September 21, 2018

How far are you willing to go for fitness? One group is willing to go Beyond Monumental.

That’s the name of a group behind the rise in school running clubs around not only the Indianapolis Public Schools district, but all of Marion County. The nonprofit Beyond Monumental actively supports youth health and wellness programs centered around the sport of running.

Monumental Shoe Fitting

It has partnered with local schools to establish running clubs in the hopes of instilling a lifelong love of running. And thanks to a special partnership with New Balance and Athletic Annex, the ante has been upped by promising all IPS run clubs that achieve 75 percent participation rates free admission to the CNO Financial Monumental 5K and a pair of New Balance running shoes for each of the club members.

IPS students at James A. Garfield School 31 received their new shoes, complete with a proper fitting, on Monday, Sept. 17.

The partnership is sponsored by Athletic Annex, which started a “Buy One, Give One” program that donates a pair of shoes for every one bought by their customers. They have pledged to get as many shoes on the feet of IPS runners as possible, estimating they will need upward of 1,200 to 1,300 pairs to make this happen.

To qualify, the school’s run club must maintain a 75 percent attendance rate throughout the seven- to nine-week program. That means two-thirds of members must continue attending and participating.

The run club initiative has grown exponentially since it was started in 2012, according to Casey Collins, Beyond Monumental’s community outreach manager. In that year, the organization gave out free admission to 150 students at IPS SUPER School 19. Last year, that grew to 32 IPS schools and a total of 61 school programs around Marion County with an estimated 1,730 “graduates” — Beyond Monumental’s term for people who complete the run.

“We want to continue to promote health and wellness, and the growth of our sport, and we want to be sure these students have the tools they need to do that,” said Collins. “We want to equip them with the right tools for that, and of course a pair of shoes is a big piece of that. It is a reward for taking up this challenge and sticking with it.”

Beyond Monumental started under the supervision of former Indianapolis City Engineer Carlton Ray. An avid marathon runner, Ray had dual missions of giving back to public education and establishing a marquee marathon in the city. Beyond Monumental believes this program works in support of both of those goals. It has donated more than $1.1 million to local public education, with more than $765,000 to the IPS Education Foundation.

While Beyond Monumental supervises the run clubs, it gives each school autonomy on how to run them, establishing only their basic standards and providing a toolkit that includes guidelines for them to follow. Each school selects its “motivators” to lead the club, typically a teacher or staff member. Beyond Monumental provides support and assistance as needed.

In addition to running, nutritional advice is also part of the club, and run club members are encouraged to pursue healthy eating habits. The freedom given to each club is part of its appeal. “We don’t want to try to dictate a cookie-cutter approach for every school,” said Colllins. “Every situation is unique. We aren’t in the school working in that environment every day, so we don’t want to tell them how to run their programs.”

“This is one of my favorite programs,” said Kathy Langdon, Shortridge High School athletic director and one of the main proponents of Beyond Monumental’s efforts in its partnership with IPS. “It’s everything we talk about that kids should learn about healthy eating and physical activity, and they learn about the etiquette of running and responsibility, and they build cardio. It’s amazing.”