Atlanta Public Schools runners to raise money in honor of John Lewis

Runners from Atlanta Public Schools are lacing up their sneakers and hitting the pavement in support of U.S. Rep. John Lewis.

The group, which includes Superintendent Meria Carstarphen and several other administrators and staff, plans to run five 5K races over the next five months while raising money to support pancreatic cancer research and an Atlanta middle school named after the civil rights leader and U.S. congressman, who represents Georgia’s fifth district.

Fifth district, five races, 5-kilometer distance — all in five months.

The runners also want to raise $55,555. As of a few days ago, they had raised just under $5,000.

In a blog post, Carstarphen explained the reason.

“As we started the new year, I made a pledge that I would be among those fighting for John Lewis. About two years ago, the APS running club rebranded itself as the John Lewis Freedom Runners in his honor. Over the past couple of weeks, we have come up with plans to do more. Because he marched for us, we would run for him!” she wrote.

Lewis announced late last year that he had been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. He said he would remain in office while undergoing treatment.

APS has paid homage to Lewis before.

In 2017, the school board voted to name a new middle school — John Lewis Invictus Academy — after him.

After the decision, Lewis said he hoped students who attended the school would learn civil rights history.

“I am deeply moved that Atlanta Public Schools would choose to name one of its buildings after me. Education was my salvation. It was the road I traveled that led me out of the cotton fields of Alabama all the way to the halls of Congress,” he said, in a 2017 written statement.

More recently, Lewis has been a prominent ally of Carstarphen.

He was among supporters who urged the school board to extend her contract. Lewis even showed up in person at a September school board meeting to make his case. The board later announced it would begin a search for a new superintendent.

The APS running group started five years ago, according to Carstarphen’s blog.

The club has ambitious goals for the next few months. Money they raise will be divided among the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network's research and programs, John Lewis Invictus Academy, and Emory University's Winship Cancer Institute, according to an online donation site.

The runners plan to reach the finish line of their five-race goal with the APS Rocks and Runs 5K.

The race was first held last year as part of the National Teacher Appreciation Week celebration.

The route takes runners through the city’s West End near the south side of the Beltline trail.

This year’s race will begin at 8:15 a.m. on May 2 at Brown Middle School, 765 Peeples St. SW.

In addition to that run, children ages 4 to 11 can participate in a fun run.

Registration for the event is now open at Teachers and instructional paraprofessionals can participate for free. The cost for others who register before Feb. 29 is $25. Advance registration for students is $10.

About the Author