Schools, children and physical fitness – that combination generated the reason for a road race around the reservoir. With the goal of promoting health and wellness in Geist area schools, the St. Vincent Geist Half Marathon was off to a running start. From the beginning, John and Doreen Long, parents of a 15-year-old daughter, were at the starting line offering their support and have kept pace since the event’s inception.
“I had heard that there was a first meeting to discuss the possibility of creating a running event with the proceeds to benefit our schools. This seemed to be a great way to promote physical fitness to students,” said Doreen. As owners of Allegra, a printing company that produces marketing materials, the Longs offered to help promote the race that first year. “The rest is history.”
Four years later, the Longs have become more involved with the scenic race, which is swiftly making footprints in running history, raising $65,000 in 2010 and attracting about 6,000 athletes, nearly one-third of whom are school children.
“We provide the printing of the cards and posters used to promote the event. We also provide all signage the day of the event. Last year was our first year to design and wrap the pace car and we are doing the same thing this year. We are a title sponsor for the 5K and half marathon, so most of the services and products we provide are in-kind,” said Doreen.
Not only do the Longs contribute all of the printed promotional items, but Doreen also contributes her time and talent as a board member.
“Naturally, I coordinate the signage and printing,” said Doreen. “This year, I am helping to coordinate the VIP tent which is for runners who have committed to run two half marathons and have paid an additional amount to be part of the Month of May Club. I am on the grant committee, review all applications and make recommendations to the board on awards. We have been able to help all who have asked so far.” The committee awards six grants, which fund fitness oriented purchases for schools such as playground equipment and pedometers.
Not only does the race get kids to kick up the pace of their fitness, it encourages community camaraderie. “Since the race started, I‘ve seen more and more kids running and the neighbors getting more involved – some even handed out mimosas last year,” said John.
John entered the 5K for the first time last year. “I was inspired by the event and all of the different runners of different ages.” Admitting he’s a recreational runner, “Doreen is the avid runner and has competed in the half marathon twice. I like to volunteer.”
“It’s amazing how many people work behind the scenes,” said Doreen. “When you show up to run you don’t understand all the logistics required to pull off a successful race. From the course field marshals to those handing out food when runners cross the finish line, it takes a lot of planning and a lot of volunteers.”
Both Longs enjoy running to keep in shape and agree the true value of the race is with the kids learning they can have fun with fitness while building their confidence. According to John, “This year an IPS school is participating and someone donated running shoes to all of the kids.” Plus, at the finish line everyone gets a cookie and chocolate milk, along with a sense of accomplishment.