Running is hard. It’s true. Whether you’ve been doing it for 20 years or 20 days there will always be a challenge to running. And that’s okay. Because in running, in pushing farther–in reaching for a seemingly impossible goal–milestones are achieved. And in these accomplishments we find transformation.
We all have those days. You know, Those Days. Where your mind, your body, your heart experience so many things between sunrise and sunset that by moonrise it feels like three days have passed. Yet, you’re not exhausted, but invigorated. Tired/not tired. Because something meaningful is happening. Something bigger than you, than the people around you, than the city you call home. Change. Challenge. Achievement. Failure. Triumph. Growth. Milestones.
Welcome to my first three months as a staff member at Students Run Philly Style. And my tomorrow. Yet, it is worth it. We change lives. We practice love. We run (a lot). We show youth and adults that taking the first step, running the first mile, is worth the risk. That running one mile, then two miles, then three, then ten, then twenty-six-point-two IS possible. Along the way there are milestones to meet, moments to celebrate, opportunities to reflect, and a new perspective gained.
As Community Partnerships and Special Projects Manager (the longest, yet coolest, job title I’ve ever had) I have the pleasure of sharing our story with the intent to gain financial support to multiple audiences. But it’s not just me who does this. It’s our Family: my passionate colleagues, our stalwart board and committee members, our dedicated volunteer running leaders, our faithful families and friends, and (most importantly) our courageous students. Our Community.
Prior to joining the Students Run Philly Style staff I spent two-and-a-half years as a volunteer Running Leader. I learned about the program while running my first road race ever: the 2009 Broad Street Run (just a little 10-mile jaunt…) I saw two young men sprinting then walking, then sprinting again. We were at mile 7. Though I was an inexperienced runner, I knew that that was not a good strategy to cover the last 3 miles. So, I asked them if they wanted to run with me (nice and slow). They did, for about a mile. We didn’t talk. We just moved along. An adult wearing the same blue shirt came upon us and took over the run with the two boys. I carried on with my shuffle to the Navy Yard to accomplish a major milestone: my first road race.
But the experience with the young men stuck with me. So, in February 2012 I became a Running Leader with Students Run Philly Style. My life was changed the day I nervously set foot on that school yard. I met other adults who believed in the possibility for great things in youth. I met young people who were curious, courageous, and hungry for challenge (whether they knew it or not). I learned that with commitment, hard work and encouragement physical fitness and achievement are possible in anyone. And I found a community that I’d sought for many years. We covered miles and miles and miles that year. Passed milestone after milestone. Together.
Soon I saw the change in my extended community of family, friends and colleagues. People signed up for road races of all distances. They wrote checks to support Students Run when I asked. They allowed me to adapt my work schedule to our practice and race schedule. They asked me for advice on how to start running. They listened to my stories about the cool things our students said/did/asked/accomplished. More people: more milestones accomplished. Together.
As a staff member at Students Run I have the opportunity to gain a better perspective on how we got here, our 10th season. How the simple pairing of caring adults with Philadelphia youth is more than my personal experience, but the dedication of a multitude of people. That to serve me, my students, my family, my friends, my city it takes a village. And we need this village to keep moving forward to the next milestone.
Before we move forward, we’re taking a moment to celebrate. This year we, Students Run Philly Style, will complete our 10th season. Our 10th year building and serving our community. Our Village. With Our City. I’m so proud of what our students and volunteers accomplish. It couldn’t have happened without the support of those behind the scenes (families, local businesses, local races, and more). As I cross my latest milestone, a new role with an organization I love, I am glad for the time to celebrate with our Family.
To mark this milestone we’re throwing a party to honor 10 integral supporters: from our first funders to our first marathoners to our first volunteers and more. On November 13th we’re holding our Extra Mile Celebration at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It’s a celebration of those who provided more than just support—it’s ten years of running by our side–marking the milestones with us. We want you to join us. Celebrate. And move forward to the next milestone. Because Every Milestone Matters.