"Children are like wet cement~whatever falls on them makes an impression to stay forever"
I wasn't sure where to even begin with this post so I thought I would start with my own childhood, and relate what I am doing in the next few weeks to that. As a little girl things were never easy for me. As a matter of fact my entire childhood was downright horrific, and I spent most of it just "surviving".
I love kids. I always have. All the years my son was little(he is now almost 16!) I was drawn to help in his classroom, and I have a huge passion for helping kids that come from troubled home situations. I always wished I could do more, and some how figure out a way to really help kids in a manner more than just volunteering in a classroom. As a young girl growing up I was severely physically and mentally abused. There was never a single day-ever-in my childhood that I wasn't being yelled at, put down, or being beat to a pulp. I just never knew any different, and the only thing I ever knew was to do whatever it took to not set my step dad off on a rage, and just do my best to be as well behaved as possible. I was constantly keeping myself busy as it was my natural way of surviving. If I was away from the house, and not around no one could hurt me. As I entered middle school I quickly flourished in P.E. , and was constantly eager to out run the boys in the mile. It became a very strong obsession of mine, and by the end of sixth grade I was running as fast as most of the boys. I loved my P.E. teacher *Mrs. Kuenzal*. She was always so positive towards me, and strongly encouraged my running. One day towards the end of the year she asked if I would like to try out for the 7th & 8th grade after school run program. She explained I would be the only girl on the team, but she just knew I could do it. I would have to run a sub 7 minute mile for two miles, and then she would let me on the team. She also hoped it would encourage more girls to come out and join the small team of 12 boys. I went home that day and was afraid to tell my parents. Not that they ever cared at all what I was doing, but if there ever was anything that was positive or good in my life my step dad made sure to take it away. He worked tirelessly to make my life a living hell, and was just an awful human being. Instead I decided not to tell them, and just try out without there permission. I didn't have correct running shoes so my sister let me break open her piggy bank, and mine, and we pulled together enough money to buy a pair of low top converse. I knew I could not keep running in my worn out full of hole Keds.
The following Monday was try outs. I woke up, and was eating breakfast when my Mom came into the kitchen, and said she received a phone call from my P.E teacher requesting a signed permission slip for an after school run program I never turned it. Shit!! I had forgotten all about that. I then explained to my Mom what I was doing, and she quickly responded that running was for boys, and I would never do well at it. She looked me right in the eyes and explained all the pretty and popular girls were cheerleaders, and although I could never be like these girls it was embarrassing for her what I was doing. She told me she would not sign the permission slip. She left the house, and I sat at the table with tears streaming down my cheeks. I got myself together enough to walk to school, and when I arrived I was surprised to see my name still on the try out roster. I ran across campus to the P.E locker rooms, and there was Mrs.Kuenzal smiling at me. She explained that somehow she had gotten her hands on a signed permission slip, and it would be our secret that she had done so. Her belief in me, and love was all I needed that day. Somehow she knew what was going on at home. To this day she is one of the most influential people that has crossed my path. After school I pulled the converse outta my backpack, and lined up with 14 boys trying to make the team. A few laughed at me, but not all of them.
We took off like bandits, and I quickly tucked in behind the lead boys. I figured if I was gonna do this thing I wanted to give it my all. As we clocked off the laps I could feel my lungs starting to burn. Spit was foamed at my mouth, and even my eyelids hurt. Mrs. Kuenzal yelled that we had clocked a 6:05 for the first mile as we flew by her going into our fifth lap. Four laps down; four to go. Lap after lap we flew by her, and still I was able to keep the lead boys not to far ahead of me. My only goal was to not come in last!! I pushed and pushed, and with one lap to go I could see the joy in her face. I finished the last lap as she yelled, "12:06"!!!! I collapsed on the grass shaking and in shock at what I had just done. After a couple minutes I managed to wobble up, and walk over to the group of boys who looked as if they had not even ran. I now was part of a team, and I couldn't wait to embark on the journey of running with them!
I went on to run through High School, and it was the saving grace for the entire length of my childhood to always get me through all the awfulness. It taught me discipline, and how to be confident, and love myself. It gave me the self worth I was always told I never had, and for me running saved my life. If it wasn't for that one teacher believing in me, and brining it into my life I cannot imagine where I would be today. I was told my entire child hood such awful and horrific things about who I was that after many years I believed it. When you are a small developing helpless little girl, and someone day in and day out physically and emotionally torments you it just starts to become who you are. Running somehow made me believe different. I was good at it, and it helped me escape from it all. Before long I had survived my childhood, and I quickly left home. I have never stopped running, and even now to this day it has become my job. I never would have thought in a million years I would own and direct Trail Races. Thank you Mrs. Kuenzal-Thank you-
So when the amazing and sweet Jason Harper approached me a year and 8 months ago(yes that long ago) about being a part of an incredible life journey called "Run It Forward" I quickly felt a deep obligation to figure out how I could fit this in my life. What is "Run It Forward" you ask...Below is a quick 60 second video link to give you a small idea of what it's briefly about:
And here is the detailed version of what it's really all about...
Run If Forward (RIF) brings awareness and focus to some of the America’s most underserved schools. With great need along the most historic highway, Route 66, every step of the highway is covered by a pounding of the pavement by a runner. Each step is a stride towards a better tomorrow. The Main Street of America becomes the classroom where education and academics meets endurance athletes running it forward. Seeing that Small Town, USA is often forgotten, RIF syncs with the rhythm of what makes America great, the people. Three Soccer Moms opt to redefine the perception of ‘real housewives.’ These progressive, driven, and compassionate activists are more interested in changing the world and leaving the world better than they found it. Connected to the endurance world, they invited some well known ultrarunners into their concept of compassion. It’s morphed into a motivational plan.
**THE PLAN- Grab eight ultra runners and shove their ego and pension for painstaking distances into a constantly moving tour bus from Chicago to California. Covering a marathon a day for nearly twenty days straight, the runners leap frog in 13 mile rotating segments. Stopping along the way, the team motivates and mentors kids to maximize their education by minimizing the hurdles they’ll face.
**THE PROBLEMATIC HURDLES- Students lack access to adequate health and dental care, Students lack access to early detection and sustained emotional care towards wholeness, Students lack access to healthy and nutritional resources, replacing fitness with fatigue, & Students lack literacy and are often promoted with out reading at grade level.
**THE PATH- Eight States’ along the Route 66 path have been hit by the global recession. Run It Forward seeks to assist some of the most severely impacted schools. Traveling in a tour bus similar to a rock band, The Run It Forward Tour is where education and endurance collide. We will stop at schools and teach them about after school run programs, dental care, nutrition, and do everything in our power to motivate them to a healthy life.
So much of me is scared to death to leave my life for 18 days. To leave my son, my Jesse, my work, and all that I am comfortable with. I remind myself though that if I had thought that way two years ago I would never be where I am today. Life has to be about taking risks, leaving that comfort zone, and embracing life's amazing gifts. Someday when years have passed I can truly look back on my life and say I have lived to it's fullest potential. To be able to say I made an impact somewhere in some child's life that could alter there entire path. That to me is worth it all. That is exactly what Mrs.Kuenzal did for me, and I will always be grateful to her for that. So on Sunday I will board a flight with Jimmy Dean Freeman, and Kate Freeman to Chicago, and our journey will begin. Together along with a handful of 5 other amazing athletes and three very organized Soccer Mom's we will run across more than half of the USA all in the hopes of helping change the lives in hundreds of children. Until then I sign off on my blog, and look forward to visiting you all again in early June. Let the journey begin!!
"Children are great imitators. So give them something great to imitate."