“The human foot is a work of art and a masterpiece of engineering.” Leonardo Da Vinci, a guy who knew a thing or two about art, said that.

More than 500 years ago he marveled at the 28 bones and network of nerves, muscles and blood vessels, all working in unison, that help us walk, stand, balance and run.

The artist’s words remind us how appropriate it is that feet — whether fleet or just plodding along — are so closely tied to arts education in Athens. The AthHalf Half Marathon and 5K, an annual fundraiser for AthFest Educates, is a marriage of anatomical masterpiece and art in its many forms.

On Oct. 22 and 23, thousands of feet will hit the pavement to compete in the 13th annual AthHalf Half Marathon and 5K in Athens.

On Oct. 23, thousands of feet will hit the pavement to compete in the 13th annual half marathon that takes competitors on a course running through downtown Athens and the University of Georgia. The day before, the 6th annual 5K takes place. Proceeds from the races fund high-quality music and arts education programming for K-12 students in Athens-Clarke County.

Walton Gas has been a sponsor of the AthHalf since 2018, stepping up to presenting sponsor in 2019. Beyond financial support, several employees participate in the event that attracts nearly 3,000 participants as well as thousands of supporters along the course.

“We want to give back and support the communities we serve, live in and work in,” said Sara Hodge, Walton Gas communications coordinator. “We continue to support the AthHalf Half Marathon because it’s such a great event that brings so many people together.”

Making music and art

Da Vinci might be proud to know that many “masterpiece” feet make it possible for the arts to thrive throughout Clarke County. Proceeds from race registrations and sponsorships help AthFest Educates award grants to Athens-Clarke County schools, nonprofits and government agencies that operate music and arts education programs for students in grades kindergarten through high school.

The nonprofit organization has awarded

more than $532,000 in grants.

The nonprofit organization has awarded more than $532,000 in grants. The most recent round of grants funded experiences and programs such as:

  • Admission for every 8th grader in the Clarke County School District to attend a professional play performance.
  • Cameras and equipment for a new photography class at Clarke County High School.
  • Puppetry arts summer camp for 32 third-graders.
  • Three-week artist-in-residence program at Fowler Drive Elementary, allowing students to learn drawing and painting techniques to create a large-scale mural.
  • Small group and one-on-one musical instrument instruction from professional musicians for more than 1,000 middle and high school students.
  • 30 ukuleles to teach music composition to 200 Winterville Elementary School students.
  • Ballet barres and other equipment to teach a YMCA dance course for youth ages 5-12.
  • Formal music training through the Pre-Amped Afterschool Program for 80 students at Alps Road Elementary.

Put your best foot forward

Walton Gas invites customers and their families to register for one of the 2022 AthHalf races and use their own feet to make some masterpieces possible.

Interested in running the half marathon? Visit waltongas.com/athhalf to enter to win race registration for two.

“When you run the AthHalf, you are directly impacting a child’s access to music and the arts, which has far-ranging benefits,” said Hodge. Beyond fostering creativity, arts education develops hand-eye coordination, improves concentration, encourages self-expression and builds confidence in students.

Walton Gas is giving away two race registrations for this year’s AthHalf. To enter the drawing, visit waltongas.com/athhalf. Entry deadline is Oct. 1.

Find race details and registration forms at athhalf.com. The half marathon on Oct. 23 begins at 7:30 a.m. The 5K on Oct. 22 has a 2:30 p.m. start time.

Through Sept. 30, half marathon registration is $85 per person. Fee for the 5K is $30 for adults and $20 for children under age 10. There is also a virtual race option for those who can’t be in Athens on Oct. 23. Runners can pay $45 to run a consecutive 13.1 mile distance anytime before Oct. 23 to earn a commemorative t-shirt and medal.

“We hope to see lots of our customers — and their feet — at this year’s race,” Hodge said.