Running becomes a Form of Healing

on Monday, 16 September 2013.

Running becomes a Form of Healing

We’ve all heard the phrase; life is a marathon, not a sprint. For the homeless veterans that participate in the St. Joe’s Street to 5k Walk/Run program, that phrase has taken on new meaning over the last few months. This past June, the St. Joseph’s Home for Veterans (St. Joe’s) launched a running program in partnership with a coaching group, Revolution Running, to connect veterans with a health and wellness conscious community. The veterans who have committed themselves to the program have made real and lasting changes in their lives.

Every Thursday evening and Sunday morning, coaches and mentors throughout the Denver and Boulder metro areas partner with the veterans for a fitness session to educate them on nutrition, racing strategies and the importance of proper stretching and conditioning techniques. Each veteran receives a personal training program based on his personal goals, current fitness level and  a new pair of running shoes.

As the weeks of training and racing pass, many meaningful relationships have developed between the veterans and their coaches. One of the devoted mentors, Susan, who has been involved with the running program from the very beginning, shares memories of when she experienced first-hand the difference a program like this can have.

Susan worked side by side with one of our veterans, John, who struggles with severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Susan noticed John enjoyed the running aspect of the races but always made a quick exit afterward without partaking in the post-race events. She eventually discovered that the crowds made him too anxious. 

After the smaller race in which John beat Susan to the finish line, she invited him to sit with her and a couple she just met. She introduced John as a friend and teammate and watched in amazement as he sat causally chatting and laughing about their common interest− running. For those 30 minutes, John stopped being a homeless veteran haunted by PTSD. He became a runner, part of a team and community, just like everyone else.

Through muscle cramps, twinges, untied shoelaces and messy water stops, the veterans at St. Joes have been welcomed with open arms into the greater running community. They have found a way to reconnect, not as homeless vets battling addictions, mental and physical challenges and PTSD, but as a part of a compassionate and active world. Stride by stride, with the help of the running mentors, our veterans are taking on their personal challenges and putting them to the pavement.

If you would like to support this transformative veterans’ project, St. Joseph’s welcomes any and all donations of running clothes, shoes, nutrition goodies and race entry materials. For donation information or if you know of a local race that you would like to invite our veterans to participate in, please contact St. Joseph’s Home for Veterans at 303-292-2591. 

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