A good central location and great seasonal weather afforded Harker Heights a steady growth of 5k and 10k runs that benefit local nonprofits.

“Since May, a total of four runs have taken place in our parks and two in the last several months,” said Lori Briere, Harker Heights recreation superintendent.

The explosion of 5k and 10k races is no surprise to Gina Pence, Harker Heights Chamber of Commerce membership director.

“We have the most beautiful parks. Harker Heights Community Park and Carl Levin Park are scenic and safe with lighted trails,” Pence said.

Combining a 5k within another event increases awareness for a run. The chamber’s 5k Stompede, in its second year, brought in $1,500 to fund recreational projects in the city.

“Having the run as a part of the annual Central Texas Food, Wine and Brew Festival helped bring in more runners,” Pence said.

Two types of races attract runners: a traditional fun run sponsored by a nonprofit and a sanctioned run, which is a series of runs hosted by a city or an organization. The Cen-Tex Race Series consists of the cities of Killeen, Harker Heights, Temple and Copperas Cove and Belton, along with the Metroplex Health System and the Bell Country Bar Association of Paralegals. Runners earn points and the points decide the male and female winners at the end of the series. Since February, the area held 14 runs with two more scheduled before the end of the year.

Attracting families with children is an important part of a run’s success.

“Some people like to go to movies or restaurants and some like to do races for good causes. This area has plenty of great causes to involve the whole family,” said Kelly Barr, a Killeen Evening Rotary Club member. “In order to conquer world issues, it’s important that we get children involved.”

The five Rotary Clubs in the area all came together for the fifth annual Monster Dash to Scare Away Polio. This year, 350 adults participated in the 5k and 10k runs. A shorter version for children, Little Monster Dash, had 65 children run about 1 mile.

Organization and a support system with a lot of dedicated volunteers are key factors. Planning for the Monster Dash started 10 months in advance, and about 40 volunteers helped in all phases.

“We raised about $6,000 after expenses,” said Thomas Malhosky, Monster Dash chairman. “Every penny of it goes to buy vaccinations to eradicate polio and other childhood diseases.”

The Fugitive 5k, now in its eighth year, has seen an increase in participation. This year, more than 160 runners participated, nearly double than the previous year.

“The growth in the city is a main reason for the increased popularity of runs,” said Dave Haley, Harker Heights Police Department’s community services officer and race coordinator. “We raised $3,400 for the Blue Santa and the Kiddo Card programs.”

Both of these programs help local families and children during the holidays.

“Our city has grown so much that people want to help the community, and the runs are a great way to help,” Haley said.

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