Can I tell you about the awesome running experience I had this morning?
I met up with Back on My Feet Baltimore, a group that aims to get homeless people back on their feet by getting them into a structured running program, at 5:30 a.m. in Baltimore. This meant leaving my apartment in Washington at 4:45 a.m. I am googly-eyed with exhaustion as I write this.
As soon as I saw the group of runners gathered in a nondescript parking lot outside the MCVET homeless shelter, their bright running clothes a beacon in the gray pre-dawn darkness, I knew I was about to experience something special.
I’m writing a story about this group for Urbanite magazine, so I don’t want to give too much away here. But I will provide a quick sneak preview.
The group starts by circling up, performing a series of stretches and warm-up exercises in unison. It’s a fitting start, as this group does everything together. At Back on My Feet, nobody, no matter what pace, gets left behind to run alone.
Today, I spent most of my time with the most outgoing guys in the group, Arnold Shipman (goes by “Awesome Arnold”), a former high-school cross-country and track athlete from Baltimore, and Micheal (correct spelling) Roger Tate, a former high school and college track star from California. Neither of them had run for about 20 years before starting with Back on My Feet.
We ran 3.5 miles at maybe a 9-minute mile pace, but the easy banter among team members made it feel like much less. Shipman greets every passerby with an exuberant “Hi! How ya doing?” Ask him how it feels to get back into running, and he’ll offer this response: “Faan-tastic!”
The group runs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. “It makes my whole day good,” Shipman says. The days without running are long, he says. The days with running have purpose.
This struck me as being so similar to something I’d write in this blog, or that I’d say about my own running group. It’s amazing to see how our basic human emotions are so much the same, even as our life circumstances can be so different.
Keep checking here for updates about my runs with this awesome group.
In other running news, I have officially fallen in love with Sligo Creek Parkway Trail. My Pacers Silver Spring Fun Run group ran a fast, flat route along the trail last night, and I’m truly still in a good mood today, despite still wiping sleep from my eyes at noon. For details on that route and a few others that take advantage of today’s warm, sunny weather, check out my DC Running Examiner post from earlier today.
4 responses to “Running with Back on My Feet Baltimore”
I read about this organization in Runner’s World a couple of months ago. It seems like an amazing organization. So did you learn anything from the homeless people you were running with?
Two really wonderful insights from Awesome Arnold:
1. Lots of members, volunteers and homeless alike, complained jovially about the hilly route we ran yesterday. Arnold says it’s his favorite. The routes around the Inner Harbor are pretty, he says, and it’s certainly fun to go fast. The hills, on the other hand, test him. He’s not looking for an ego boost – he’s looking for a challenge. Nice reminder to tackle races and routes that scare us a little, to find out what we’re made of.
2. His trick for tackling those hills: “I used to pretend a semi-truck was chasing me,” he says. I’ll certainly be thinking about Awesome Arnold — and an angry semi-truck driver — next time I’m struggling on a hill!
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