Running to Give Back

With Spring right around the corner, there are so many races popping up on my calendar! While trying to decide which ones to add to my list this racing season, it really got me thinking about what got me running back in 2013. I think there are 3 main reasons: fitness, friends, and giving back. Races aren’t all about setting new PRs or placing in your age group. Sometimes, they’re about the cause you support. Here’s a few of the highlights along my running journey so far, how they’ve inspired me, and how I have been able to give back. 

Rachael Horton Compassionate Care Fund

10659270_852199684798815_9109851952184769553_nMy senior year of high school, a close friend/coworker of my boyfriend’s (now husband) tragically passed away in a house fire. Shortly after, the Rachael Horton Compassionate Care Fund was set up in her memory. In order to raise money for the fund, they began doing an annual 5K/10K race. The first race was in 2011. This was long before I was a runner, and for some reason I couldn’t make it to the inaugural event.

However, the 2012 race is the one that probably changed my life. I was not a runner. At the time, I still hated running. But, the cause was near to my heart, so I walked the race with my mother-in-law (and their Basset Hound). However, something clicked at that race, and I decided that in 2013 I would run it.

Had the race survived, I would still be running it every year. Unfortunately, the Fund had to stop after several years, and the last race was run in 2014. That one was special, though, because I got to run the 5K that year with my dog child, and we got the second place dog trophy!

Point of Honor 5K

After that 5K I walked in 2012, I made a 2013 New Year’s Resolution to run a 5K every month in 2013. We have enough races in my area that this would be entirely possible. January led me to the Arctic 5K, which was the hardest thing I had ever done. It took me 555885_587793881239398_967731769_nalmost 40 minutes, it was below freezing when I finished, I was sore for 2 days. (Disclaimer: It was not an easy course at all, being on a trail with almost a constant uphill climb. But I was new and had no clue what I was doing.) I had no clue why people did these things, or how I was going to survive 12 of them

February brought the Liberty Mountain 5K. This course was better, and I was only sore for 1 day this time. However, it was still cold, the race was still small, and I still didn’t know what I was doing. March’s 5K was even better (another one that no longer exists).

However, it was that April that I truly fell in love with running and racing thanks to the Point of Honor 5K. The race benefits organ donation, something I am passionate about. I registered as a donor myself the day I got my license. I remember lining up for the race on Jefferson Street in Downtown Lynchburg and hearing from the race director. He told the story of why he puts on the race, his daughter became an organ donor when she wasn’t much younger than I was at the time. It was my first encounter with a race director that was truly passionate about their cause. That, plus the during and post-race experience truly changed my outlook on racing. I didn’t know anyone in the Lynchburg running community yet, but at the after race party, I sure felt like I belonged with them.

Running as a SoleMate

12049375_1066065583412223_4601278881362366528_nNow, we fast forward really far to the Marine Corps Marathon 2015. This was my second marathon, and I decided I wanted to do this one for something other than myself, which is why I signed up to be a Girls on the Run SoleMate. I set a goal of raising the $262 dollars needed to provide scholarships to local girls who want to participate in the program, but can’t. I desperately wanted to be a coach, but my schedule wouldn’t allow it, so I felt that I had to do something.

The great part about having so many running friends is that they are willing to help out a running cause. I was able to raise the money I needed rather quickly, and actually surpass the goal. I wore the shirt they gave me for the race, and whenever I needed a little push forward, I thought about those girls who would be using my scholarship money and trudged on. This year (2017), I still can’t be a coach due to scheduling conflicts, but I am volunteering to be a running buddy in their Spring 5K to help the girls get to the finish line.

Color Guard for the VA Ten Miler

The last cause that has shaped my running career is our local Color Guard. In 2016 I ran with them for the 43rd Annual Virginia Ten Miler. The unit was started shortly after 9/11, and runs every year with flags to represent and honor the military. In 2015, I had heard 14463032_10211019447390702_6053423722282892843_nthat several of the flags weren’t carried because they didn’t have enough people. I have the utmost respect for our military, and sometimes regret not joining myself, and couldn’t
let that happen again. I eagerly volunteered, and wound up carrying the “All Gave Some, Some Gave All” flag for the whole race. Running with the Color Guard made my favorite race that much better, and made me proud to be an American. I’ve already let them know I want to run it with them again, and am counting down the days until that last Saturday in September. In the meantime, I hope to be able to run with them at a local Armed Forces Day race.

So this brings the question, why do I love races that give back? Maybe it’s due to the fact I’m a millennial. We prefer companies that give back, and will often pay more for products that do. It only makes sense that we would choose races or opportunities that do. Maybe it’s a runner thing. Runners and charities are a match made in heaven, which explains the hundreds of thousands of charity races put on each year.

Or maybe, it’s a human thing. This sport has given me so much: some of the best friendships I have ever had, the ability to travel, constant inspiration, and a healthy lifestyle- I believe it’s only natural to want to give back all I can to it.

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