The event includes half-marathon, 8K and 1K runs at Square Lake Park. Funds raised will benefit wilderness survival awareness.
A road race started in memory of a champion Stillwater runner who died while hiking in an Idaho mountain range will raise money for several community outreach organizations.
Jon Francis, 24, died in 2006 from a fall in the Sawtooth Mountains. Searchers found his remains a year later. He had been a three-sport athlete at Stillwater Area High School and was studying religion at Augustana College in South Dakota when, employed as a summer counselor at a Bible camp, he went hiking alone and never returned.
The Jon Francis Foundation Races will be held Sept. 21 on roads in May Township where he trained for races. Starting at 9 a.m. at Square Lake Park, the half-marathon (13.1 mile) race will follow a course of rolling hills and rural roads past lakes, farms, woods and open fields. An 8K (5-mile) race will circle Square Lake. A 1K Fun Run is a course for families and runners younger than 12, and participation in it is free.
Named “A Great Race for a Great Cause,” the event will observe Jon’s “brief life of selfless service to others,” said his father, David, co-founder and executive director of the Jon Francis Foundation. Runners will be given race shirts that say, “It’s not what we gather but what we scatter in the world that defines us.”
Jon Francis had written that passage in one of his Augustana College papers on theology, David Francis said.
The foundation contributes race money to Stillwater community outreach organizations such as Youth Advantage, Rotary, Lions, Kiwanis, Family Means, Boy Scouts of America and Ascension Church.
In a new development this year, the foundation will establish a scholarship in Jon Francis’ name at the Stillwater Area High School. The foundation will work with the school to determine recipients and requirements, David Francis said.
The foundation serves outdoor enthusiasts — hikers, climbers, campers and hunters — to make sure they go to the wilderness adequately informed and prepared, David Francis said. Free classes in wilderness safety education help prevent loss and injury in the backcountry. They are held at Midwest Mountaineering in Minneapolis, 45 Degrees North in Stillwater, and Joe’s Sporting Goods in St. Paul.
David Francis has written a memoir about his son’s death, “Bringing Jon Home: The Wilderness Search for Jon Francis,” and copies will be given to race finishers.
Anyone interested in running the Jon Francis Foundation Races can find more information, including course maps, and register at www.jonfrancisraces.com. To learn more, visit www.jonfrancisfoundation.org.
Kevin Giles • 651-925-5037