June 1st, 2012 at 1:59p was a monumental moment in my life as I ran onto the Santa Monica pier. It marked the completion of an arduous and uplifting 18-day journey called Run It Forward. This project was unlike anything I had previously done and I was honored to be part of it.
Run It Forward is a nonprofit that brings awareness and focus for healthy living in schools that leads to great education in towns and cities along Route 66. Run It Forward (RIF) educates on fitness, nutrition, and the value of health and dental care. RIF consisted of three ‘soccer moms’, eight ultrarunners, vital crew members including two physical therapists, a talented videographer and a rockstar tour bus covering every step of the 2,400+ miles. I was invited to be one of the runners!
Starting in Chicago, traveling through eight states each runner completed about a marathon distance (26.2 miles) a day for 18 days. Along the way we stopped at selected underserved schools to host an empowerment expo on each campus. The motivational speakers literally brought me to tears they we’re so good. Each expo rallied the students and their families to take advantage of accessible health care in each state. A dental exam was provided and referral to a local dentist for much needed acute care. A fun run finished out the event and a bag of groceries was sent home with each child.
Prior to leaving on this trip I was, well, slightly terrified and was concerned I wouldn’t be able to handle running that kind of mileage every day. I definitely had some tough runs along the way. Running into 40-mph head winds on the highway in New Mexico with wild fire smoke filled air, waking up in the middle of the night to cruise through winding back wood roads of Oklahoma, fighting the elevation towards Flagstaff and running through the rougher parts of cities all along Route 66.
The opportunity to make a difference for children at the schools we stopped at made the pain of all those miles disappear. Being able to inspire a group of kids of all ages who didn’t think they could run in Missouri to get out there and walk with us, to be able to ask them about their dreams and goals in life and encourage them to go for it was worth every step. Telling a little girl in the most underserved school we saw along the entire route in Oklahoma that she was a rockstar and hear her say “I’m a rockstar” back to me at the end of her run was incredible.
It was interesting that the running became the easy part of the project. The constant travel, living out of a bag, the crazy schedule, being in a new place every night, the elements, eating on the fly at odd hours and just being surrounded by up to 18 different people on a bus through different emotions were the challenges. But the highs far surpassed any lows, and don’t get me wrong, running from Chicago to Santa Monica relay style was hard!
I learned that I am even tougher than I thought, sleep and accessible fresh food is a luxury, when you focus on completing a huge goal living outside of your comfort zone is constantly necessary and that just one person can make a tremendous difference, let alone a bus full of selfless inspiring friends who became family.
I saw how much health and fitness positively impacts life from a young age, when you feel good everything in life is enhanced. You don’t have to lace up your shoes and go pound out a marathon on the pavement tomorrow. Wherever you are at in your fitness today is your starting block, make a commitment to yourself to build each day to create a better tomorrow, do what moves you and live life outside of your comfort zone often.
Yours in Health,