The race invitation sounded fun. The Recycle Run was pitched as a 5K where you get a random medal and a random t-shirt at the end of the race. Even better, it was a fundraiser to support Addict to Athlete (AIIA), and an opportunity to donate gently-used running shoes to the program. My running buddies and I were in.
We were familiar with AIIA – a good friend and fellow Girls’ Day Out teammate is a strong supporter of the program – but since not everyone has heard of it, here are the details:
Addict to Athlete is a community support program available to anyone touched by addiction. The organization’s mission is “to establish and maintain sobriety by promoting lifestyle changes through erasing addiction and replacing it with something of greater value.” The organization is local, with chapters in Salt Lake, Utah and Davis Counties. They run strictly on volunteers and donations, and everyone is welcome to participate.
We signed up. And we waited for more information on a critical detail – the location of the race, which wasn’t emailed to the participant list until the morning of race day. And then, early afternoon of race day, another email came – the location had changed. Yet another email came later that afternoon – the location AND the time had changed. Did we really want to participate in such a disorganized event?
We arrived at the final location about 20 minutes prior to race start. Several runners were already there, including a few handicapped racers in strollers from Team Kid Courage. The race director kicked off the race in what we learned is the usual beginning of all AIIA gatherings – a moment of silence for the addicts who are still suffering. The silence was broken by a shout, “Athletes, who are we?” The crowd responded, “Champions!!” And at that moment, the confusion and disorganization on the location was forgiven and forgotten.
The race began. Some ran, some walked, and some took turns pushing the beautiful children in the strollers. Everyone encouraged one another. There were no awards for being fastest, and nobody cared how many laps around the course anyone made. Everyone was a winner.
I came away inspired by the courage and tenacity of the AIIA members. While I cannot even begin to imagine the suffering that addiction can bring, I am a first-hand witness to the joy that running brought to these athletes. Who are they? Champions!