RiNo 5K Supports Denver Rescue Mission

For the third summer in a row, Denverites filled the streets of one of the most popular neighborhoods in our city. This year, I was one of the 700 registrants who ran through the River North (RiNo) neighborhood—about five blocks from Denver Rescue Mission’s Lawrence Street Shelter—enthralled as always by the graffiti walls and trendy ambiance that the art district has to offer.

I’ve run a number of races in my life, but this one was different. This was my first race since joining the Mission as a full-time employee two months ago. This time, the mixed emotions that often come with running a race reminded me of the journey of the participants in the Mission’s long-term residential programs, who are running toward a life of self-sufficiency and away from a life of homelessness. The different stages in a race have challenges and joys of their own that spark many thoughts and feelings, which I imagine often reflect what our guests and program participants think and feel, too.

The start of a race usually comes with a surplus of thoughts—mostly uncertainty: I’ve got a long way to go. Why did I decide to do this again? I might still be able to get out of this. Am I really cut out for this?

Halfway through the race, I’m thinking both about the ground I’ve covered and how far I still need to go: I’m pretty drained, but I think I can push a little harder. Alright, let me try and pick up some steam.

Three quarters of the way through, I tend to feel weary but remain persistent: This is kind of painful, but I’m so close. I really shouldn’t stop now. It looks so close, but it still feels so far.

And then, the adrenaline of crossing the finish line with people cheering and recognizing the feat I’m about to achieve is such a riveting feeling. It reminded me of the graduations that the Mission hosts for participants who have made it through their programs. The people closest to them attend to celebrate their triumph. As with any race, the participants probably look back and realize it was all worth it.

Why is it that runners have more adrenaline on race day than on a regular training run? I think it’s because we’re around others running the same race and feeling the same pain and the same pleasure. We are enthused by the people cheering—whether strangers or confidants—and are fueled by the people waiting at the finish line. That’s what causes the adrenaline that gives us an extra boost to not only keep going, but go faster, and sometimes even sprint.

In addition to the support from the sidelines, there’s something meaningful about running alongside others in a race. Some are ahead of you and some are behind you. Some are right next to you and befriend you on the course. Some people are running together and talking, laughing. Others are running together but in silence, content with the quiet camaraderie.

The main thing I’ve learned from my first two months working at the Mission is that its purpose and heart is to run the race alongside its guests and program participants.

Encouraging. Guiding. Cheering. Understanding. Reminding. Loving.

We’re all running our own race in life—sometimes away from something, sometimes toward something, sometimes without much direction, and sometimes with a clear vision of the end destination. Each race is very different. But one thing that remains is that having people running alongside you makes the world of a difference.

We’re grateful for the RiNo 5K’s partnership and for the runners who participated on July 27th. The race ended with a celebration at the finish line with awards for the winning individuals and teams and a shout out for the best team outfits!

We appreciate the volunteers, including the Mission’s Young Professionals group and interns, who made it all possible. It reminds us that the Mission has a community running our race alongside us, and that we too, are never running alone.

By: Natanya van Heerden, Content Specialist