Why the Skid Row Running Club works

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Why the Skid Row Running Club works

We are a community, a family.  We show up for each other and we genuinely care.  In the Skid Row Running Club income, status, social standing and occupation are irrelevant.  There is an atmosphere of non-judgment.

Many people in society feel constantly judged, as if they aren't good enough.  People in addiction recovery and experiencing homelessness especially feel this way.  Marginalized.

Feeling like you are not good enough and not worth of acceptance is very debilitating.  It makes it hard for you to become motivated to do anything postive.

In the Skid Row Running Club, lawyers, judges, LAPD Officers, executives, students, recovering addicts and the homeless run side by side.   Everyone that is out before the crack of dawn and pushing themselves physically is a person with admirable, redeeming qualities.  When that person learns to get up, show up and run again and again, they learn something about themselves.  In fact, we all do.

They learn that the are good enough, they learn that they are accepted for who they are and more importantly they learn the grit and resilience necessary to succeed in their lives as a result of running.  

Not everyone in recovery or experiencing homelessness is successful the first time, in fact it often takes several attempts.  Running is like that as well, but you learn to bounce back.   We members who have left our program, have left because of relapse or some other personal problem, they come back.  They come back because the know they are welcome and won't be judged.

That's why the Skid Row Running Club works.

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The community impact of running

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The community impact of running

Six years ago when Judge Mitchell first started the Skid Row Running Club, he just wanted to share his love of running with others, particularly thos in at risk communities.  He had no idea the LA Times, would write an article about it.  He didn't know he would get approached about making a documentary and becoming a star in Skid Row Marathon.  That was never his intention.

At the Skid Row Running Club, we believe in the saying that "if you give, you will be given to."  As the story of the Skid Row Running Club has been embraced internationally, audiences have begun to appreciate the impact of small acts of kindness.

Many people have reached out to us about starting their own running programs from the US, Canada and the UK.  It's very encouraging to see members of the running community reaching out and finding a way to give back through running.  Some many basic things emanate from this simple activity.

However, individuals using running to give back is not new, in fact even before the Skid Row Running Club, there have been lots of organizations using running to help communities:  Up and Running Again, Running Works, Back on My Feet to name a few.  

Now there is a new generation of running clubs giving back to the community:  Mosaic Running Club, the Running Charity.

All these organizations are proof that small acts indeed make a big difference.  If you are a runner and want to share your passion for running to others, consider joining one of these organziations or even starting your own.

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The Western Wall

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The Western Wall

or Wailing Wall is considered the holiest site where people of the Jewish people are allowed to pray.  The wall is considered holy because of its connection to the Temple Mount.

Every year millions of Jews come to the Western Wall to pray.

Although members of the Skid Row Running Club represent all faiths, visiting the Western Wall was generally considered to be the best experience we had during our trip to Israel.

That's what we do:  Every 18 months or so, we take members who have stayed sober and run with us consistently on an international trip of a lifetime.  For most of our club members, they have never been out of the country, much less on an airplane.

Getting out of your bubble has a magical way of dispelling any stereotypes or notions you have about other counties or other cultures.  You realize that the world doesn't revolve around you and you have a responsibility as a member of the international community.  

We use running to change lives and international trips to expand them.

 

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Introducing "Skids" our (un)official mascot

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Introducing "Skids" our (un)official mascot

We run around Hollenbeck Park in East Los Angeles during our morning runs.  There are a lot of ducks and geese that live there as well.  During the springtime, as you would expect, there are always baby birds that are hatched and can been seen following their parents walking and wadding in the lake.

When we arrive at the lake, we wait for several minutes for the rest of the runners to catch up, those usually slowed down because of changing traffic signals.

One occasion while we were discussing the weeks upcoming activities, a little baby duckling got really close to our group.  Someone had to point the duckling out to me so I wouldn't squash it.  We continued our talk and the duckling climbed on the shoe of Cass, one of our long time runners and ardent supporter.  It keep chirping loudly.  It didn't want to leave.  It was covered in mud as it had rained the day before.  There were no other ducks around and it was clear this duckling was lost.

Rather than leave it there to die, I decided to pick it up and put it into my running cap and with the help of Tony, we decided to take it to a bird rescue.  From the time I first saw the duckling until I put it into my hat, it kept chirping.  When I started running with the duckling in my hat, it stopped chirping.  Has this bird run before?  It seemed to really enjoy bobbing up in down in my hat as I was running.  If I stopped for a traffic light, it would start chirping again.  Clearly this was a running duck!

Long story short, we found the duckling a good bird rescue and learned that it's taken to looking over the newly rescued birds, irrespective of their species.

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Review of the Brooks Revel running shoe

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Review of the Brooks Revel running shoe

Several weeks ago, Armand at Run with Us in Pasadena,  brought running shoes for members of the club. 

I was gifted a pair of the Brooks Revel running shoe.  Because I am a toe runner, I usually prefer to have a high heel to toe ratio in my running shoes since my heels don't completely hit the ground.  However, I have quite enjoyed running in the Brooks Revel so far.  There is cushioning in all the right places and ample support.  I am a neutral runner by the way.  The shoes feel light and it's suprisingly responsive.  However, I don't know if there is enough support and cushioning to last me on a longer distance, for example 13.1 miles or 26.2 miles.  For know, though, I am happy to run in these shoes for our weekday morning runs along Skid Row.

What's also nice about the Brooks Revel is that it is actually a shoe that I would wear when I am not running.  Since a lot of running shoes are somewhat built up in terms of support, they tend to look like loaves of bread on your feet, and seem to stand out when you are wearing long pants.  Not so with these shoes.  I have been very comfortable wearing those shoes with my chinos, because the bulk of the shoe doesn't bunch up the bottom of my pants.

All in all I would say this is one of the better all-around use shoes I have come across recently. 

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Strength shows not only in the ability to persist, but...

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Strength shows not only in the ability to persist, but...

in the ability to start over. 

I am frequently asked what the 'success' rate of your running club is.  First, I think the word 'success' is difficult to define in terms of addiction recovery and homelessness.  Second, our club is not a treatment provider nor do we explicitly provide social services.

Having said that, the 'success' rate of the Skid Row Running Club appears to be substantially higher than for the recovery community at large.  I say this because many of our members have maintained their sobriety for long periods of time, for the first time in their life.  That have found the self confidence to seize the narrative of their lives.  Is it solely because of the running club?  Of course not. 

The best success stories always work in conjunction with other groups, or communities if you will.  We are but one such community, but we are a strong one.   With AA and our running club, people have two strong yet distinct communities that are there for each other.

It's with the help of these communities, that members of our running club are able to get back on their feet.  Almost all of them eventually find gainful employment or return to school to learn a new trade.  It takes a community of like minded people to encourage and support each other.

There are members of our club that relapse back into drugs or homelessness, but they have more resiliency.  They bounce back faster and when they are ready, the Skid Row Running Club is there to welcome them back with open arms.

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Running while the City of Angels still sleeps

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Running while the City of Angels still sleeps

I used to hate mornings, especially when it was still cold and dark outside.  I just wanted to curl up in my blanket and go back to sleep.

The Skid Row Running Club turned me into a 'morning person.'  Now when my alarm goes off before 5am, I can't wait to get out of bed, put on my running outfit and drive down to Skid Row. 

I look forward to seeing my running family, my friends in the Skid Row Running Club.  Even though most of us are still blurry eyed and sleepy, that soon changes when we head down onto 6th Street in front of the Midnight Mission.  That doesn't mean that I am ready to just jump into a quick 5 mile run.  It's not until we have crossed 6th and San Pedro Street and a couple minutes later start having conversations that the fun really begins.  It starts with a simple question such as "What are you going to do after the run?" or "How have you been?".  Immediately you stop focusing on the fact that it's early in the morning or may even forget that you are running.  

From mile 3 - 5, everyone is having a great time, the pace quickens although I don't think anyone really realizes that their effort has increased.  We finish at 4th and Crocker Street, where there are a lot of tents and frequently volunteers who are out on the streets to provide breakfast to the people living there.  We all wait for one another to finish, with high fives and fist bumps.  Everyone, I mean everyone, is in the best mood and very happy that point.  It made the early morning wake up worth it.  That's why I do it again and again.  

When you know you have friends that are counting on you and are also getting up early in the morning,  it's a lot easier to get up early in the morning.   The natural 'high' after having a good morning run is incredible.  It feels especially special knowing that you accomplished it with an amazing group of individuals.  Everyone walks away ready to tackle whatever obstacles that confront them.  We all realize that life is just a series of small steps, putting one foot in front of the other.

 

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