Relay and Run for 21 – an inside look

In just over a week, people from across the area will lace up and run for Down syndrome in the Relay and Run for 21 half marathon and half marathon team relay. The run’s originator, Jeff Marvin, told us the back story of how this run came to be for our blog this week.

In the spring of 2011 I was sitting around the kitchen table at the firehouse discussing ways to raise money and awareness for Down syndrome; I wanted to do more than just sell T-shirts.  A suggestion was made about starting a run, since they seemed to be popular and a way to achieve my goals.  In the beginning, all of this was just an idea and nothing more.

In the summer of that same year I ran in a relay race from Madison, WI to Chicago, IL, which gave me more ideas about our race.  So, with a few ideas, my wife Amy and I started working on what type of run we wanted to do and how we would accomplish our goals. We didn’t want to do a 5K race because everyone does that, and after my recent relay event we decided on incorporating a relay.  I wanted to do a 21K and Amy thought a 3-person relay would be a good representation of Down syndrome.  The concept of the race is a 21K (representing the 21st chromosome) and three person relay (representing the three copies of the 21st chromosome that characterizes Down syndrome).

Originally I thought we could pull this off and develop our own 501c3 called Peter’s Peeps.  Realizing this can’t be accomplished with just us, we decided to bring in a new local organization I was a part of and that was D.A.D.S St Louis. I approached Barry Haith and Tim Neinhaus about making this idea a D.A.D.S spring event.  Jeff Neuschwander and Fleet Feet were already on board and soon we were developing a course and filing for the necessary permits.

The original idea for a course was going to be from the DSAGSL office in University City, to the Pujols Family Foundation in Westport Plaza, Maryland Heights.  But, since we wanted the course to be a 21K, we needed more distance and better parking options – this is how downtown Clayton became our starting point.  The point-to-point concept is another unique aspect of our race. It does present a challenge in planning, but in return our race is different from every other race in St. Louis – most of which are using a loop course concept.  The first year we put this race together in 2 ½ months and we were able to donate $5,000 split between the two charities, the DSAGSL and the Pujols Family Foundation.

This year we’ve had more time to plan and it’s paid off, as we are expected to almost double our runners and sponsorships.  This year the charities represented are the Down Syndrome Association of Greater St. Louis, the Pujols Family Foundation and now the D.A.D.S Community outreach fund.  D.A.D.S. is a group of dads that meet once a month to discuss how they can bring more awareness and advocacy for their children with down syndrome.  There are many chapters in the United States and we just started one in St Louis 2 ½ years ago.

The Relay and Run for 21 has become a passion.  What has been accomplished thus far is a true team effort and this is just the beginning.  With the continued help from the DSAGSL, PFF and D.A.D.S, this run will continue to be very successful for years to come.

Run for a cause on March 24! Register to run alone or with a friend – or volunteer at the race! Find out more at the race website here.