Running Against Poverty

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On May 4th, I ran 13.1 miles for the Indy Mini Marathon in Indianapolis. I had agreed to do the race over the Christmas holidays—I wanted to keep up with my sister, you see, who had already signed up for it. For the last ten years or so, running has been a challenge for me. A bout with sarcoidosis has left my lungs permanently scarred, making it harder for me to process air fast enough to run.

Larry mini marathon 1_293x410I started training by alternating two minutes of running with one minute of walking for half an hour. My times were so slow that I wouldn’t tell them to anybody. Over several weeks, I built up to longer intervals of running between walking breaks and managed longer distances, but I didn’t gain much in speed. I knew by race day that I would still be slow, taking walking breaks every half mile or so to keep my wind.

But my pastor gave me a trick to keep my spirits up. She ran the Chicago marathon last year and wore a shirt with her name in large letters on the front. Every time she passed a group of spectators they called out her name, urging her on and giving her a huge boost of energy. So, I ordered a shirt online that had my name in big letters on the front and “Running against Poverty” on the back.

It worked! The first time someone called out, “Good job, Larry! Keep it up!” I looked around to see if someone from my family was nearby. I didn’t see any of them, and it took a while before I saw someone smiling at me and pointing at the name on my shirt. Another person yelled, “Go, Larry!” and, as I passed by her, said, “Thanks for making it easy for us.” Every time I began to lag I would hear someone else shout out my name and urge me on. They had no idea who I was, but they felt the spirit of the event and they wanted to help me. They just needed my name.

The route took us from downtown Indianapolis out to the Motor Speedway and back, with one lap around the track where the Indy 500 is run every year. As I ran onto the track I was greeted by the cheerleaders from Indiana University. They all spotted my name on my shirt and started cheering for me. “Alright, Larry! Lookin’ good, Larry!” I picked up my step and slapped high fives with all of them. The smile stayed on my face the entire 2.5 miles around the track.

3 Reeds

Larry with his family at the finish line

The cheering kept going right through to the end. I was the 19,767th runner to cross the finish line, and I was cheered the whole way through. Those cheers added a huge amount of energy to my running, helping me to forget the pain and run with joy the whole 13 miles.

As I have reflected over the race I have also been thinking about other people who take up much greater challenges than running 13.1 miles. I have thought about microfinance clients, many of them women, working hard to earn enough to feed their families, send their children to school, and take care of the medical expenses when someone gets ill. That race is much more challenging, covers a much greater distance, and involves many more obstacles than the one I ran that Saturday.

It made me think about what a difference it might make if we could cheer on those who run this race against poverty, running with their children strapped on their backs. And not just the top performers, the microentrepreneurs of the year, but also the back-of-the-pack runners (like me) who may be slow but keep going step by step, slogging away at improving their family’s situation despite the setbacks.

You forget the pain and take joy in the run when you are cheered on

Forget the pain and take joy in the run when you’re cheered on to the finish line

Might their hard work be all the more joyful and might they more easily forget the pain of the struggle if they had their own cheering squad lining the route to their marathon?

I would like to find out if there are MFIs that incorporate celebration into their work with clients. Do you know of programs that cheer their clients on as they make progress to their goals? Please let me know about them in the comments section below and post them on Facebook or Twitter (@MicroCredSummit) using #cheer4clients to let others know, too.

I know that the cheers made a huge difference to how far and how fast I could run. I would like to learn from programs that use celebration to help their clients go farther than anyone ever thought possible.

Tell us what you think!

Tell us what you think!

One thought on “Running Against Poverty

  1. This article is so encouraging and a moral booster Larry. Keep up the good work. Thank you. Am already in high spirit. three happy cheers to you and your family,

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