April 27, 2022
I began running competitively when I was in 7th grade. Since then I’ve run countless races, coached youth long jump, and spent many years running just for fun. As with anything that we do for so many years, we take for granted the lessons that we learned as beginners.
Over the past several months I often leave from work to go for a training run. After a few weeks of talking to me about running, four of our preteen girls in the Center asked if they could go with me. I said yes, expecting their interest to disappear after a lap around the block.
That first day began a journey that brought surprises and lessons for all of us. That day we started out as a ragtag group with ill fitting sneakers, cotton t-shirts and jeans. We completed four laps and the girls were shocked to learn they ran a total of a mile. And that was my first lesson: We don’t need the fancy gear to be a runner. We just need to enjoy the simplicity of breathing deep and pushing our bodies a little bit harder than we think we can.
The running bug bit them and we excitedly planned for our second group run.
On our second run I noticed some limping and shuffling as the girls made their way around the block. A quick check of their shoes showed me that three pairs were much too small, and one was so large that she could not fully lift her feet when running. So, the second lesson I was reminded of is that enthusiasm and a youthful heart will carry you through a lot of tough miles in life. When things get tough, it’s easy to want to quit, but with a smile and a group of friends it’s easier to keep moving forward.
After two weeks the girls were as committed as they were on the first day. It was time to get these kids some new running shoes. We took a field trip to our local Fleet Feet running store and got everyone fitted with the right shoes. We came back to the Center, and I was asked every 15 minutes for the rest of the day, “Can we go for a run now?”
Let’s talk about our trip to Fleet Feet. The girls have the right shoes for their feet now, but the value of that trip was far greater than new shoes. For the first time they learned that running can lead to college scholarships if you work hard, and they saw evidence of a large running community that embraces everyone. I walked in the store with four children who were anxious about a new experience and reluctant to talk to the young men who helped us. As our time in the store progressed, I watched a transformation occur. I listened to a conversation between “Lisa” and Charlie, the store owner. I watched as he made eye contact with Lisa and told her with great sincerity “You DESERVE these shoes, and you deserve to have good things in your life.” And my heart was full as she stood proud, with a smile on her face. Because an adult that she doesn’t know, treated her with kindness and respect, affirming her value in the world.
The girls stood taller, laughed more, and engaged in full conversations about our shared passion, running. I was reminded that a kind word and sincere encouragement from a stranger can have a lasting impact on a child’s life. We left the store that day with so much more than new shoes and socks. We left with new friends, bigger dreams, more confidence and belief that we deserve good things in our lives.
Together this group of kids has gone from a rag-tag group of kids who love to run, into a running group that is focused and has big dreams and goals. Along the way they’ve taught me lessons of resiliency and the importance of having fun. Together we are the SPC Runners. Strong. Powerful. Confident
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