants.
“I might be able to make it that far,” she said, laughing. “Sounds like fun, but we’ll see.”
Lawrence resident Juin Thomas, 63, walks with Health Care Access wellness intern Jordan Ramey in a neighborhood near Holcom Park on Friday, April 6, 2012. Thomas has been participating in a wellness program offered by Health Care Access for two years and she believes it has helped maintain her health.