Team Mission: Run For Your Life
Part of Seattle's Union Gospel Mission's recovery philosophy is to surround those battling addiction, homelessness, domestic violence and poverty with community support. So, a few years back TEAM MISSION was formed to allow folks in program to run races along with Mission staff and volunteers. They plan weekly runs together and races ranging from "Couch to 5ks" to the ultimate...the Ragnar Relay Northwest Passage.
Ragnar is a 200 mile relay race that begins in Blaine, WA and ends in Langley on south Whidbey Island. The relay is run between a team of 12, which is divided into two separate vans: Van 1 runs the first six legs and then Van 2 runs the subsequent six and alternates 36 exchanges between the team. This year TEAM Mission had SEVEN relay teams of 84 runners. What makes this program and this particular race so special is the folks who are in or graduated from our program run alongside SUGM staff and volunteers. Peter Anderson, who coordinates TEAM Mission, says, " Once everyone puts on the gear and runs- we all look the same. It's an equalizer.
All of us have hills in life- some have bigger hills than others. But during this race we get to support one another- which is a metaphor for life. Folks in program continually feel like they are limited. They don't consider what they are actually capable of- that they are able to run this race and finish. Many lack a feeling of self-worth and completing any small task and in this case an epic challenge- gives them back that sense of self-worth."
Once everyone puts on the gear and runs- we all look the same.
It's an equalizer.
But it is not only the folks in program who are impacted- it is those running alongside them as well. For me, this was my second Ragnar race and I am blown away by the discipline and determination I have seen from these folks; many of whom this was THEIR FIRST RACE! Now to back up a moment: I've been running since I married a runner 18 years ago. I have run two marathons, a couple of half marathons and a few 10ks. However, in the past few years
I let my running slip to a minimal effort and didn't challenge myself. So, a year ago I decided to run Ragnar with TEAM Mission and was so impacted by the experience and my teammates from Hope Place (women's recovery program) that it encouraged me to make a greater effort in investing in my physical health. I ended up losing weight and ran this year's race 33 pounds lighter than last year's. Again, I was inspired by the effort of these runners who are in some cases literally running for their lives. They understand that bad habits and former life-styles can be redirected partly through physical exertion; that running can be a time of solace and joining a team provides that support and accountability we all need.
Anderson also notes, "when you join the TEAM, you're family. You're always on the team." Which is truly felt...this year I had a whole new group for team Hope Place, but I did see two of my former teammates on separate teams and there is an instant feeling of camaraderie, which was bonded by spending 30 hours in a van: running, driving, eating, stinking and cheering...together.
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith."
Hebrews 12: 1-2
"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.
Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain."
1 Corinthians 9:24-26
-Nathan A. Ryan