Run Safe

safe-running

I think it’s important to address runner safety periodically, just to remind us all to consider it, at least on occasion. Runners should be mindful of their surroundings day or night, road or trail. Bad and unexpected things can happen to anyone, anywhere. The number one threat, in my book, to runners is other people.

I know out on the trail there is the possibility of getting lost, falling and having a serious injury, or animal attacks, however, these are less frequent than attacks by other people.

It’s also my opinion that road runners are at higher risk, just because there are more people around them. The approaching winter always makes me think about these things because I’ll be on the roads almost exclusively since the mountains are covered with snow and ice to the point where both running and driving in the canyons become an issue, unless you snowshoe or ski/snow board, which I don’t.

Here are my tips for staying safe out there:

  1. Run with a friend
  2. Make sure people know where you’re going and when you expect to be back
  3. Carry your phone
  4. Run against traffic
  5. Wear lights (red flashing rear/front and a headlamp) and reflective gear
  6. Wear bright colors
  7. Carry runners mace: buy here
  8. SING: solar plexis, instep, nose, and groin. These are the places to hit in order to disable your attacker quickly and effectively.
  9. Change your routes and/or time of day that you run.
  10. Keep at least one earbud out at all times
  11. Have identification on your person. Road ID is great for this, you can find it here.
  12. Pretend you’re invisible, in other words assume drivers and others don’t see you and act accordingly. If a driver doesn’t make eye contact and waive you through, stop and wait for them to go.
  13. Be cautions around blind turns and hills.
  14. Use extra caution during the early morning at dusk. Lighting is strange and the sun can be directly in the face of drivers.
  15. Make eye contact with other people as you pass them.
  16. Call out when you approach others from behind (you don’t want to scare the shit out of them).

There are safety apps out there for both the iphone and android. Not only can you use them for running but put them on your kids phones and tell other people about them.

  1. Bsafe has an alarm you can sound with a touch on your phone. It activates your camera and starts recording a video, and broadcasting your location to your friends. The video, voice, location and time are stored on bsafe servers. You can set up a timer that will alert friends/family if you don’t check in by that time (you can update this as you move). Best of all this app is free! Android and apple.
  2. Glympse allows others to track you while you run. They don’t have to have the app on their phone to do it. Android and apple.
  3. RunSafe allows you to track your activites like any running app. It has a panic button feature which alerts your contacts and sounds an alarm, activates your flashlight and records sounds. This is free and has upgrade options for a $4.99 monthly subscription. Android and Apple
  4. RoadID has an app as well. It lets your friends and family actively follow your digital trail, sends an SOS message with your location if you stop moving for five minutes and don’t respond to the app’s alert within 60 seconds. This is free. Only for apple.
  5. Reactmobile alerts 911 or sends your GPS coordinates to your emergency contacts with a touch of a button. It’s similar to bsafe. Friends and family can also track you real time. Free. Android and apple.
  6. Kitestring is an app you activate when you enter a potentially unsafe situation. It checks up on you after a period of time and if you don’t respond or post pone the check in, it sends a customized emergency message to your pre-selected contacts. It’s free.

Be Safe out there and if you have other ideas please share them, we have to stick together.

Book Released Today!

book cover

I am so excited. After four and a half years, my memoir is being released today! This is the story that has given me the strength, passion, and ambition to become all that I am today, including an ultrarunner. The book is available on Amazon in paperback and ebook check it out here.

Here is an overview of the book

Nikki’s story is terrifying and heart wrenching, but most of all it’s full of hope.  Readers will move between Nikki’s life on the streets and her life in the courtroom representing the state in a trial to terminate the parental rights of a mother stuck in a cyclone of drug use, violence, and life on the street so similar to her own.

 

Nikki’s trials began at the age of thirteen when she decided drinking alcohol, sloughing school and having sex were her new path in life. She attempted suicide and began running away from home soon after. By fourteen, she had created a new identity within an alternate reality full of vampires, werewolves, elves and magic. She joined a vampire coven running the streets in the heart of Salt Lake City, Utah.

 

She was raped shortly after her fourteenth birthday by a rival coven member and in order to gain a sense of security and protection Nikki began a relationship with a man who was ten years her senior. He became controlling, intimidating and violent.

 

She latched on to hippy boy who freed her from the violent relationship by stealing a car and fleeing to California. They hitchhiked up the western coast selling drugs, using acid, and following the Grateful Dead. Sometime after her 15th birthday, she returned to Utah only to run again within two weeks taking her older brother along. She continued using, selling, and believing she was destined to change the world in some remarkable way.

 

Shortly after her seventeenth birthday, she realized she was pregnant. The tiny fingers and blue eyes of her son brought her back to reality and propelled her on the journey to becoming an assistant attorney general for the state of Utah, author, and ultrarunner.

The Ultra Marathon Crew

don't panic

Since I am heading into another hundred, I thought I would dedicate this week to helping your crew and pacers be prepared for the one hundred mile experience. I believe crews are essential and a gift to their runner. This is my guide fro my ultra crew and pacers.

THE ULTRA MARATHON CREW

By Nicole Lowe, Dark Voodoo Princess

Goal of the Ultra marathon Crew:

  1. Safety for myself and my runner
  2. Keep my runner moving toward the finish as quickly as possible
  3. Make decisions for my runner during later stages of the race
  4. Allow runner to DNF ONLY if serious injury is highly likely or death may result

Understand the Crew Experience

  1. You will be deprived of sleep
  2. You will be stuck in a car
  3. You will be tending to a possibly grumpy runner
  4. You will be bored
  5. You could be hot, cold, hungry
  6. Rushing from aid station to aid station
  7. You could be suddenly asked to pace: do you have running shoes and shorts?
  8. You get to see a new place
  9. You get to hang out in the outdoors and enjoy nature
  10. You get to meet new people
  11. Be prepared to help your runner: buckle, tie, zip, apply glide, and dress and undress.
  12. Handling dirty sweaty smelly clothing
  13. Cheer on other runners
  14. Support other runners who are in need of help
  15. Watch the amazing determination of human endurance

Things to discuss pre-race:

  1. Start and finish time
  2. Course/terrain/elevation/weather
  3. Time cut offs for the race
  4. Where meeting
  5. What will runner likely need at each meeting
  6. How things are packed and labeled
  7. What is packed (if need it early or later in race)
  8. Expected pace of my runner
  9. Injuries likely to flare up and how to deal with them
  10. How much electrolyte stuff to put in water
  11. What do we do if we miss each other at a meeting
    1. Check with aid station crew to see if runner came in
    2. Meet at next spot
  12. Is there cell phone service

Things to Know about Ultra marathon runners and races:

  1. Runners mood will to go up and down
  2. Runner may not be thinking totally clear
  3. Runner will be in pain eventually
  4. Stomach issues and mild dehydration are inevitable
  5. It hurts more to stop and start than to keep moving (ten minutes is goal in aid station unless we are changing or taking care of something like blisters)
  6. Where to get extra supplies if needed close to the course

Questions to ask yourself to help your runner:

  1. Have I planned for myself?
    1. Clothing
    2. Gloves/hat
    3. Food
    4. Water
    5. Entertainment
    6. Light
    7. Reflective gear
  2. How far until I meet up with my runner again?
  3. What is the temp outside, how is that going to impact my runner?
  4. What is the weather, how is that going to impact my runner?
  5. When is it going to get dark?
  6. When is it going to get light?
  7. What is in my runners gear?
  8. Did my runner go to the bathroom?

Visual Assessment of Runner:

  1. Limping
  2. Swollen hands
  3. Wet anywhere
  4. Shoes? Dry, muddy
  5. Light at night
  6. Reflective gear if on the road
  7. Sun burnt
  8. Walking or running

Mental Status check

  1. Confused or Disoriented
    1. Just tired
    2. Sugar low
    3. Electrolytes low: swollen hands, sloshing stomach,
    4. hypothermia: shivering uncontrollably, blue lips or fingers, mumbling, coordination issues
    5. dehydrated: pinch back of hand spring back slow or tents

 

Possible Questions for runner:

  1. Blisters or hot spots
  2. Too hot?
  3. Too cold?
  4. Stomach issues
    1. Pepto-Bismol for diarrhea
    2. Tums for stomach acid
    3. Ginger or pepto-bismol for nausea
  5. What do you want at the next aid station?

Cold/shivering:

  1. Was the runner warm when running?
  2. Keep runner moving
  3. Multiple layers
  4. Change clothing
  5. Wind proof outer layer
  6. Hand warmers
  7. Before you DNF: Out of elements for twenty-thirty minutes and all new clothing

Rain/snow:

  1. Sunglasses and hat
  2. Poncho
  3. Change clothes
  4. Rain proof /resistant outer layer
  5. base layer

 

Hot/swelling joints

  1. Some people just swell up but . . .
  2. S-Caps
  3. Visor
  4. Ice under hat
  5. Dunk shirt in cool water
  6. Slow down
  7. Frozen drink
  8. Before you DNF: Shade for 20-30 minutes

Before my runner comes in:

  1. Check with aid station crew about any updates or changes in race.
  2. Have gear ready my runner decided they will need at this stop
  3. Set out any gear my runner may need so I can get them quickly

 

What to do when my runner comes in:

  1. Let my runner know when I will see them next (see you in five miles)
  2. Send them out, ASAP
  3. Ask what runner will want at next aid

What to do when my runner leaves:

  1. Get to the next meeting point
  2. Stay warm
  3. Eat
  4. Sleep
  5. Have fun, enjoy the scenery
  6. Laugh at my runner
  7. Meet other crews, watch movies, read books, and take pictures.

What do I do if my Runner has/is….

  1. Vomiting/nausea
    1. Keep hydrating
    2. Suggest walking
    3. Give anti-nausea meds
    4. How hot is my runner?
  2. Diarrhea
    1. Keep hydrating
    2. Baby wipes
    3. Glide
    4. New shorts
    5. Anti-diarrhea meds
    6. Suggest walking
  3. Blisters
    1. Pop blisters with a clean pin
    2. Clean area with alcohol wipe
    3. Place second skin over blister if roofless
    4. Tape with elastiskin or KT tape
    5. May need mole skin around blister to top off that
    6. Double socks
    7. Dry socks
  4. Cramps
    1. Muscle
      1. Electrolytes
      2. Stretch slow
    2. Stomach
      1. Walk
      2. Stretch body (arms up)
  • No protein
  1. Water and electrolytes

Notes for Pacers specifically

  1. Do Nothing Fatal
  2. take care of your own needs
  3. If you fall behind, I’ll have to leave you
  4. Don’t carry anything for the runner, you can share water if needed
  5. Talk and tell stories to runner although runner may not respond with more than a grunt
  6. Keep an eye on food and water intake
  7. If the runner is going slow put them in front and prod them along
  8. Don’t let the runner crawl into a cave to sleep
  9. Be positive and don’t complain
  10. Don’t agree with complaining runner
  11. I don’t know what happened to Number 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  Dehydration Heat stroke Heat exhaustion Hypoatremia
Symptoms Thirst

Dry mouth

No sweat (clammy)

Lightheaded

Weakness

Less urine

Temp 105

Throbbing head

No sweat

Red hot dry skin

Muscle weakness

Cramps

Nausea/vomiting

Rapid/shallow breathing

Rapid heartbeat

Confusion

Disorientation staggering

Seizures

unconsciousness

Confusion

Apple juice urine

Dizziness

Fainting

Fatigue

Headache

Muscle cramps

Nausea

Pale skin

Profuse sweating

Rapid heartbeat

Craving salt

Confusion

Convulsions

Fatigue

Headache

Irritability

Loss of appetite

Muscle spasms or cramps

Muscle weakness

Nausea

Restlessness

vomiting

treatment Get out of the sun

Walk or stop

Drink water

Get out of the sun

Place ice on neck and groin

Get in cold water

Take to hospital if no improvement

Get out of the sun

Place ice on neck and groin

Get in cold water

Walk or stop

Electrolytes

Salty food or S-caps

No water

Take to hospital if no improvement

 

Run, Run, Reindeer

reindeer

Christmas morning before the sun comes up is one of my favorite times to run, which is saying a lot because I don’t like the winter (Christmas is in the winter in the western U.S.), especially, if there is snow on the ground.

But the snow makes everything so quiet and no one is out driving around Christmas morning. Everyone leaves their Christmas lights on all night and their bright colors red, green, yellow, blues, purples, and white reflect off the snow.

If the sky is clear, the moon light makes the snow look like diamond dust has been sprinkled across the ground. My breath crystalizes as it leaves my lungs, creating a cloud before me each time I exhale. My nose gets chilly as I move through the cold air, which has a slight metallic smell to it during the winter. My feet crunch and pack the snow down as I land and roll from mid foot to fore foot.

I do feel like a little bit of a creeper because I like to watch the lights come on in the houses as the kids wake up to find presents under the Christmas tree. I even look in the windows as I run by to share in the pure joy of children on Christmas morning. I don’t stop and peer through the glass panes, so I figure I haven’t crossed the line into suspicious criminal like behavior where people will start calling the police.

There is no other morning like Christmas morning. Christmas is not my favorite holiday, not even close, but this part of Christmas is the one part that has held onto that Christmas spirit I felt when I was a small child and saw on my children’s faces when they were much younger than they are now.

This year I may not get to run Christmas morning, due to the healing stress fracture in my right foot. But you never know, Santa could grant my Christmas wish even if it’s only a mile.

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Involve the Family

family

Family and Friends want to be a part of your life and join in the experiences that you love as much as they can. They want to share your joy and success. There are many ways that they can join in and support you in your running. Races are always in need of volunteers.

Operating an aid station for a race gives you a real appreciation for the accomplishment of running. You watch runners struggle and keep going. Most runners are very courteous and grateful to volunteers. Races would not happen without the volunteer support.

Many races give their volunteers race swag such as t-shirts, coupons, and samples of sponsor’s products, similar to what the runners get. Most importantly volunteering allows them to see you, their runner, out there on the course, which can be difficult for trail running courses. Volunteering may also motivate them to give running a try or not.

Family can be at the starting line to see you off, meet you along the course to cheer and hold up signs, and then chant your name as you cross the finish line. This is easier to do on a longer course where there isn’t the chance of missing you coming into the finish because they don’t get back in time. If it is a short course, which loops around itself it can be done as well.

Many race websites post the course and the best places for family and friends to see their runners. Crowding into an aid station is not a good place to be. Some runners stop at aid stations to get their water, Gatorade, or gels. Many runners slow down as they pass through the aid stations. Family and friends will only add to the congestion. It is better for them to be at another place on the course, particularly for races with a large number of participants.

Runners are packed together for the first few miles of a marathon or half marathon, which makes catching their runner’s eye or giving a high five more difficult. After the halfway point, runners spread out and seeing a familiar face is all the encouragement a runner needs to keep going to the end.

As a runner knowing that I have someone at the finish line cheering for me, encourages me the whole race. I want to come across that finish line looking and feeling strong. When I am at a down point or want to walk, knowing that I have people waiting for me gives me just one more reason to keep going.

As soon as the finish line is in sight, runners are looking for their personal fans, pulling their shoulders back, and picking up their pace as much as they can. You know that once you cross the finish line your loved ones will help you get a chair, ice, water, a banana or just take off your shoes.

But I have kids…

overwhelmed parent

Most people have children and children require you to change and adjust your life around them, especially young children. It makes keeping a running schedule a little more difficult. If you’re a single parent, it makes it a lot more complex.

Parents have to be flexible when it comes to getting their daily run in, just like they need to do with other things in their life. As a parent, your life bends and twists around your children. Once your children are older and more independent, it’s much easier to keep a consistent schedule of things you want to accomplish.

Sometimes when you have children, goals have to take a back burner for a while. The needs of our children become our priority, and our desire to finish that marathon or even sleep for eight hours straight through are sidelined.

It is possible to maintain a consistent running schedule when you have children. A supportive partner makes a huge difference, but even if you are a single parent you can get your run in. Here are some ideas on how to do it…

First look at your goals and think about the time it will take to train for a particular race distance. This will depend on the pace you run since faster runners are going to spend less time training. Now look at your schedule and see what you can throw out or where you can squeeze your training in. If you can’t fit in a four hour long run in on weekends once in awhile then you should probably back off your goals.

If your goal is to run 5k’s, 10k’s, or even a half marathon, training during lunch or in the morning before kids get up is doable. I know you’re not a morning person, but give it three solid weeks and you may find that you prefer starting your day by accomplishing something.

A lunch run can be great to break up the day. It also puts you out in the sunshine rather than the dark. Lunch runs can be difficult to maintain on a consistent basis if you frequently have lunch meetings or go out to lunch with friends. Try to find a running group that runs during the lunch hour, either in your office or at a nearby gym or park. Having others to run with, will get you out there on days you have an offer to do something else.

For single parents, a lunch run may be easier than leaving the children during the morning unless they are old enough to not panic when (not if) they wake up and you are not there. When my children were elementary school age, I would make sure my oldest son knew I was running the next morning and what time I would be back. I would write it on a white board with my phone number (just in case he forgot it). If they woke up while I was gone, they called me. I didn’t just go home when they called, it depended on what they needed and how long I had left.

The long run on the weekend will take a little more planning. If you have a partner who is willing to care for the children during your long run that makes things pretty easy. However, make sure you do the same for your partner to have their time away from the children. If you are a single parent, you have to get creative. You can find another parent in the neighborhood who is a runner and single parent one of you could watch the kids while the other runs and switch off weekend days. One of you run Saturday and the other Sunday. This is also useful if both parents run.

Another strategy for single parents is to get up with enough time to finish your run before the children get up. I know this means getting up at like 3:00 am, I’ve done it many times. Keep your run close to your home in case you need to get back quickly and then follow the same procedure as above. Leave a note and your phone number. Have the kids call as soon as they wake up and then decide if you can finish the run or need to go straight home.

Running in circles around your neighborhood for twenty miles is not always a fun run, but it’s better than not running at least in my book. There are things you can do to make it more fun such as listening to an audio book or music. There are great running apps that make running like a game. You can also find a friend to go with you.

Running when you have children can be difficult and you may have to adjust your goals depending on your children’s age and the support system you have. But don’t just give up running, seriously look at your options and get creative. There are so many benefits to your physical and mental health from running to just let it walk out of your life.

Rocking the Relay

Epic Exchange six

It was being a runner that mattered, not how fast or how far I could run. The joy was in the act of running and in the journey, not in the destination. We have a better chance of seeing where we are when we stop trying to get somewhere else.

John Bingham

My relay team is headed out this weekend to finish our 5th Red Rock Relay in Southern Utah.

Every team is different and each race is different. It is important to make sure that there are not major personality conflicts in the vans, which will ruin everyone’s fun. Personalities who may conflict should be in different vans on the team.

This is probably my number one rule about gathering a team. The first year I put together my team I mixed two people who should not have been mixed. We finished the race with smiles, but it was a little tense at times. When you are sticking six people in a van together for 24-36 hours, with limited sleep, aching legs and feet, and weird eating schedules every precaution should be taken to reduce friction least a fire spring to life from smoldering embers.

Communication between vans is crucial when you are approaching to a major exchange point (changing from Van One to Van Two’s six legs of the race). Text messaging and phone calls are the easiest form of communication. Text messaging requires less of a signal than phone calls making it my first choice for contacting the other van.

When texting my other van, I send the name of the runner who is running, what mile they are at, and their pace. We learned quickly that if you don’t put the time the text message is sent the information can be pointless. The text message can be delayed due to inconsistent service. Your message should be something like, “Swiss Miss is running, 13:00 pace, three miles to go. Sent at 9:00 p.m.” If you don’t include the sent time and they don’t have service until 9:30 p.m. they will think they have 39 minutes until the runner comes in, but in reality they only have nine minutes to get their runner ready to go and in the exchange shoot.

Putting in the time that the text is sent, eliminates this problem, so long as they receive it before you roll into the exchange point. As a last precaution, once the van reaches the “One mile to go” sign, the van should pull ahead of the runner and make sure the next runner is ready to start.

Relays are the perfect way to gather new runners into the sport and get them super excited to run.

Good luck building your teams!

Running with Dogs

running dog

Seeing the smile on your dog’s face as he bounds down the trail or road is one of life’s greatest joys. Their flapping ears, wagging tail, and sparkling brown eyes will always lighten my heart and lift my spirits. Having your furry best friend as your training partner who never complains, keeps pace with you, and never says a discouraging word can help you get through those tough miles.

One of the things we have to remember about our wet nosed training partner is that they are no different from us when it comes to building miles, resting, hydration, and fueling during a run.

I see a lot of people out there running long miles and I can only hope that they have laid down the foundation for those miles with their dogs. Sure, we can see when our dog is limping or lethargic, but if you get to that point you have pushed them too hard too soon. Of course, they never tell you that and they will always go out with you with enthusiasm, which is why we need to be mindful of their bodies as well as our own.

Follow the ten percent rule, carry water for them, and allow them rest days. This can be hard when you have been running for awhile and are much more advanced than they are, but if you want your furry friend along you just need to follow the same rules as you did for yourself when you started running.

Since they don’t have shoes, you should be checking their paws for any stickers, dirt, or cracks. If you are running on roads or sand, make sure it’s not burning your dog’s paws. Dogs can get sunburned too, spray on sun block is much easier to apply than lotion. Bug spray will help keep mosquitos and ticks off. Definitely, keep them on a heartworm prevention medication.

You can get a collapsible bowl for their water, and there are packs for them to carry their own gear. Keep in mind that dogs don’t sweat, they pant. You may need to let them lay in the shade for a few minutes or in a cold stream to prevent them from overheating especially for our dark furred friends.

Stay up on your dog’s veterinary appointments making sure they have a clean bill of health. Inquire about a high-energy food for your dog and make sure you tell the vet how many miles they are running and what type of miles, trail verses roads. This will help your vet know what to look for with your dog.

There are some breeds who are better runners than others. A dog with long legs and sleek short coat are going to have an easier time than short and stout. A heavy fur coat is probably not the best choice. Pick a dog with a lot of energy who is friendly to both other dogs and people because you will encounter both while running.

Dogs can be trained to stop and sit when they find a snake on the trail or another threat to both your safety and theirs.

I’ve read articles that recommend limiting the amount of miles your dog runs to a half marathon, but I’ve seen happy healthy dogs complete as many as 50 miles. Again, if falls back on training and taking care of your dog’s healthy as you would for yourself or a human child.

 

Fountain of Youth

running kids

My oldest son, Jazz, turned eighteen on Friday July 10. Everyone says “time flies” and we all know that it does especially when we are having fun. And, all in all, watching my son grow into a man has been fun. Yes, he still acts and thinks like a teenager and he will for four or five more years, but he has successfully launched.

When our children reach another milestone along the journey of life, we ask ourselves, “What was I doing when I reached that point in my life?”

At the age of eighteen, I had a child of my own. I was trying to finish my high school diploma while taking care my son. Jazz and I were going through boxes a week or two ago and came upon a picture of him and me. He was 18 months and I was 19 years old. He said, “You look younger now than you did then.”

I have to admit I get a kick out of every time I am mistaken for his sister or one of his friends. He laughs about it now but he didn’t when if first started happening. People have made the mistake of thinking I’m about fifteen years younger than I am, even when my son is not around.

Some people just age well, I suppose, but running keeps you young. It is the fountain of youth. I’ve met many runners who look much younger than they really are. Running keeps you relaxed in other areas of your life and it helps you deal with stress when you are stuck in frustrating situations. Stress can add years to your appearance.

Running also keeps the bones and joints healthy. I know a lot of people (non-runners) say that running is not good for bones and joints, but all the science proves otherwise. Runner’s bones are more dense than people who are not active. This protects them from factures as you age and the bones become more brittle. Joints stay healthy when they are used, keeping the blood flowing to them.

Running also helps keep the extra weight off. Carrying extra weight causes joints to break down more quickly and hinders cardiovascular and respiratory functioning. If you take your running seriously, meaning you run three to four times a week and seek to improve your performance, you food choices tend to be on the healthier side such as fruits, vegetables, and lean meats.

I’m convinced running keeps you young not only in physical appearance but in the heart too.

Be young, enjoy life, and run.

 

Run for Home

Race for Home

Together with the Volunteers of America, I organized a 5k and 10k race, which was on June 13, 2015. Organizing this event was a lot more work than I had anticipated.

The race was a huge success. We had 240 runners!

As a first time race director and this being our inaugural event, I anticipated being in the negative funds wise, but we weren’t. The cost of organizing the race was approximately $5,000.00. The money raised from the race will support the first overnight homeless youth shelter in Utah. There will be many onsite services including education, mental health, and substance abuse for the youth.

Run for Home 6.13.15 003

We didn’t want to just bring a race to the community surrounding where the shelter will be built, but to bring the community together to support the youth in need. To do this we included a breakfast and raffle in our event. Every runner was given a raffle ticket and more tickets could be purchased. All the prizes were donations from various vendors within the city.

Of course, we had minor complications and last minute arrangements to scramble to get into place, but it was all worth it as I stood at the finish line watching runners come across knowing I had helped make it happen.

Run for Home 6.13.15 005

The homeless youth shelter is a project I am passionate about because I was a homeless youth in Utah from the ages of 13-16. I struggled with the same issues the youth who are out there now. Access to services will provide them with opportunities I never had.

When you are living on the streets it’s easy to fall into a hopeless cycle of self-destruction as you meet road block after road block trying to fit the pieces of your life back together into some semblance of a whole picture.

All of the finishers received a medal, which was a dog tag with the VOA symbol on one side and the name of the race and date on the other side.

Run 4 home medal 001

I chose the dog tag as the medal because one of the first things you lose as a homeless youth is your identity, who you are. You become nameless and faceless in the eyes of others and yourself. For the youth on the streets, the most important rediscovery is that identity of self, and their singular importance in this world.

For a soldier, a dog tag is the last piece of home and their final identifier. It makes them different and an individual among their brothers who is next to them with the same haircut and same uniform moving in unison. The dog tag is a reminder that each of these kids is not nameless and is not faceless, but a person who has lost their self and their way.

I know we are all busy and not everyone can donate their time to those in need, but even just looking these kids in the face when you speak to them or acknowledging their presence as you pass them on the sidewalk identifies them as another human being and it only takes a second or two.