With student fitness being a continuous goal for Indianapolis Public Schools, Beyond Monumental wants to give IPS students every opportunity to run toward a healthier lifestyle.

Having helped establish running programs and clubs all over Marion County and in the IPS school district, Beyond Monumental is a not-for-profit organization that actively supports youth health and wellness programs, with an emphasis on running.

One of the ways in which Beyond Monumental’s reach at IPS can be see will be Saturday, Nov. 9, during the organizations largest race of the year: The CNO Financial Indianapolis Monumental Marathon, which includes a 5K, a half and a full marathon.

As runners take to the streets throughout Indianapolis for the scenic race — which winds through historical neighborhoods and past iconic city monuments — there will be more than 1,400 IPS students participating amongst an estimated 19,000 runners this year.

Beyond Monumental helps students participate in the 5K by pledging free race admission to each run club member.

Focusing on the young people of Indianapolis, Beyond Monumental works to educate students about the benefits of exercise, proper diet, and a dedication to healthy living. A large part of that education is done through school-based run clubs.

In 2012, through a partnership with local running retailer Athletic Annex (1300 E. 86th St.) and New Balance, Beyond Monumental started a “Buy One, Give One” shoe-donation program. The program allows store patrons to donate a pair of shoes to a student in the Monumental Kids Movement when they purchase one for themselves.

“The shoe donation through our partnership with Athletic Annex is an incredibly important part of this program, said Rhiannon Johns, marketing and communications manager at Beyond Monumental.“It’s important to have a pair of properly-fitted running shoes, but they can also be expensive, so (it’s great to be) able to help bridge that gap to help ensure that the Monumental Kids are properly equipped with shoes that promote proper running form and prevent injury.”

After donating in excess of 1,200 pairs of shoes last year, they’re seeing still more participation in 2019. This year, more than 1,400 pairs were distributed to IPS students. An additional 197 volunteers are registered to run in the race.

Beyond Monumental was started by former Indianapolis City Engineer Carlton Ray, an avid runner who had a vision of establishing a marquee marathon in the city, and giving back to public education in Indianapolis. Beyond Monumental continues the work today in support of both of those goals, lifting marathon attendance and establishing a culture that promotes running throughout the city.

Beyond Monumental supervises the run clubs, but gives individual schools autonomy on running them. The group only establishes basic standards and gives each school a “toolkit” that includes guidelines to follow. Each school selects a teacher or staff member to serve as a “motivator” to lead the club. Beyond Monumental then provides support and assistance as needed.

To qualify for free registration, every school’s student must maintain a 75% attendance rate throughout the 7-9 week program.

The Monumental Kids Running Club has seen participation grow by leaps and bounds since beginning, said Casey Collins, Beyond Monumental’s director of operations and community outreach. The first year, the group gave out free admission to 150 students at IPS Super School 19. Last year, the program had 1,497 IPS students from 33 schools participating. The program had more than 1,800 total “graduates,” Beyond Monumental’s term for people who complete the run.

In addition to running, the organization provides a nutritional curriculum to complement the program. This gives students nutritional advice as part of the Monumental Kids Movement Program.

The freedom they give each club is part of its appeal, according to Collins. “We want schools to have freedom in managing their running clubs. Finding their own ways to bring in and keep students makes each club unique, but the standards mean they’re all still IPS,” he said.

For their part, the event is something running club kids look forward to, and their pride extends beyond the day of the race.

“It’s really a life-learning experience that the students get to experience and achieve,” said Kathy Langdon, district physical education and health instructional coach at IPS. “They talk about the event leading up to race day, and they’re still talking about it at the end of the year. It shows how much it means to them, and how big an accomplishment it is.”

Since its inception, Beyond Monumental has donated more than $1.3 million to Indianapolis Public Schools.