With the 37th Mercy Health Heart Mini Marathon just less than six months away, you still have plenty of time. Time to train, to run, to walk, to join a team and to give.

Organizers, too, are preparing for the Heart Mini, but right now their focus is less on the finish line than on the bottom line: lining up corporate partnerships.

The full slate of events—the Heart Half-Marathon, 5K Heart Run, 5k and 10K Heart Walks, 2K Kids’ Mini MaraFun, 1K Steps for Stroke for heart and stroke survivors, as well as the signature 15K Heart Mini Marathon—and the research funding and educational programs they support wouldn’t be possible without either corporate partnerships or grass-roots fundraising efforts, says Jennifer Hauck of the American Heart Association.

“Obviously they’re such a big part of what we do,” says Hauck, vice president of the Cincinnati Metro area, which covers Southwest Ohio and Northern Kentucky.

Organizers call the Heart Mini the largest fundraising event in Cincinnati, last year pulling in $2.45 million. Of each dollar, organizers say, 89 cents goes to research. On average 70 percent of the money comes from grass-roots fundraising; the remaining 30 percent comes from corporate support.

For the 37th Heart Mini, scheduled for March 16, 2014, the target is 46 sponsors, of which about half have been secured, Hauck says. Negotiations are ongoing and she hopes to have the rest, particularly the larger ones, in the fold by the end of the year.

“The larger supporters need to be committed earlier to maximize their exposure,” Hauck says. “After that we’ll still see some event-day sponsors—somebody who wants to sponsor a water stop, something of that nature.”

Last year’s event included sponsors designated as national, marquee, official, platinum, gold, silver, bronze, trade and media, at different levels of support. Cincy Magazine is among the media sponsors.

Returning as title sponsor for the fourth year is local health-care giant Mercy Health, with 9,000 employees, more than 80 network locations and, with the new Mercy Health - West Hospital opening in November, five hospitals.

“Mercy Health works together with the American Heart Association and sponsors the Mercy Health Heart Mini because we believe it’s the right thing to do,” says Yousuf J. Ahmad, market president and CEO of Mercy Health, “Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer and stroke is the number four killer of all Americans. Someone dies from CVD every 38 seconds, heart disease kills more women than all forms of cancer combined and congenital cardiovascular defects are the most common cause of infant death from birth defects.

“We strongly support the AHA’s mission to build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke through healthy eating and physical activity.”

Mercy also teams with the American Heart Association for the Health and Fitness Expo the day before the Heart Mini and for National Eating Healthy Day in November as well as National Walking Day in April.

For many organizations, sponsorship goes beyond writing a check. It means immersing their workforce in the Mini’s message.

“We talk to our corporate partners about taking a look at health and wellness,” Hauck says. “We need to fight that killer out there.”

Last year, 23,264 people took part in one of the races; 78 percent ran as part of a team and 53 percent walked the Mini.

“Your runners are going to run,” Hauck says. “What we try to encourage is to get the other employees engaged in it.

“There’s an event for everyone. We try to get the at-risk individuals to just walk a 5K, and a lot of that is spurred by company participation. They’re saying, ‘Hey, let’s get everyone out there moving.’”