4,000 turn out for largest charity Groundhog Run

Running mile after mile on a drizzly day in the dead of winter may seem like a miserable way to spend the morning.

But the 4,000 runners who showed up bright and early Sunday for the Groundhog Run benefiting Children’s TLC didn’t mind — many were wearing shorts and T-shirts.

That’s because they got to run their 5- and 10-kilometer races underground.

“There’s no one here freezing their tail off,” said Children’s TLC development director Stephanie Volk. “It’s always 65 to 72 degrees year-round here.”

“Here” is the sprawling limestone cave of the Hunt Midwest SubTropolis, a storage facility with more than six miles of basically flat roadways — perfect for a 10K race. It’s been home to the Groundhog Run, always scheduled for the end of January, for all of its 31 years.

The event is the largest annual fundraiser for Children’s TLC, short for Therapeutic Learning Center, a Kansas City organization that provides therapeutic and educational services for children with disabilities.

Volk said the run Sunday was the largest that Children’s TLC has ever held and was expected bring in about $250,000.

Paul Lamble of Overland Park has run other 5K and 10K races, but Sunday was his first Groundhog Run.

“This is one I’ve always wanted to do. It’s basically known all over the world,” he said. “How often can you run in shorts and a shirt in January?”

“Running in the winter in Kansas City means having to wear a lot of layers. It’s a real challenge,” said Linda Crosthwait of Lenexa, an avid runner who usually logs her miles outdoors.

This was Crosthwait’s seventh or eighth Groundhog Run; she’s lost track. For Crosthwait, a middle school principal, it hasn’t been just the location that’s drawn her to the race, it’s been the mission of Children’s TLC.

“Anything that is for kids, I’m in,” she said.