OCEAN AVE — In a move aimed at strengthening local sports programs for years to come, the organizers behind the annual Santa Monica 5000 foot race are joining forces with the Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation to launch a new athletics endowment.

Scheduled for Sept. 12, the event, now in its fifth year, will also raise money for its standard beneficiary, Saint John’s Health Center.

But when the expected 2,500 to 3,000 participants line up on Ocean Avenue to run either the 10K, 5K or 2.7K youth route, this is the first time they’ll be able to take part on behalf of local schools.

Brennan Lindner, the event’s director, said the new partnership hopes to raise at least $5,000 to kick off the new endowment. Runners who enter “run4ed” when they register for the race online will direct $10 of the entry fee to the education foundation.

The foundation’s director, Linda Gross, said establishing a fund to benefit sports programs at local public schools has been a long-term goal.

“We’re just grateful for the opportunity because we have a lot of needs in athletics,” she said. “It’s the one piece that we don’t have an endowment for that we really want to focus on and build.”

The partnership grew out of an unsuccessful attempt earlier this year to create a new race, the Santa Monica Half Marathon, to raise funds exclusively for local athletics programs.

Laurence Cohen, the race’s would-be organizer, said he was unable to win approval for the event at City Hall.

“I had very high hopes that the inaugural Santa Monica Half Marathon would take place in 2010. [But] after the city’s experience with the Los Angeles Marathon I was asked to put the idea on hold,” he said.

That doesn’t mean he’s giving up: “As a marathon runner myself, I have vast experience with persistence and the dream of the Santa Monica Half Marathon remains very much alive in my heart,” he said.

Assistant City Manager Elaine Polachek said City Hall worked in good faith with Cohen to find an acceptable route and date for the event but was unable to reach an agreement.

“The real issue was that our fire and police staff could not support the race routes as proposed by the event producer for safety reasons,” she said.

There’s also a requirement to keep at least a two-month window between major races and other events that involve street closures, like parades, she said.

“There’s no hesitancy on staff’s part. We just need to be able to come up with something together.”

For more information about the Santa Monica 5000, go to www.santamonica5000.com

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