One reason I am so passionate about women’s running is that I believe you have to break the body down just a bit to let powerful emotions rise up. Crack the porcelain shell and the yolk center will seep out. Sure, I love feeling hardcore and staying in shape – but honestly I could get that from kickboxing. The reason I choose running is to feel alive. Raw, emotional, hurt, and happy – alive. And when you start turning up the oven to temps of 10, 18, 30, 50 miles – whatever your ‘baking point’ may be – eventually the ooey-gooey center will melt out.
I find this rich core is often missing in day-to-day life. At least in my age bracket, when you meet your girlfriends for happy hour, you compare houses, jobs, kids, husbands. But there is a hesitance to dig deep and address what’s really going on behind the curtain. However, if you take those same girlfriends out on the trail, it’s hard to stay superficial for long. Recently I went for a run with a girlfriend of mine that quickly turned into a sobbing walk. We were supposed to be training for her first 1/2, but we ended up balling over her mother-in-law and an upcoming family gathering she was white knuckled about. It was a real connection, brokered by movement, that almost certainly would not have happened sitting at Starbucks.
And yet, this journey of exploring our inner selves is a luxury for those whose immediate needs have already been met. I have a roof, food, and clothes – and so I have the free time to analyze my emotional well being.
A few months ago, Andy Orizotti, of Second Step Housing in Vancouver, WA reached out to me about being a part of their Run Like A Girl 5k fundraiser. Second Step is a 15 year old non profit that serves the needs of homeless women and children as they transition back to self sufficiency. Here are a few points about their organization:
- Average age woman is 26
- 54% are fleeing domestic violence
- 93% are in recovery for substance abuse
- More than 82% of graduates achieve self-sufficiency and are now living in permanent housing.
- Families are reunited. 23 mothers reunited with 39 children.
- Not one Second Step graduate has re-entered the welfare shelter system.
- When they started in 1996—they had 1 house and served 3 women. And today—they have 11 houses, 37 permanent units, & serve over 400 individuals yearly.
In addition to all this change, Andy let me know that some of the women in the program had chosen to sign up for the 5k training clinics and were finding it incredibly empowering. As she emailed me:
“for most of these women, this is the first time in their entire life that they have invested in their own health or set a goal such as a 5K…”
Moms all over the U.S. are lacing up for 5k’s and 1/2 marathons. And that training will bring on low moments and internal struggles that force you to ask what hurts and why – beyond just your quad pain. But now, add the demons of addiction, losing your children, or being physically abused.
How do you even take the first step? I really don’t know…but I know that your shell would be cracked pretty quickly and more than a few tears would hit the pavement along the way to transformation, success, and eventually putting Humpty Dumpty back together again.
I am in awe of these ladies who take that first step, organizations like Second Step which provide their support, and mentors like Andy Orizotti who (busy with her own husband, three children, and active life) make the time to show up in the evenings, build their trust, and lead the journey.
It was an honor to find out about Second Step and be involved in some small way. We were able to attend the race and also take a ton of RPF gear to the women as a donation. After all – finding our true inner self while forging real connections with others AND getting our bodies in shape is the real reason we run and the core concept of Run Pretty Far.