HOUSTON (December 19, 2016) – In its continued effort to promote the benefits of long-distance running and to provide opportunities for runners of all abilities, the Houston Marathon Foundation (HMF) announced today that it will distribute $275,000 in financial support to local running initiatives and national elite long-distance development programs. Since its inception in 2008, the HMF has provided over $1.1 million in funding for local youth initiatives, health and wellness programs, community enhancement projects in Houston, and elite runners in the United States.

Over 2,000 students in the Greater Houston Region will be provided with training support, equipment and race entries. The HMF increased the number of schools participating in the We Run Houston after-school running program to nine, while the HMF-supported Katy Students Run program features three KISD schools, and Girls on the Run Greater Houston will reach 1,500 youth female runners.  In addition to the youth programs, the HMF continues its long-time partnership with Texas Children’s Hospital (TCH) and will co-host its annual Family Fun Runs at TCH campuses in Katy and the Woodlands in April, 2017.

Additionally, the Houston Wellness Project and Bel Inizio are two community running organizations that will be supported by the HMF again this year. At the national elite level, the Foundation will provide funding to Team USA Minnesota, ZAP Fitness and Northern Arizona Elite.  Elite competitors from all three teams will be a part of the 2017 elite fields for the Chevron Houston Marathon and Aramco Houston Half Marathon to be conducted on January 15, 2017. These American elite runners will be joined this year by elite runners who competed in the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio and the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Los Angeles. The HMF provides support to improve accessibility on race weekend, including guides for the Visually Impaired Division created last year and the recently added Handcycle Division.

“This continued increase in reach and scope is made possible by the support of our partners at DICK’S Sporting Goods, Skechers Performance, and Texas Children’s Hospital, as well as the Houston Marathon Committee and its staff,” said Wade Morehead, Executive Director of the Houston Marathon Committee and Foundation. “Not only do we want to provide opportunities for all abilities to participate during Chevron Houston Marathon Race Weekend, we want to create year-round opportunities for youth runners and athletes with disabilities, as well as provide support to the local running community and our national elite running programs.”

Promoting the Benefits of Running to Local Youth

The We Run Houston initiative will provide race entries, tech shirts, coaching stipends and transportation reaching over 500 students participating in after-school running programs with Katy Students Run (Morton Ranch High School, Katy High School and Katy Taylor High School), HISD schools (Chavez High School, Sharpstown High School, Hamilton Middle School, Heights High School, Sugar Grove Academy and Ortiz Middle School) and Spring Branch ISD schools (Northbrook Middle School, Spring Woods Middle School and Spring Woods High School). This program will allow students to have a safe after school environment, build self-esteem, set long- and short-term goals, and help them train to cross the finish line. The majority of these students will be participating in the Aramco Houston Half Marathon or the ABB 5K on race weekend, January 14-15, 2017.

Girls on the Run Greater Houston is a non-profit program that works to encourage pre-teen girls to develop self-respect and healthy lifestyles through dynamic, interactive lessons and running games, culminating in a celebratory 5k race. Approximately 1,500 girls at over 130 area middle and elementary schools are involved in the program. In addition to the after-school running programs, the HMF provides support for the INEOS Go Run for Fun program that promotes health and wellness to local children by conducting dozens of elementary school assemblies that features a one-mile run and will reach 10,000 students in the Greater Houston Region.

Next April, the HMF and Texas Children’s Hospital will partner again to host over 4,000 participants on the TCH Katy campus for the annual 2017 Texas Children’s Hospital Family Fun Run. In addition to this hallmark event, both organizations will partner to conduct the inaugural Family Fun Run at the new TCH campus in the Woodlands next April as well. For the third year in a row, the HMF will select two students in the Greater Houston Region who will be the recipients of the Susan Poorman Blackie Scholarship which provides $20,000 per student over four years to local cross country runners who have excelled in the classroom and community, and are enrolled to attend college in the state of Texas. Registration for 2017 senior graduates will open in January.
Making the Community Stronger Through Running

The Houston Wellness Project is a nonprofit organization that strives to empower all individuals to make positive healthy lifestyle choices by providing accessible wellness education and programming. They offer free monthly 5K races in the Heights and George Bush Park and are a recent recipient of the Houston Press “Best Health and Fitness Enterprise.” Bel Inizio helps disadvantaged women develop self-confidence and life skills through fitness and nutrition. Participants train to complete a 5K, which helps prepare them for the ultimate race – the race for a better life.

Promoting Accessibility for all Participants

The HMF will provide free entry fees for Duo Team wheelchair captains and for guides who assist runners participating in the Visually Impaired division at the 2017 Chevron Houston Marathon Race Weekend of Events. The Foundation also supports the Brookwood Community with the Cross Country Championships Run, which is conducted annually to promote awareness of the campus and fundraise for the development of a campus running trail. Event Day at Brookwood also features the Citizens Run, which allows residents to participate in their own community run/walk event with cross country participants and volunteers. Brookwood provides meaning and purpose for adults with disabilities.

Supporting American Elite Runners

For the fourth consecutive year, the HMF will support Team USA Minnesota, whose training center was formed in 2001 and designed to improve the competitiveness of post-collegiate American distance running and to develop Olympians. The HMF will also provide funding to the ZAP Fitness Foundation for the third year in a row. The non-profit training center was founded in 2001 by the late Andy Palmer and his wife Zika as a way to give back to the sport of distance running because it played such a significant role in both of their lives. This will be the inaugural year of support for Northern Arizona Elite, whose mission is to recruit, develop and produce distance runners to compete at the very highest level of international athletics. This year, elite athletes with disabilities will be participating on Race Day as well, featuring 2016 U.S. Paralympic triathletes Mark Barr and Hailey Danisewicz