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Holy Half benefits Helping Hands

Katie Peralta | Friday, March 23, 2007

More than 375 students, faculty and staff members and South Bend residents will get ready, set and run Sunday at 10 a.m. in the third-annual Holy Half Marathon, a 13.1-mile race around the Notre Dame campus to benefit charitable organizations.

Holy Half director Kathleen Coverick, a junior, said the race raised more than $6,000 last year to benefit Catholic Charities – a figure organizers hope to surpass this weekend.

Sponsored by the Class of 2008, Circle K and the Women’s Running Club, the race will collect money to benefit Hurricane Katrina victims in Louisiana through Operation Helping Hands, a volunteer program under the umbrella of Catholic Charities.

Jen Richard, president of the Women’s Running Club, said the race promised to be a good time and for a good cause.

“The Holy Half is a fun, well-organized race,” Richard said. “The Holy Half Marathon organizing committee does an amazing job, and they deserve a lot of credit.”

Holy Half organizers said Operation Helping Hands’ dedication to the continued relief of the Greater New Orleans area devastated by Hurricane Katrina made the charity an ideal destination for the race’s funds.

The program organizes a large volunteer corps of several 10-15 person groups who travel to Louisiana to volunteer their time and labor for different time periods, ranging from a handful of days to several weeks, the Catholic Charities Web site said.

Volunteers help some of the 20,000 homeowners in the area without flood insurance to rebuild their lives by reconstructing some of the 200,000 homes destroyed by Katrina.

And while the prospect of contributing to disaster relief is the race’s appeal to many runners, other participants find the athletic challenge daunting.

Sophomore Denise Pineda participated last year to support the charitable effort, but her commitment to Holy Half was also triggered by a desire to get in shape after indulging in too many baked goods, she said.

“One night after eating a lot of a very tasty carrot cake, I was on a sugar rush,” Pineda said. “Tommy, a very good friend of mine, and I decided to go running like at 9 p.m. That was how we started running. We saw the Holy Half fliers in the dining hall and thought that it would be fun.”

Pineda and her friend, sophomore Tommy Osberger, will compete again this year.

Freshman runner Meghan Shaughnessy said she signed up for the Holy Half because she loves to run and thought it would be an enjoyable experience to share with her sister, a fellow runner Saturday.

“My sister asked if I wanted to do it with her, so I thought it would be something fun we could do together,” Shaughnessy said. “And I also ran in high school and have missed that, so I thought this would be a good chance to get involved with that stuff again.”

Shaughnessy said she has been training for the marathon for approximately two months.

The 13.1-mile course will take the sisters, and the rest of the Holy Half participants across campus, with the starting line located behind South Dining Hall, outside McGlinn Hall.

The running path will loop around campus, from the Main Gate down Edison Road, up the newly reconstructed Twyckenham Avenue and past Hammes-Mowbray Hall, organizers said.

Runners will then conclude the half-marathon jog around Saint Joseph’s and Saint Mary’s Lakes.

In preparation for the race Sunday, the Holy Half Task Force will host a mass Saturday evening at Dillon Hall, followed by a carbo-loading pasta dinner in the Coleman-Morse Lounge for participants.

Though 375 runners have already signed up, there is always room for more participants, Richard said.

Students who may be interested in running the Holy Half marathon who have not registered may do it Sunday morning between 8:30 a.m. and 9:45 a.m. behind South Dining Hall. The entry fee is $15, and checks can be made payable to the Class of 2008, organizers said.

If the desire to help Katrina victims, get in shape and have a good time is not enough motivation to sign up, Richard said maybe the free T-shirt all registered participants will receive may encourage more students to join the Holy Half effort.