Homeless to half marathon program draws its first participants

This paid piece is sponsored by GreatLIFE Golf & Fitness.

For four mornings per week, for the next 13 weeks, they will run.

The rest of the time, the three men and six women are served by the Union Gospel Mission and St. Francis House.

They’re the first participants in the inaugural Sioux Falls Up and Running Again program, which helps the homeless train and compete in a half marathon.

“I was so encouraged by what I saw,” said Greg Clarke, the director of the California-based program, who visited for the first week of training. “We all trained together on Monday and Tuesday, and the group already had a sense of community on the second day.”

Founded in 2009, URA’s mission is to partner with rescue missions and recovery programs around the country to help the homeless, addicted and victims of sex trafficking and domestic abuse increase their self-worth and provide psychological benefits through holistic health training, according to Wendy Lenning. Lenning brought URA to Sioux Falls last year, as she knew about the program from having previously lived in California.

URA partners with Union Gospel Mission and St. Francis House to offer training to the people those organizations serve. Three women and six men started their training on Monday, now meeting weekly on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings for 13 weeks for the Sioux Falls Half Marathon on Sept. 8.

The group is outfitted thanks in part to a drive held by GreatLIFE Golf & Fitness for gently used athletic shoes and clothes. GreatLIFE has been a valuable partner in the process of bringing URA to Sioux Falls, Lenning said.

“GreatLIFE has been a wonderful support to URA,” Lenning said. “The GreatLIFE members responded in a big way. They donated two full car loads of items providing the URA participates with shoes and clothes that might not otherwise be available to them.”

During his two mornings of training with the participants, Clarke heard stories from them about their lives and why they joined the URA program. One story in particular stuck with him – a runner who comes from methamphetamine addiction and is using URA as a checkpoint on the road to recovery.

“He told me that he needed a coping mechanism like this and now URA is giving it to him,” he said. “I was so impressed that he shared something like that because not everybody does. He told me that it was ‘so helpful to be around people who are positive and encouraging versus people I used to hang out with.’ I hear stories like these and I never want to forget them.”

He also said he was impressed by visiting the Sioux Falls community and witnessing the support that is being given to the participants.

“I live in Orange County, and there are just so many people there,” he said. “They’re absolutely fine people, but it was nice to see such a connected and supportive community. I just really loved it here.”

Homeless to half marathon program draws its first participants

The first participants have started in the inaugural Sioux Falls Up and Running Again program, which helps the homeless train and compete in a half marathon.

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