Karen always fostered a love of running growing up, “I wasn’t very good, but always worked hard at it and loved to run. I feel absolute freedom when I run.”
As an adult, she switched to biking, but in her mid-30’s she began gaining significant weight. In order to combat this, she opted for gastric-bypass surgery.
Post-surgery she found that weight loss gave her a lot of extra energy, which inspired her to take up running again, “I downloaded the Couch-to-5K app and began training to run again. In May 2018, I started running races, mostly 5Ks. In April of this year, 150 pounds lighter from my top weight, I ran my first half-marathon.”
Running for Self-Improvement
Karen found that the positivity from running spilled into every aspect of her life. “It inspires me to follow meal portion sizes and nutrition guidelines. It clears my mind for work, and for being a better Mom.”
Seeing these physical and psychological improvements in herself, she believed running could do a lot of good for individuals experiencing homelessness in reaching self-improvement goals.
“I loved that Back on My Feet required a 30-day commitment to running before moving on to the next steps toward independence.”
Karen, a volunteer with Team Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., considers the Back on My Feet members and volunteers family. She finds herself regularly inspired by the members and the strength they’ve gained, coming from such difficult backgrounds. She recalled training with a member, running across a bridge over the Potomac, “He remarked, ‘This is the bridge where I overdosed and almost died’. I hear stunning stories like that almost every time I run with Back on My Feet members.”
Inspired to Run a Marathon
Karen was encouraged by a team lead to attempt a marathon. She was hesitant, especially considering her age and history of obesity. It was her running buddy, a 67-year-old man who overcame homelessness and has since run 16 half marathons, that made her decide to make the leap. “He shook a finger at me, ‘SIXTY-SEVEN, Karen! I’m SIXTY-SEVEN and I was a drug addict!’ That shut me up quick.”
Now, at age 56 and two years after undergoing surgery, Karen is training for the Marine Corps Marathon and fundraising for Back on My Feet. She was able to quickly hit (and now double!) her fundraising goal of $500 with the support of her friends and family,
“They know how running has changed my life. And they know how much Back on My Feet is changing lives with every run. It was an easy sell.”
Karen is an example of the amazing impact of running. We are so grateful for her and all of our volunteers who support Back on My Feet members through morning runs and fundraising efforts.