Saints and Sinners will host its first annual half marathon Saturday Oct. 27, in Boulder City, Nev. Saints and Sinners is an organization that benefits youth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who require financial assistance to serve a mission.
“This is the most meaningful cause you will run for all year long,” Heidi Parks, race director for Saints and Sinners, said. “This race is a whole new concept where we bring LDS runners from all over the United States together for a great cause. This is not an official Church race, but all the money will be donated directly to the LDS Church Missionary Fund.”
Heidi Parks had the idea to start a race of LDS runners when she attended the Hill Cumorah Pageant a few years ago.
“At the pageant I felt so enriched to see so many members gathered together,” Parks said. “I ran into some friends that were in my ward when I was a kid, and my heart was warmed to see them again. After running into them, I thought, ‘We need more opportunities to bring members together.'”
Parks pondered it and decided to do something. She called up her former student body officers from BYU–Idaho, and they began planning a race to bring LDS members together.
“A few months into the planning process, I felt very strongly that the reason why I had the idea for this race in the first place was to earn money for missionaries, so we decided to donate all the money to the Church’s general missionary fund,” Parks said. “It has been a huge labor of love because at this point I have five kids, but the cause makes it all worth it.”
The race takes place Oct. 27 in Boulder City, Nev., in a park next to the Hoover Dam. Parts of the course include running through old tunnels built in 1931. The tunnels used to house railroad tracks that trains used to bring material to build the Hoover Dam.
“It’s a destination race,” Kristina Southam, Heidi’s younger sister and executive member of Saints and Sinners, said. “My sister raved about how beautiful the area was, but I didn’t realize until I saw it for myself. It’s a gorgeous course.”
There will be several aid stations throughout the course for runners to rehydrate. The right side of the course will be for the saints, and the left side of the course will be for the sinners.
“We thought it would be great to add a little fun to the races, because the event is a few days before Halloween,” Southam said. “If you want fruit and water, you can go to the saints side, but if you want something a little more interesting, you can go to the sinners side and get a Gatorade and doughnuts.”
Because of the unique cause, setting and food, the race has attracted more than 300 runners so far. One of the runners is Cindy Fullmer of Boulder City, who decided to run in the race last spring when she saw a friend comment about it on Facebook.
“My friend posted a link to the race on Facebook, and I decided that it was a perfect course for me,” Fullmer said. “I have never run a half marathon before, and I had just barely gotten into running. Training for this race has been a hard journey, but I’m excited for it. I feel ready.”
The Church’s recent change on the age of missionary service has also influenced how Fullmer feels about the race.
“Because of the recent missionary age change, a lot of the new missionaries in the field will be people who weren’t ready for it yet,” Fullmer said. “These missionaries thought they would have more time to plan and save financially. The Saints and Sinners race is perfect timing for these missionaries.”
Runners for the half marathon or relay race can still register online.