NEW PALESTINE — In the past, Jaime Tully has circled the track for her middle school track team. In a few weeks, she’ll run the streets of Indianapolis to help people she’s never met.

Tully is a member of Team World Vision, a group of running teams that sign up for races with the intent of raising money to provide clean water for communities in Africa.

“It’s important to me because the people that aren’t getting clean water are in danger,” Tully said.

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Teams, often formed at churches, train together in weekly group runs. They encourage each other on their way to competing in the event, be it a 6K or a marathon, raising funds that help communities in Africa have clean water.

“If those children don’t have to walk 6 kilometers one way to get dirty water, then they have time to play and time to go to school,” said Erin Mayes, who with husband Josh is leading the Team World Vision group Jaime is part of at Brookville Road Community Church.

The Mayeses have each run with several Team World Vision groups at different churches over the past five years. This year, they were part of launching a team at Brookville Road, and they hope more Hancock County churches will form teams in the future.

Corinne Roberts ran in the 2009 Chicago Marathon with a Team World Vision group from Brandywine Community Church in Greenfield.

“There were World Vision people all along the course shouting encouragement, and that was cool,” Roberts said.

Erin Mayes said when she and her husband began running races for the cause, the statistic they repeated was that every 30 seconds, a person got clean water, and now the figure is 10 seconds.

“It’s amazing to us to think that in just this little bit of time, we can see a change,” she said.

Team World Vision began in 2006 at the Chicago Marathon. Volunteers at previous events had seen fellow runners raising money for other causes and approached World Vision.

The Christian humanitarian organization operates a variety of programs in education, micro-financing, disaster relief, food security and child sponsorship; Team World Vision runners raise money specifically for its clean water initiatives.

“When you tackle the root cause of poverty, it’s often lack of clean water,” said Alyssa Condotti Kriz, Midwest events manager for Team World Vision.

Clean water in a community not only allows children spending time in school instead of hauling water; it also cuts down on the amount of medical care needed there because the population is healthier, she said.

Getting healthier often happens to the runners, too. While some team members are seasoned runners, there are “a lot of people who’ve never done anything like this before,” Erin Mayes said.

The group had some of its early group runs along the Pennsy Trail near the Meijer in Cumberland but recently began running the trail just west of Meridian Road in Greenfield. Runners, who put in additional miles individually through the week, will cover the trail in both directions to put in the miles needed for that week’s group run.

Tully said her longest track distance when competing for Doe Creek Middle School was the 400 meters. Now she’s up to 7 miles on her runs — about half the distance she’ll need to complete the Indianapolis Monumental Half-Marathon on Nov. 4. (Some of her teammates will run the full marathon.)

“It’s actually not that bad,” she said of the 7 a.m. Saturday runs. “Their training schedule really makes it easy to go the long distance.”

Some team members are new to running, so some of the first practices alternated running and walking for a set length of time, gradually decreasing the number of minutes walked while increasing the distance.

“Just the running itself can be life-changing,” Josh Mayes said. “We see people making different life choices because they are running.”

They might have joined the team because they wanted to help others, but their own lives have been unexpectedly “turned upside-down,” he said, leaving both the person in the need and the person living among plenty better off.

“God wants to change all of our lives,” he said.

You can help

About 40 runners from Brookville Road Community Church in New Palestine are part of Team World Vision. Throughout central Indiana, more than 900 participants are training for the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon and Half-Marathon, asking for donations and hoping to raise $600,000 for World Vision’s clean water initiatives in Africa. Learn more at www.teamworldvision.org/indy.

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Anne Smith is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at annesmith@greenfieldreporter.com