You probably won’t find a marathon winner or star sprinter among this bunch.
What you will find among this group of runners, however, is willpower and perhaps a welcome addiction.
After personally experiencing the effects and consequences of her father’s gambling addiction, Anne Mahlum found that one of the most tragic effects of addiction is often homelessness.
Determined to channel an addict’s “downward spiral” into a positive obsession, Anne founded Back on My Feet in 2007 to “promote the self-sufficiency of homeless populations by engaging them in running as a means to build confidence, strength and self-esteem.”
Building a community network of personal support and help is the core of Back on My Feet’s operations. While she was familiar with numerous programs for the homeless population in “education, housing, or even job[s],” Anne found a lack of personal support available to one of the most vulnerable populations in Philadelphia.
And so, “Back on My Feet now serves the role of not only connecting our members with those education, housing and job programs, but also helping our members develop that personal support.”
Three mornings a week, volunteers wake in the pre-dawn hours to run with groups of individuals struggling with homelessness. Participants in these group runs now have a network of individuals they can rely on and the discipline to propel them towards their goal of getting “back on their feet.”
“Fellowship, teamwork, friends—that is where it all starts.”
And it shows no sign of ending any time soon.
Back on My Feet is on the verge of major expansion. They are ready to spread their running addiction to Philadelphia’s neighboring major cities. With branches already in Baltimore and Washington D.C., programs are being launched in Boston and Chicago. And by 2011, Back on My Feet hopes to be in 10 major cities in the U.S.
With the help of Back on My Feet, 19 previously homeless individuals completed a marathon— but more importantly, over 1,000 individuals have been impacted through Back on My Feet’s running. Participants rely on team support to help them through the physical as well as mental training. The skills they learn from the early morning runs with Back on My Feet are paving the road to rejuvenate their lives.
With incentives ranging from free sneakers to finding a job, Back on My Feet has the infrastructure and programming to rebuild the lives of homeless individuals.
Run as an addict or Run as an addiction?
Thanks Anne, for the virtual run with Back on My Feet!
Please visit backonmyfeet.org for more information.
(Back on My Feet is dedicated to helping the homeless get back on their feet through the discipline and personal support of running.)