Kansas Half Marathon to help support young runners

From left, Bennett Stammeyer, 6, Nevaeh Hogan, 6, and Natalie Caroll, 6, were part of the 300-student-strong marathon club at Langston Hughes Elementary School in Lawrence, shown in this file photo from October 2013.

Runners in the Kansas Half Marathon and 5K can now help support Lawrence school district elementary students who are following in their footsteps.

A new partnership between the organizer of the race and the district’s fundraising organization, the Lawrence Schools Foundation, will donate $1 to the district’s marathon clubs for each runner who registers using the promotional code USD497.

“I think this will really help us keep the kids and staff motivated and help us grow the marathon clubs,” said Dena Johnston, executive director of the Lawrence Schools Foundation.

The Kansas Half Marathon is organized by Health Care Access and draws hundreds of runners to compete each fall. Last year, more than 1,500 runners participated in the race, which is the first in the three-part Harvest Half Series.

“Healthy behaviors are a key to a healthier community, and we are pleased to partner with our schools,” said Beth Llewellyn, CEO of Health Care Access.

The district operates marathon clubs at all 14 of its elementary schools. As part of the club, students aim to run or walk 26.2 miles — the length of a marathon — during club meetings before or after school. The distance completed by students is compiled by an electronic tracking system.

More than 1,600 students participated in the clubs last school year, logging the equivalent of 877 marathons, according to Denise Johnson, the district’s curriculum coordinator of health and wellness.

Johnson said each school gives students a T-shirt once they complete a marathon, as well as other incentives, such as a pair of socks or a wristband, to mark their halfway point. Part of the donations gathered from the Kansas Half Marathon will go toward supplies for the clubs, including incentives for students.

“Each of those components, of course, costs a little money, so part of it is to give them a little bit of a budget in order to help support some of those little trinkets of encouragement along the way for the students,” Johnson said.

At the same time, Johnson said she hopes the partnership with the Kansas Half Marathon will spread awareness about the district’s clubs, which are run by volunteers.

“We’re really looking for people to just come to school and kind of help out and cheer the kids on,” Johnson said.

More information about the district’s marathon clubs is available on its website. Registration is open for the upcoming Kansas Half Marathon, which will be held Nov. 6 in Lawrence. Registration can be completed online.