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NKY Teacher Creates Own Marathon - for Charity - When Boston was Canceled

Eric Van Laningham is a teacher, and a track and cross country coach at Cooper High School in Union, where he has been working since the school opened twelve years ago. 

He has been a runner for over 30 years, which is how he got into coaching, and stays fit by running with student-athletes after school. 

The 2020 Boston Marathon was supposed to happen Monday, but it didn’t. Van Laningham ran anyway.

His passion and commitment for his career are palpable.

“I haven't been doing much coaching lately since we have been shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said. “This is my twenty-third year teaching math and statistics, and working from home has been by far the strangest thing I've ever had to do."

"Honestly, it’s not my favorite time. I got into teaching to work with kids, and now I rarely see them and cannot coach right now,” he said.  

Since January 1, 2010, Van Laningham has run at least two miles each day, putting his current streak at 3,762 days. Moreover, he has run a total of nine marathons and claims that he knows that he was ready for Boston - one of the nation's most elite marathons. 

“I ran the Boston Marathon in 2002, 2012, and was trying to qualify again,” he reflected. “I missed by nine seconds at the 2018 Flying Pig. Last year I aged up so it became a little easier, and I qualified at the Xenia Marathon in April 2019."

“I was all set to fly to Boston this year with my wife and teenage son - I have four kids from age 3 to 19," he said. 'We were going to visit some friends and colleges along the way. I've never trained this well for a marathon or been this prepared.”

Van Laningham was understandably disappointed when the announcement postponing the race to September came out. He says he was ready to run his best time and break a three-hour marathon. He claimed the race route was empty, but he decided to keep training and find another outlet.

Since the track at Cooper High School’s campus also sat closed during the extended school closure, Van Laningham decided to create and run the Remington COVID-19 Marathon, held near his home at Remington Cove in Burlington. 

He carefully measured the street’s loop several times with a measuring wheel to be certain it was correct. Van Laningham figured that since Remington Cove was a very short street, he would have to make 95 laps to complete a marathon distance.

With all the usual sports and outdoor activities cancelled, Van Laningham built excitement across his neighborhood by planning his personal race for the same weekend as the Boston Marathon, and added a fundraising component. His sister Jenna, who works at Strategies to End Homelessness in Cincinnati, told him about Horizon Community Funds of Northern Kentucky. Horizon Community Funds is raising money for its Horizon NKY Coronavirus Relief Fund, which supports individuals and families across Boone, Campbell, and Kenton counties who have been disproportionately affected by the spread of the coronavirus.

$185,000 from that fund was recently deployed to Northern Kentucky nonprofits Be Concerned and Faith Community Pharmacy to assist their communities and networks of partnering nonprofits.

“I'm so grateful that I still have a job at this time and to be financially secure,” Van Laningham said. “Since I was running this marathon no matter what, I wanted to do a little bit to support those in our community who are struggling. Jenna helped me find Horizon Community Funds and I put together a little Facebook fundraiser."

"I chose this charity because I wanted to help my neighbors locally and make this somewhat of a community event.”

Van Laningham was pleasantly surprised to see donations to his fundraiser surpass $800. He concludes with a reflection of gratitude and call to action:

"I want to thank all those who contributed not just financially, but also with their kind words of support. I also had several family, friends, and neighbors out during the run to support me. I was taking the run pretty seriously so having them there was really motivating when the run got hard towards the end. I definitely ran better because of their support. I had several former athletes that I've coached run laps with me. My older son, Luke, ran with me for the last hour. My 11 year old son Paul took video on Facebook live so friends could watch and tune in. My 19 year old daughter, Cecelia, played music and helped our 3 year old, Alice, cheer me on. My wife did a lot of lap counting and helped get me water and nutrition. It was a family affair. I could not have done the training without the support of my wife for sure. Even though I just missed my goal of breaking three hours (3:00:06) by six seconds, I finished hard and it was the best marathon I've ever run."

"With 95 sharp turns at one end, I felt pretty confident that I could have run faster in a normal race. I'm lucky to have a job right now and want to help others in my community who are not so lucky. We can all pull together in our own way to make sure those around us make it through this quarantine."

Others looking to join Eric Van Laningham in supporting Horizon's relief fund have several options:
- Give to the Remington COVID-19 Fundraiser on Facebook
- Text “NKYRELIEF” to 44-321
- Visit www.horizonfunds.org
- Mail a check made payable to Horizon Community Funds (memo: NKY Coronavirus Relief Fund): 50 E. RiverCenter Blvd., Suite 430, Covington, KY 41011

-Staff report

Horizon Community Funds of Northern Kentucky is an advertising partner of The River City News

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