Three times since April, I have joined my fellow track club members at a local women’s correctional facility to help with their running club. We have run two 5Ks and an intervals session.
After my third visit since April, I had some takeaways to share:
1) Although I am usually pro-volunteer, in this environment, it is preferable to run with the women than to be on the sidelines. When we did intervals in July, I did not run because I had a 10-mile run planned later. Although I think the women would have preferred me to be out there running with them, my position as cheerleader led to great conversations about my long-term training plan. When I mentioned the half-marathon I was training for, I could see a few “maybe I could do that” gleams in some eyes.
2) Races encourage everyone, not just the runners. When we do a 5K, we make a very small loop around the athletic field, which is usually the only area where the women can run. After that, we run four loops through the entire facility. As we run past other women doing jobs, as well as the women staffing the water station, there is an air of togetherness and I am sure I see a few more “maybe I can do that” gleams in eyes of women who aren’t running that day.
3) Fresh fruit can be more than nutrition. The women seldom get fresh fruit, so we pooled our money and brought red delicious apples and fresh oranges. One woman said she had not had an apple in six years. One apple every six years can’t make a huge nutritional impact, but it can feed the spirit.
One of my fellow club members said, “It’s impossible to explain to people who have not come and run here what it’s like.” I agree. Something about the look in the eye of a woman who has just run her first 5K, savoring the rare treat of fresh fruit, sets something free in both of us.
Who in your community could you run with that would bring you new perspective? Some people are behind real bars, others behind less tangible “bars.” What barriers exist in your life that running can help you surpass?
Paula Kiger has been running on and off since she ran cross country in high school. Thirty years after high school ended, she is in full “ON” mode and trying to work her way up from the back of the pack to the middle. Paula blogs at biggreenpen.com. You can also find her on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and dailymile.