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Indy-Based Race Organization Supports Youth Health Through Running Programs

Photography Provided

The heavy thump of the heel rapidly striking the pavement is softened by a good pair of running shoes. Thick rubber meets breathable mesh and stabilizes each stride. Shoes that are too large skid along the ground, hissing as a runner searches for a rhythm. Too tight brings tension up the calves. Yet some young Indianapolis runners wear this to practice.

Beyond Monumental, a local non-profit and race organization, noticed kids wearing ill-fitting shoes to running club and partnered with Athletic Annex to begin providing running shoes. This focus for detail and charity spreads to the rest of Beyond Monumental’s works.

“The school programming we do helps build a sense of community among the people we impact. It shows that we’re making a difference year-round, that we’re much more than a marathon that comes through the neighborhood once a year,” says Rhiannon Johns Marketing and Communications Manager. “We’re reaching out to these schools, and it can have a lifelong impact for kids.”

It all started with the CNO Financial Indianapolis Monumental Marathon. Founder Carlton Ray wanted to create a race that benefited public education, so he started the race in 2007. Since then, Beyond Monumental has expanded to a half marathon race at Fort Ben and a mile-long race down Meridian Street. It also has programs for moms, kids and employers.

The Races

The CNO Financial Indianapolis Monumental Marathon takes participants through downtown Indianapolis. Runners zip past Lucas Oil Stadium toward the beginning of the race, curve around Monument Circle, glide down Massachusetts Avenue make their way up to Broad Ripple before ending back downtown.

“Our race is a great showcase of the city. It hits all of the major points, including downtown,” Johns says. “It brings a lot of people together, and it also brings people into the city.”

Almost 50% of the participants travel from out of state for the marathon portion of the event, which also includes a half marathon and 5K. The flat roads attract runners who want to set a personal record or reach Olympic status.

Beyond Monumental extends past the flat asphalt of downtown to the paths at Fort Ben, too. The Indy Half Marathon at Fort Ben is for those who prefer trees over skyscrapers. Finishers can enjoy a cookout beyond the finish line.

The Programs

While race day is important, Beyond Monumental wants to impact runners’ weekdays. Since 2015, the organization has partnered with Apex Benefits to create the Apex Monumental Challenge. The competition brings companies of similar sizes against each other to see who has more dedicated participants.

A point system designates the winners who get a traveling trophy and a provided lunch. It’s a free program just to get the workforce running or volunteering.

But not everyone works a nine-to-five. For moms that work 24/7, there’s a program to fit their schedule. Partnered with The Produce Moms, Monumental Moms provides team leaders and free events. They can meet up and run or just encourage one another through their Facebook group.

The Kids

Beyond Monumental has donated more than $1.3M to Indianapolis Public School charities, but Monumental Kids Movement brings assistance directly to the students.

Monumental Kids Movement started in 2012 to engage schools’ running clubs and teach the kids fitness and nutrition. The one-school trial grew into a 58-school program reaching elementary through high schools.

“A lot of our students who come may have fewer opportunities than those outside of Marion County might have,” says Casey Collins Director of Operations and Community Outreach. “A lot of times, they’ve never been downtown or participated in an event outside of the school day.”

Collins says he’s grateful his small-town high school had a well-established cross country program. Not everyone has the same opportunity, he enjoys extending additional opportunities to Indianapolis youth.

“With any sport, it helps build life skills and discipline,” Collins says. “It’s a tool for students to live a healthy lifestyle.”

Each participating school receives a 48-page guide for the running club supervisor and, if needed, student volunteers from IUPUI. Clubs with at least a 75-percent attendance rate receive free entry and transportation to a 5K and free running shoes.

Students complete the program at the finish line of a 5K, jogging or strolling alongside volunteers.

“We get testimonials each year of kids on the last day of school wearing their medal because it was the highlight of their year,” Collins says. “We’re not trying to change the whole world. We’re a piece of the puzzle helping students create a healthy lifestyle.”

Beyond Monumental seeks to fulfill the needs of the Indianapolis community ¾  whether it’s setting up times for moms to run or providing that perfect running shoe for young athletes.

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