One morning last spring, I woke up at 4:30 a.m., aiming to be on the road to head to Baltimore no later than 4:45 a.m.
It was my first meeting 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, for the group’s 5:30 a.m. run. It’s a trip I’d make several more times over the next several months as I followed the group from its initial 1- to 3-mile runs to training runs for the Baltimore Marathon in October for a story for Baltimore’s Urbanite Magazine. The story, Running for Their Lives, appears in this month’s issue. Take a few minutes to read it if you can; hopefully, you’ll be as inspired by Arnold and the rest of the Back on My Feet runners as I was.
The amazing runners I’ve gotten to meet in the course of reporting this story have inspired me not only in my own running, but in my own life. With the story published, I wanted to reflect on a few of those lessons:
Love the hills. I met Arnold at a time when I was looking for a flat, fast course for my second marathon. Then, Arnold told me the hills are his favorite because they test him. Wow. I, too, run to see what I’m made of, not for a warm, fuzzy ego boost — this was a nice reminder to embrace challenges, recognizing that they make us stronger.
Let the challenges you overcome on the race course boost your confidence in the rest of your life. BOMF founder Anne Mahlum gave me the chills when summed it up this way: “Training for a marathon speaks to the heart of our program,” Mahlum says. “If you’re willing to put in that kind of work, you can go back to school. You can get a better job. It’s a great metaphor for what we’re capable of doing in life.”
Adjust on the fly. I ran about 13 miles of the Baltimore Marathon with Arnold (read my post about it here), and was stunned to see how quickly he adjusted his goals when his original goal time slipped away. He simply kept telling himself he was going to finish, and he did. You better believe I kept that in mind when my own Marine Corps Marathon dream failed to materialize.
Don’t give up on yourself. I didn’t get to write about Micheal Tate, the group’s exuberant, personable jokester, as much as I would have liked thanks to space constraints. But one lesson I learned from him is to trust your goals, and to recognize that you can be your own worst enemy. Tate, who ran a half-marathon in October, told me that halfway through his eleventh mile, he got the urge to stop. He walked for about 10 steps, then remembered: This is that thing he does, quitting to have an excuse for not being successful.
“I just told myself, ‘If you quit this, you’ll quit everything else you do,’” Tate says.
He crossed the finish line in 2:18, 10:30-minute miles.
The group is now working to establish a program in Washington, D.C. Visit its Web site for more information.