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Sandy Hook Run Earns National Award

A run that was initially supposed to take place in Danbury — and had to be moved two times to accommodate the high volume of interest among prospective participants — has received national honors.

The Hartford Marathon Foundation’s Sandy Hook Run for the Families was awarded “Best Amateur Single-Sport Event” by SportsTravel Magazine at the Travel, Events And Management in Sports (TEAMS) ’13 Conference & Expo in Salt Lake City, Utah, last week.

The Hartford Marathon Foundation donated its resources to produce the Sandy Hook Run for the Families and enlisted support of longtime business, community, and civic partners in honoring the memories of victims and supporting all of those affected by the tragedy in Newtown last December. The event reached maximum registration capacity of 15,000 and is recognized by Running USA as the world’s largest inaugural 5K with 9,479 timed finishers and an additional 897 registered participants in the Kids Run.

All of the registration fees combined with fundraising efforts of race participants totaling $450,143 was donated to The Sandy Hook School Support Fund, administered by the United Way of Western Connecticut in partnership with Newtown Savings Bank.

Beth Shluger, executive director and founder of the Hartford Marathon Foundation, said the foundation was approached by individuals from the region who expressed interest in putting on a race in honor of Sandy Hook. The race was a go from the start, but was originally scheduled to take place at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury. As interest grew and was determined the race needed larger venue so it was then planned to take place in downtown Danbury. But the level of interest continued to climb so the race was ultimately moved to the City of Hartford and run March 23.

“The numbers grew — so many people wanted to participate and support it,” Shluger said.

Shluger said it was an honor to receive the award, and that she took advantage of the opportunity to share the story of how the race location had to be moved to accommodate the outpouring of support. “It was a great opportunity when I accepted the award to actually tell a story about the event and how it transpired and what I think it did for our region,” she said.

The Hartford Marathon Foundation estimates more than $400,000 of services was donated by industry partners, including shirt donations by Reebok, race bib donation by Electric City Printing, signage and banners by XL Color, finishers’ pins by Ashworth Award, staging and sound by Powerstation Events, and screen printing by HJ Hoffman.

“This recognition speaks to the combined efforts of so many incredible volunteers, industry partners and runners that wanted to show support for the families of Sandy Hook, the first responders and the Newtown community,” Shluger said. “It was an honor for the foundation to produce the Sandy Hook Run for the Families and provide an opportunity for thousands to come together in an emotional outpouring of support for our neighbors in Newtown.”

Shluger was presented with the Best Amateur Single-Sport Event award on November 7 at the TEAMS event, the world’s largest gathering of event organizers and travel planners from the sports industry.

“The Sandy Hook Run for the Families offered individuals, civic groups, and businesses alike the opportunity to step forward and get involved at a time when we all were looking for ways to help the families of Newtown,” said Michael Van Parys, president of the Connecticut Convention & Sports Bureau, which nominated the event for the award. “This truly was a statewide community effort that was meaningful and memorable for everyone who supported it.”

Winning the award and seeing the race turn into such a success make for a nice feeling for Shluger, but it’s something that can’t be celebrated without undertones of sadness.

“It’s an honor. We’re proud to do it — very proud to do it — and hope we never have to do it again,” Shluger said of putting on a race in response to a tragedy.

The Sandy Hook Run for the Families will take place again; it is scheduled for March 29, 2014.

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