Runners Give Back

I had the honor of attending The Running Event, a gathering of retailers, vendors and influencers in the specialty running industry.  The group, a perfect blend of entrepreneurs and sub-six-minute milers, weren’t short on energy or passion.  At the Hall of Fame dinner, the attendees were regaled with stories of running’s past.  Each presenter and honoree remembered with great affection the early days of running and heralded the community’s greatest trait – its ethos of acceptance and inclusivity.

This ethos is undeniable and it permeates the majority of the running community.  However, it is one that is challenged as much today as it was decades ago.  We ask, “Should there be a time limit on marathons?”  And, “Is it fair for a race for which you have legitimately qualified to sell out?”

Yet while the community debates these  important issues that threaten its core ethos, many members of the community work daily to broaden the reach of running and, in doing so, change lives.

Below are three organizations that do just that.  They challenge the running community to reach even farther, to populations that, like many of us, never dreamed that they too could be runners – to populations that had lost their dreams entirely.

Back on My Feet

In Their Words

BOMF is a nonprofit organization that promotes the self-sufficiency of homeless populations by engaging them in running as a means to build confidence, strength and self-esteem.

We do not provide food or shelter, but instead provide a community that embraces equality, respect, discipline, teamwork and leadership. Our organization consists of much more than just running: our members participate in a comprehensive program that offers connections to job training, employment and housing. Those benefits are earned by maintaining 90 percent attendance at the morning runs three days a week for our six to nine month program.

In Our Words

With its recent expansion into Chicago and Dallas, Back on My Feet now hosts programs in six cities across the United States and plans to continue expanding through 2011.  The growth is evidence of the power of running.  Simply put, founder Anne Mahlum proves that one woman and several pairs of shoes can change the world.

Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF)

In Their Words

CAF grew out of a desire to assist one athlete – trailblazing below-knee-amputee endurance racer Jim MacLaren – who suffered a devastating second accident while competing in a triathlon. Hit by a car during the bike leg, Jim was paralyzed from the neck down. His many friends quickly decided to raise funds for his recovery, and organized the first San Diego Triathlon Challenge (SDTC) – an annual fundraising triathlon event at La Jolla Cove. From this modest beginning arose a more important mission – to make sure that people with physical challenges have the same freedom to enjoy sports that the rest of us take for granted.

In Our Words

CAF spends countless hours finding the funding and support to provide adaptive sports equipment for athletes.  Unfortunately, their work is far from done.  There are twenty-one million people in the U.S. living with a disability – not to mention the many million others around the globe.  CAF challenges these individuals to dream beyond their bodies’ capabilities and supports theme with the equipment necessary to do so.  Their work pushes the limits of the human body and the human heart.

Marathon Kids

In Their Words

Marathon Kids learn to live an active and healthy lifestyle by running or walking 26.2 miles over six months, eating healthy food daily, and even learning to grow fruits and veggies!  The program is provided free to public and private elementary schools, as well as homeschools, or independent families. Physical educators, classroom teachers, and parents can incorporate Marathon Kids into their curriculum, after school programs, and at home with their families.

In Our Words

I challenge you to spend more than four minutes on the Marathon Kids website without turning into a puddle of goo.  These kids are so adorable, so excited and so stinking happy to run that seeing their celebratory photos will reignite a passion for running in even the most burnt out of athletes.  Marathon Kids are pounding the pavement in nine different locations across the U.S. and they need you to volunteer.  Their website asks, “Why volunteer with Marathon Kids?”  We ask, “Why not?”


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