Friday, August 10, 2012

Street Feet Run Well

Do your best; have fun.
Gerry Barrett,Street Feet Run Well motto 

Street Feet Run Well 
I dropped by my favourite running store this afternoon and had a pleasant chat with owner Erick Oland. It wasn't long into the conversation when Erick mentioned Street Feet Run Well, an organization that is dear to his and his wife Cheryl's heart, and now mine.  Street Feet Run Well supports women living in Winnipeg's North Point Douglas. 

This area of Winnipeg is similar to Vancouver's Lower East Side or Toronto's Jane and Finch region.  This is the area that polite society prefers to forgets. If we need to travel through this area we do so fast and with doors locked. Residents of North Point Douglas live on the margins of society and face daily obstacles that would would flatten most other citizens. They are resilient folk though, they may stumble but they pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and get right back to  the business of eking out a living for themselves and their families. 

Street Feet Run Well programming helps the women believe in themselves and believe in their potential. This is accomplished by good old fashioned encouragement and support.  The women walk their neighbourhood in groups led by Bridget Robinson. They walk to build strength and confidence. In time they shuffle their feet a little quicker. Then they run a few steps. Then they learn to run well. They are encouraged to do their best and have fun. They quicken their pace and become lighter in spirit. They move forward. 

The driving force behind Street Feet Run Well is Bridget Robinson. She the person who leads the women and offers encouragement and support along the way. Erick describes her as  "the most inspirational person I have ever met". 

As trust builds they laugh as they run, and chat and gossip. They learn to support one another and believe in their true worth. They become winded and flush in face, running does that eh? Their heart races and then calms. Unknown muscles ache. Blisters appear. They are alive. They are runners.

They run in shoes that are beaten and bruised. Shoes that are worn thread bare with the soul exposed. Sally Ann specials. Our throw-away shoes become their symbol of hope.

Street Feet Run Well offers the women two running session a week. They are challenged to attend eight sessions. Some attend eight  consecutive session, others take longer to log the eight. After their eighth session though, a transformation occurs, a magic moment if you prefer. 

There is a ceremony in which Erick attends with a van load of shiny brand new, colourful, high-end authentic running shoes. The shoes are provided free of charge by City Park Runners.The women giggle as Eric fits them carefully and analyzes their gait to find the very best shoe. A Cinderella moment if there ever was. There is great fanfare as the others look on and offer advice on colour and style. There is laughter and the room is warm with camaraderie. The walls radiate with positive energy. Erick beams and keeps his emotions in check. 

And the runner in perfectly fitted running shoes, how does she feel? I don't know, but I expect she feels pretty darn good. She feels valued and supported. She feels successful and strong. She belongs to a a most inclusive community, a community of runners, a community nourished by Street Feet Run Well.  We all want to belong, we all need to be part of a community. It's wired into our genetic code. Bridget Robinson helps build that community and Erick, he provides the badges of honor. 

I have registered for the first annual Pont Douglas 10-k Run (there is also a 5-k) . All proceeds directly support Street Feet Run Well programming. Here's their mission statement: 
Street Feet Run Well’s mission is to holistically promote physical and mental health in an inclusive, caring and supportive environment. The goals of the program are to help participants, who self-identify with challenges, to increase self-esteem and self-efficacy through walking or running with the intent that this extends to other areas in their lives. The program will strive to help each participant be the best walker or runner that they can be, while having fun in a social environment that emphasizes equality and is non-judgmental.
Street Feet Run Well has two partner resource centers: Canadian Centre for Refugee  Employment  and The North Point Douglas Women’s Centre. Click the links for their stories.  I hope you have the time to join the fun on Saturday, October 13. Click here to register. The Race Committee  need lots of volunteers so please, bring out the family. 

So friends, let's heed the Street Feet Run Well your best and have fun!

It's a good day to be alive.