Recycled running

Recycled running

The Illinois Marathon race officials had lots of leftover medals on their hands after the race.

The kids at Thomas Paine Elementary School in Urbana had just finished a marathon reading challenge, and then run a short race in celebration the day before the Illinois Marathon.

Now some of those leftover medals are hanging around the necks of the Thomas Paine students.

Kay Grabow, a fourth-grade teacher at Thomas Paine, wanted to relate the Illinois Marathon to something her students were doing at school. She and her class organized a schoolwide “Read 2 Run, Read 4 Fun” reading challenge and set a goal of reading 812 books during the month of April. That’s 31 books per mile.

“We picked a number we thought would be a reasonable amount for kids to read, and that’s how we came up with 31 books for each of the 26.2 miles,” Grabow said.

She contacted Jane Domier of the Illinois State Geological Survey, who helped map the marathon course. Domier provided a map so Grabow’s students could track the school’s reading progress along the marathon route.

“The maps really made a difference because it made it visual for the kids,” Grabow said. “Especially when we were getting close, they really started reading, because they could see they were getting close to the football stadium.”

The students exceeded their goal, reading more than 1,000 books in April. All the kids who read at least one book — nearly the entire school — ran a race around the school grounds on the day before the Illinois Marathon.

Domier contacted Grabow after the marathon. Domier told her the race committee wanted to donate some of their leftover medals to the Thomas Paine students. They got them last week.

There’s not a lot to do with leftover medals, said race Co-director Jan Seeley. The race must order enough finisher medals for everyone entered, even though some of those runners won’t be there on race day and others won’t finish.

For example, there were 6,500 half-marathon medals and 5,600 half-marathon finishers.

There are also leftover t-shirts. When Christina Myers learned that, she knew exactly what to do with them.

Myers is a registered nurse and performance improvement coordinator for McKinley Health Center at the University of Illinois. She volunteered at the race expo, handing out t-shirts and bags, and she overheard another volunteer asking what happens to the leftover shirts.

Myers immediately told a race official she wanted them to take to Haiti. She volunteers on medical mission trips to the country through Friends of the Children of Haiti, based in Peoria.

Medical workers go to the country about every two months for two weeks. They see between 2,500 and 3,000 people in those two weeks, and provide physicals and well baby checks, and they treat injuries and illnesses, Myers said.

“Medical care is needed, but they really need everything — food, shoes, clothing,” Myers said, adding that baby formula is the biggest need.

The Illinois Marathon officials are giving her their leftover t-shirts to take with her when she goes back to Haiti in July.

More than 1,000 shoes will eventually be heading to Congo from here.

Sylvain Kande, a native of Congo who now lives here, has been collecting shoes for victims of violence in his country. Before coming to the U.S., he traveled around his country and was shocked by the suffering of some of the people there. He began thinking what he could do for them.

He formed an organzation, Peace and Development For All, to work for change in Congo. After a friend sent him a picture of children who cut plastic soda bottles in half and used them for shoes, Kande began buying shoes at garage sales last summer to send to Congo.

He met Leslie Penner of Champaign, and talked to her about his shoe collection. Penner asked for donations at her church and her job. Her son Luke works at Body N Sole Sports, and he put a collection box in the store. Kande has about 1,000 pairs of shoes now, and he’s hoping for 5,000 pairs to ship to Congo.

The shoes will be distributed through social workers with Oxfam International, he said.


If you’re like most runners, you probably have a garage full of old running shoes, and a drawer full of finisher medals. If you’re looking to declutter, here are a few ways to recycle those items.

— Soles4Souls — This program collects donated new and used shoes from shoe companies, retailers and individuals and distributes them to people in need around the world. See for information and donation locations.

— Nike’s Reuse-A-Shoe program —Nike collects old running shoes, grinds them up, and uses the material for track, gym, court and playground surfaces, as well as in new products. For more information and dropoff locations, go to

— Medals4Mettle — This organization collects marathon, half-marathon and triathlon finisher’s medals and gives them to people demonstrating courage in disease, disabilities or other challenges. Body N Sole Sports in Savoy has a donation box for this organization. For more information, see

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