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Before you groan at a stop for a squadron of runners at Normal Boulevard during the Lincoln Marathon, smile.

When you get to the store a little late, get to church just in time because traffic is held up for a "fun run," take a breath and know you are helping.

The Lincoln Track Club, founded in 1975, holds a dozen "runs," including the annual 13,000-plus runners for the Lincoln Marathon.

Thousands of runners, hundreds of volunteers and dozens of charities all benefit from the runs – to the tune of more than $500,000 back to Lincoln over the past five years. Last year, the group gave more than $150,000 to charities.

There are few, if any, other track clubs that can even try to give back to the community.

"People ask me all the time if they could have my job," said Nancy Sutton Moss, who is co-director of the Lincoln Marathon with Gary Bredehoft. "I tell them, 'No, you wouldn't (want it).' All you get is a jacket. That's it for pay. And you put in a lot of hours. But it's fun to see people have a good time, too."

More than 20 people help direct the club events, organize all the volunteers and make the running events the best experience possible – and clean up afterward.

And the organizers don't get paid a cent.

"We're a non-profit set up to provide running and racing, and we have the chance to give back to the community," Sutton Moss said.

A prime example is the scholarship program that has helped more than a dozen high school athletes in the area obtain a scholarship.

This year's $2,500 scholarship winners include Erin Mapson of Lincoln East. The senior pole vaulter and cross country runner for the Spartans is cobbling her funds to attend Concordia University in Seward.

"That scholarship really helps," said Mapson. "I can't thank the Lincoln Track Club enough to care enough to provide such a big help."

Mapson has also qualified for academic and athletic scholarships with the Bulldogs.

"They have an annual banquet to announce the scholarships, and it's a pretty special deal," she said. "They make this sacrifice and give us a chance to keep going in track and field, and they make it exciting."

Five other local high school seniors will receive the $2,500 scholarships this year. Last year, eight runners received $2,000 each. High school seniors headed to college track programs – from Lincoln Northeast, Waverly and other local schools – have received scholarships since the program was started five years ago.

"This is a great program, because it helps promote running and keeps building for the future," said Lincoln East track coach Brian Kabourek. "We've been fortunate to have a number of kids receive the scholarship over the years."

The LTC has a long list of charities.

The club has given to the city trails system to widen the bike trail at 48th and Highway 2. Other fund recipients include Lincoln North Star cross country, the Great Plains Trails Network and the Lower Platte South Natural Resources District.

The LTC has contributed to the Woods Tennis Center, as Mayor Chris Beutler's designated charity.

Other funds go to the Lincoln Racing Club to help advanced runners participate in national and regional events.

The famous Mayor's Fun Run for kids who cover the mile around the state Capitol is one of the most obvious beneficiaries of the LTC charities. Thousands of kids, hundreds of elementary classes and dozens of schools reap the benefits of a fun day.

Some contestants also receive running shoes, bicycles, helmets and bike locks.

"We try to find the kids who are running in flip flops and heavy boots and help out with a pair of running shoes," Sutton Moss said.

LTC runs the Uplifting Athletes kids run, where kids get to trot alongside Nebraska football players. Chris Weber was the Husker leader of the run last summer. Funds raised from that event go to pediatric brain cancer research.

Boy Scouts, who help with the set-up and tear-down for the Lincoln Marathon, receive funds for their participation.

The People's City Mission reaps the "big tubs full of clothing" left over from the marathon, Sutton Moss said.

Other charities include Men With Dreams (after-school projects for elementary kids), Project Purple, the Lincoln Food Bank and the Jayne Snyder project that raises funds for pancreatic cancer.

The Nature Conservancy, YMCA Strong Kids, Capital Humane Society (for the runs with dogs) and the running team "Team Nebraska" also receive funds, said LTC president Glen Moss.

“Harvest of Books" and the Norden Club Foundation also receive stipends from LTC funds.

Elementary schools, such as Zeman, Everett, Randolph and Cavett, have also received LTC funds to build running tracks. More than $60,000 has gone to the Trails Foundation to help clean up after storms and to the Wilderness Park bridges that need repair.

Even Pete Kostelnick, who ran across the U.S. and stopped in Lincoln, was supported in part by LTC charities.

"We'll try to keep growing the sport and growing the charities alongside," said Sutton Moss.

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