Rob Kanter had already decided to run the full marathon at the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon this year, after completing the half-marathon in 2011.
Then he got an added incentive.
Prairie Rivers Network, an organization for which he’s a member and volunteer, is now affiliated with the Illinois Marathon as one of its eight official charities.
“It connects the two great interests in my life — my interests in clean water and the outdoors, and running,” said Kanter, communications coordinator for the University of Illinois School of Earth, Society and Environment and author of Environmental Almanac, published in The News-Gazette.
Vickie Nudelman, operations manager at Prairie Rivers Network and a runner, had the idea that the organization should become affiliated with the Illinois Marathon and use it to raise money. Prairie Rivers Network is a nonprofit organization that advocates for the protection of clean water and healthy rivers in Illinois.
“It’s especially appealing because our headquarters are here in town,” said Glynnis Collins, executive director of Prairie Rivers Network.
That appealed to Jan Seeley, co-director of the Illinois Marathon, as well. She noted the marathon is committed to ties with the community and local businesses and organizations.
She also liked that Prairie Rivers Network is nontraditional in terms of charitable organizations associated with running events. Many of the other charities affiliated with the Illinois Marathon, and other running events, are devoted to raising money for research or treatment of a medical condition — for example, the American Cancer Society’s DetermiNation team and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training.
“I really like that it’s a very different group, touching a different part of our community,” Seeley said of Prairie Rivers Network. “We are the Illinois Marathon, and they are committed to protecting the lakes and streams of Illinois, so it seemed like a perfect fit.”
Collins said Prairie Rivers Network supports clean water work throughout the state. Its projects include building rain gardens to help alleviate flooding problems in Champaign and offering workshops for homeowners in the John Street and Washington Street neighborhoods who have been affected by flooding; working to protect the Great Lakes and downstate waters from the Asian carp invasion; and holding the coal industry accountable to pollution standards.
“What’s really exciting for us also is to be in front of a statewide audience” with the affiliation with the marathon, Collins said. “We hope this will be an opportunity for people around the state to get to know us.”
Kanter is a co-captain of the Run For Your Rivers team, along with Elliot Brinkman, a habitat conservation specialist for Prairie Rivers Network and a marathoner and ultramarathoner.
“I definitely do feel an added level of motivation for the training,” said Brinkman, who will also be running the full marathon this spring. “I always train fairly hard for my races, but for this, I feel an added responsibility to not only train and run the race well, but also to raise funds for what I believe to be a pretty good cause.”
Brinkman and Kanter hope to recruit runners for their team from both the local running community and environmental community. The goal is to have 30 runners on the Prairie Rivers Network team. As of last week, there were eight team members. The fundraising goal for each runner is $300.
The money raised will be used for the organization’s clean water programs in Illinois. It is not tagged to a specific project, Collins said, because she doesn’t know how fundraising will go and how much the runners will end up raising.
Runners who want to join the Prairie Rivers Network team can sign up for any of the Illinois Marathon events, from the 5K to the full marathon. They also can sign up at the lowest race registration fee, even though the cost for entering has increased since registration opened.
While there are eight organizations officially raising money through the Illinois Marathon, “there are three times that many off the grid,” Seeley said. For example, local police officers and prosecutors have run the marathon in the past to raise money for the Crisis Nursery, and individual runners have used the race to raise money for causes important to them, such as Team Fox, which raises money for Parkinson’s disease research.
“We’re really looking for how we can bring them into the fold,” Seeley said of those running for other charitable causes. She said the marathon is considering partnering with Crowdrise, which provides an online organizational structure for fundraising by any charitable group or individual.
For more information about the Prairie Rivers Network Run For Your Rivers team at the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon, or to join the team, go to http://prairierivers.org/run/ .
For information on any of the charities affiliated with the Illinois Marathon, go to www.illinoismarathon.com/charity.php .
The eight charities affiliated with the Illinois Marathon are:
— DetermiNation (American Cancer Society)
— Team in Training (Leukemia and Lymphoma Society)
— Special Olympics Illinois
— St. Jude Heroes
— Les Turner Foundation (ALS)
— Team Asha (for education of underprivileged children in India)
— Prairie Rivers Network
— National Kidney Foundation of Illinois (also new this year)
Photo: Rob Kanter, Gen Long, Brian Perbix and Elliot Brinkman will be running one of the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon races this spring to raise money for the Prairie Rivers Network. Photo by Robin Scholz/The News-Gazette.