Saturday October 16, 2010 was a special day here in Baltimore City – the 10th annual Baltimore Running Festival took place along our streets. Over a period of 4 days, some 150 members of our Helping Up Mission family participated in the set up, take down, and finish line duties for all the races. Team HUM, made up of board of directors, staff, alumni, graduate interns and program members participated in the full marathon, the half marathon, the four-person team relay and the 5K races. Many had personal best times (including Executive Director Bob Gehman), while others just completed (Spiritual Life Director Gary Byers)! But it was a great time and I was glad I participated again this year.
Seeing our guys enjoying themselves while working the finish line was fun for me. This is the 3rd year that we have done this, and every year I have to cajole them into appreciating what it is all about and what a good time they will have. Every year I get pushback before the event and every year I hear what a great time they had after it is over. This year was no exception.
But probably my favorite part of the day was the outpouring of support we received from everywhere. Running in our lime green Helping Up Mission/Back On My Feet T-shirts, people on the curb and cheering for everybody would see “Helping Up Mission” (I was pretty hard to miss in that shirt and moving so slow) and shout out a good word. Dozens of runners passed me (they always passed me, I never passed any of them!) and say, “Yah Helping Up Mission and Back On My Feet!” One girl said to me, “My brother graduated from your program and has really changed…” We would have talked longer but she was soon out of range for my hearing!
My race performance was pretty dismal. Executive Director Bob Gehman and I ran together for the first 6 miles and I had to tell him to go on ahead. I continued to jog along at a very slow pace and one of our guys, also a member of our Back On My Feet THUMB (Team Helping Up Mission Baltimore) came along at the 8 mile mark. He had started way behind me and was just now catching up to where I was. I told him I was fine – and I was, still no real pain or tightness in my legs – and that he should go on ahead, too. But he said, “No way, Back On My Feet never leaves runners out there by themselves!” Of course, I was not alone – thousands were passing me each hour and many of them cheering for me and Helping Up Mission – but Zac insisted.
Before the next mile ended, we started up a hill that was so steep…actually it was just an embarrassingly slight incline. But my quads and hamstrings tightened up so much that I just had to start walking for a while. Zach walked with me. Later we started to jog again – then tight and walk again, then jog and then tight…you know the drill. Zach stayed with me the whole time and the only real pushing he did was to insist that we must be jogging when we enter the finish line area at Camden Yards.
It was a great day for our extended Helping Up Mission family. I was glad I was there and have decided I want to be back out there again next year. Maybe next year I will even try some training.
One pain at a time,
Pastor Gary Byers
Spiritual Life Director