Heart-Pumping Fun

Hearts have long been touted as the windows to our souls. Our passions, our deepest emotions and our dreams for the future are housed here. To follow our hearts is to go where we really yearn to go — beyond the normal confines and routines of life, but to say we take our hearts for granted is an understatement. A reliable, unrelenting workhorse of life and its passions, your heart deserves some recreation.

As a veritable playground for your heart to run free, pump for joy and give credence to its deepest passions, your local fun run might be the rejuvenating boost your heart needs. Perhaps this is why runners with a cause tend to keep coming back for more. The camaraderie, the physical challenge and the knowledge that good has been done for the community all combine into heartfelt euphoria. If your heart is already fluttering with anticipation, you are in luck. Several local fun runs are just around the corner.

For those who leap at a challenge, Frisco’s second annual Texas Big Star Half Marathon and 5K is coming up on April 15, at Collin College Preston Ridge Campus. Breaking new ground last year as Frisco’s first-ever half marathon, the Texas Big Star hosted 1,700 runners, including well-known marathoners Logan Sherman and Benson Chesang, who crossed the finish line hand-in-hand and placed first and second, respectively. “These are people that get invited to run in all the big races or are generally who you always see competing to win a race,” Paul Simon, the race director for the Texas Big Star, recounted. “It was an honor for us to have people of that caliber for an inaugural race like ours.”

Hosted in partnership by The North Texas Community Giving Foundation (NTCGF) and The Tug McGraw Foundation (TMF), the 2016 Texas Big Star raised $20,000 for distribution to 10 local charities and $37,500 for The Tug McGraw Foundation to advance neuroscience research and aid those suffering from brain cancer, brain injury and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. “It is about impacting our community and giving back. That is what our foundation is all about,” says Ann Harris, the NTCGF founding trustee and philanthropist. Referring to Texas Big Star, she adds, “It is something different, other than the usual galas and golf tournaments, to raise money. This is really unique in that no one has ever done a half marathon before in Frisco.”

This year, Mrs. Harris says individual runners and corporate teams in the Texas Big Star can select from 10 charities on the registration website and run for a specific cause. These charities include Clothe A Child, Emily’s Place, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Collin County, Becky’s Hope Horse Rescue, Frisco Fastpacs and more.

As a part of the #WhoDoYouRunFor campaign on runtexasbigstar.com, Hamlin Jones, an early childhood educator and avid runner in Frisco, states, “It is not about how fast you finish but that you have the courage to begin the journey. Run or walk … 5K or half. You will be farther along than the people on their couch. And the after party is going to be amazing.”

With entertainment, drum lines and cheering squads positioned along the course, as well as a rolling DJ in a golf cart, the entire thirteen and a half miles is peppered with fun and encouragement.

Even if you are not a runner, you will not want to miss the party. The popular Finisher Fest will be pulsing with energy provided by The Emerald City Band, free food and numerous sponsors. “To me, the race is an opportunity to bring the community together to do something better than any one person could do by themselves,” Mr. Simon explains. Plus, Mr. Jones adds, “Bringing endurance events to ‘Sports Town’ is just another way Frisco is becoming a destination city.”

In the neighboring city of McKinney, another up-and-coming organization, Officers Down 5K, is uniting surrounding cities to support law enforcement during a 5K community event. Designed as a celebration of law enforcement and the communities they serve, rather than a memorial event, McKinney’s second annual Officers Down 5K will be on May 13, from 4-8 p.m. Organizers are anticipating more than 1,000 runners and spectators. “This is much more than a 5K,” explains T.J. Burke, the founder of Officers Down 5K, listing additional activities such as live music, inflatable bouncers, a Dunk-a-Cop dunk tank, a donut-eating competition, canine demonstrations and a procession with lights and sirens.

In addition, all registered runners, including those who sign up to run virtually, will receive a runner’s packet that includes blue glow accessories. “We will light up McKinney in blue in support of National Police Week,” Mr. Burke declares.

Mr. Burke is quick to add that these events are uplifting rather than mournful. “It really affects the community in a positive way. To hear some of the officers speak, and to hear it from them and not just hear it on TV and in the news — it really opens their eyes. This is a lifestyle. This is not a nine-to-five job. Just realizing what officers risk, not just their lives, but in spending time with their families, and just walking around and interacting with the officers opens their eyes up a little bit more.”

Back in 2009, Mr. Burke started his law enforcement career in Penn., just outside the city of Pittsburgh. And by 2011, he had written the idea for Officers Down 5K on a yellow sticky note “I just happened to have the idea,” Mr. Burke explained. “The goal was to have an event on just a day.” After he hosted the second Officers Down 5K event in Cleveland, Oh., Mr. Burke began receiving emails from all over the nation. In 2014, he started expanding across the country, and today, Officers Down 5K hosts events in more than 35 states. “I would never in a million years have imagined it would have come to this,” Mr. Burke says. “The Texas events are amazing. We have had officers coming out in gear that weighs 50 pounds and running a 5K. Those stories stick with me. They are saying, at the same time, ‘thank you to my fellow officers. I am going to run in 50 pounds of gear to show you that I appreciate it.’”

Mr. Burke adds, “You know, some people do not want to run or walk, and that is fine. They can just come hang out. When these guys are out there, they may not show it, but they do have feelings. At the end of the day, it means a lot to them to see hundreds of people there for them.”

There are a variety of fun runs in the area coming up this year, including the 9th annual Frisco Square Paddy Dash on March 11. This event features a 5K, a one-mile run and a 50-yard Piddy Pat Dash. Plan ahead for this event at getracing.org/paddy-dash.html.

McKinney’s Run for Cover 5K, 10K and 1K, on April 8, will benefit people experiencing homelessness in Collin County. Check out more information regarding this event at

playtri.com/runforcover. For those who love the extra challenge of a muddy obstacle course, the MuckFest MS Fun Mud Run, benefitting the National Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society, is on October 17, in Dallas. Learn more about this unique outdoor event at nationalmssociety.org.

Whether you run, cheer or volunteer, find a fun run here in the metroplex that is in synch with your heart’s passions and let it run free! The rewards may surprise you!

Amy Richmond is a writer who relishes faith, family, intriguing conversations and inspiring words. She wishes time could be saved in a bottle because one lifetime is not enough.