It’s 4:45am on a Monday morning and my cell phone screen lights up with the alarm. I quickly silence it, swing out of bed, and grab the running clothes I laid out the night before. I change and sneak out into the dark hoping I didn’t wake my fiancee. With my eyes barely open I navigate my way onto the nearly empty Expressway. Mental check to make sure I’m headed to the right location. As I park and make my way towards the small circle forming under a street light I can hear the rumblings of early morning chatter. Our circle grows, the conversation grows with it. We huddle together and recite the Serenity Prayer. “…. the courage to change the things I can…”. And then, we run.
This is the incredible movement that is Back on My Feet. We are a running, walking, and wellness program that works with homeless or at-risk individuals. In joining our teams participants are able to gain a sense of community, of discipline, and of self confidence. With these gains they discover the power they have to take the steps to move their lives forward, to work towards self-sufficiency and independence.
My heartstrings are forever tied to this mission because I understand the transformative power of running. I’ve experienced it myself. I know how it feels to have someone believe in you, to watch your self confidence grow from the ground up. I know what it’s like to take those itty bitty steps forward; afraid to fall but curious if you’ll fly. And to do it without judgement; or fear of rejection.
My job certainly isn’t easy. My days start early and sometimes are incredibly long. Sometimes I spend an entire afternoon sifting through boxes of running shoes, some days I sit quietly listening to the pain of someone who is struggling to stay sober in a world of temptation. Often my job is heartbreaking. But it can also be incredibly inspiring. I’ve witnessed team members who swear they’ll never run go a mile without stopping. I’ve paced guys through their first 5K; which somehow is more exciting than crossing your own first finish line. I’ve heard the pride in someone’s voice as they tell me they haven’t had a cigarette in 2 weeks, that they got the job they wanted, that today marks their first anniversary of being clean. It’s an amazing feeling to get to be a part of moments like that, to know my program has had an impact on their lives.
And so on April 20th I will be running for these individuals. Particularly for 26 individuals who have inspired me, who have challenged me in my job for the better, who have shown me how they push forward despite the challenges they face. On marathon day I will think of each of them, mile by mile, as I push myself towards Boylston Street. If they can do it, so can I.
*housekeeping note – I am headed off on my honeymoon so there will be no blog post for the next two weeks. Catch you all up before Thanksgiving :)