I can’t imagine a time in my life where I’m not running. It’s always been one of those things that was a huge part of my life. When I found Back on My Feet, I started thinking about the things that impacted my life so I searched, “running and service,” “running and mission,” all sorts of things. I had no idea what I was going to find and then I stumbled upon the video on the homepage of Back on My Feet. As soon as I watched it, I couldn’t believe a place like this actually existed. Something that made a big difference in my life had been created to make a difference in other people’s lives. Perusing the website, I found a chapter in Atlanta and an orientation the next day. In my mind, I was thinking, “I will be able to share with other people how running has changed my mindset and made me healthier.”
I quickly realized after the first run that while running is important: the community, relationships and time spent together is the root of what Back on My Feet creates. There is something about coming out and having the ability to completely be yourself, meeting people from all different experiences, just having a chance to talk and joke around.
As much as I thought I would possibly impact someone else, I feel like it has impacted me more. I hate missing a run. When I do, I feel as though I am missing something and when I run with Back on My Feet I run with purpose. There’s something about seeing the city in a different light and up close: a familiarity of being downtown while being part of an important and special community.
After I had been running for a little bit, my son (who is a teenager) asked me, “What’s it like? What do you go do?” The next morning, he was up early and ready to join me. Reflecting on his participation and watching him grow, he shows up because he has created a community where he can be himself completely. Finding mentors and a place to be free, it’s a situation where he realizes he gets to be authentically himself and relate to a bunch of “big brothers.”
Before each run, everyone circles up taking time to look each other in the face, hug and welcome one another. I was never really a person that would go out and hug people, so this experience continues to help me break down walls and be less reserved. I came to the realization running was not only an interaction but relationship building. I look forward to greeting someone new, discovering where they are in their running journey and coaching them through their endurance building. I’m excited and inspired when a person who has never run gets through the first mile and then the second. Seeing them win their first race and the whole immersive experience of them winning and passing the finish is a privilege.
I am present in that space when I run with the community that Back on My Feet has built. When I miss a day or I am not feeling the greatest, the others support and coach me until I am back at it. I continue to get more out of the running than I give.
This story was told by Heather Turton during an interview with Gather Good. Heather is a volunteer with Back on My Feet, a nonprofit helping homeless individuals navigate a new life path through running. Do you have a passion for running like Heather? Click here to learn how you can get involved. You can also find out more about BOMF Atlanta’s mission here.
Back on My Feet is a national nonprofit operating in 12 cities coast-to-coast.