Running for Justice

Blog originally published on on September 17, 2011.

The night before my first 5K, I carefully laid out my running outfit and sneakers, my iPod and a Clif bar for breakfast. I lovingly smoothed my Wellspring Living Stop Injustice 5K ticket out and attached the driving directions I’d written down on a post-it note. I even went to sleep at what my father wouldn’t term an unholy hour.

Eight hours later I was careening down the connector calling my room mate to see if she wouldn’t mind searching my room for the ticket. Another 5 minutes after that, I was calling her again for the directions. Forty minutes after that, I was calling my dad to see if he could get the correct directions for me since I’d evidently written down the wrong ones. My shoes were untied, my iPod earbuds were tangled. And I was late.

Finally, I arrived at the race. The cop directing traffic offered a friendly admonition: “They’re already racing! You better park and start running!” As soon as I had managed to invent my own parking space in the crowded lot, I took his advice.

After the sweetest, churchiest church lady I’ve ever met helped me to find my race number and safety pins, I jetted out the door, pinning my number on (crooked) as I went. One good thing about being late: I didn’t have time to get the pre-race jitters. One bad thing about being late: as I was running out, the faster runners were already starting to run in. I made the classic mistake of blowing through the first quarter mile at the speed of a frightened rabbit before I made the painful discovery that my body wasn’t liking that too much. However, after checking my pace and settling my mind, I began to relax and pay attention to the words of encouragement written on the path before me – and the
alarming facts.

“100 girls are raped for profit on an average [weekend] night in Georgia.”

“Pimps pick them up…then bring them into the business.”

(More statistics on the commercial sexual exploitation of children)

Later on in the course, the statistics turned to messages of hope about Wellspring Living women and girls who were moving past the trauma of their past to embrace the triumph of their future. Volunteers stood at about every half mile or so throughout the course, cheering on runners and walkers and holding up posterboard signs of encouragement. Men, women, kids, strollers, and even the occasional canine populated the wooded path and moved at all different speeds, from a conversational stroll to a flat-out run.

As I caught up with the masses, I found it difficult to resist the urge to engage in conversation rather than keep my speed up. The positive energy was contagious. Gradually, the anxiety of being late ebbed away and I started to enjoy myself. I wasn’t spurred on by the haunting reminder that humans are traded like products and regularly robbed of their dignity and freedom in the worst possible way. I was just happy to be taking a physical action against it.

Before I knew it, I was approaching the finishing line, welcomed by a crowd of strangers waving pom-poms and cheering us on. Some were runners who’d already finished, others were Wellspring volunteers. All of them lingered in the crisp morning air, waiting to call out each runner’s number to
make them feel empowered and appreciated.

After the race, I waited around to observe the crowd. But I felt so refreshed after the Wellspring Living Stop Injustice 5K that I had to hit the pavement for one last run.

A group of Wellspring Living volunteers

If you missed the Stop Injustice 5K, there’s still time to take part in the 7200 Steps to Stop Demand 5K on October 1st. Click here to register through A Future Not a Past.

Click here to learn more about Wellspring Living.


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