Katy Sherratt, CEO of Back on My Feet, shares what the organization does, why it chose running as a core component of its program and how you can get involoved.
What is the mission of Back on My Feet?
Back on My Feet combats homelessness through the power of running, community support and essential employment and housing resources.
Why was running chosen as the sport of choice?
Anyone can be a runner! Running is a universal sport that can be done anywhere, any place, any time. It doesn’t discriminate between gender, race or socioeconomic status. A simple pair of sneakers is all that’s required to get our members started. Running also offers a vast amount of symbolism for both sport and life. It teaches our members that dedication and commitment are key, it changes their outlook on difference circumstances and it shows that through a little hard work, anything is possible.
How have you seen people transform after starting to run?
People come into our program discouraged, broken and, all too often, at one of the lowest points of their lives. The transformations are varied, and many deeply profound. Members overcome lifelong addictions, reunite with family and children they may have been separated from for years or simply learn to love themselves again. They become accountable, dedicated and committed through the running regimen, and this flows over into their approach to applying for jobs, when they are at work and how they apply themselves. One recent example of a big transformation is a member from our Boston chapter, Norma. She had a tough childhood, moved from overseas, struggled at school. Her issues led her to medicate with drugs and alcohol—to numb the pain. This became a severe spiral of addiction and led her to becoming homeless. She actively talks about never loving herself and feeling worthless, and then she found BoMF—a community that opened its arms to her. Running taught Norma how to set goals and make attainable plans to reach those goals. More importantly, running taught Norma how to celebrate each little success along the way. Not only did Norma reach her goals, but she also smashed them when she graduated from Harvard University with a bachelor’s degree in psychology in May with BoMF’s support. Norma credits BoMF with her success, and as she says, “learning to like herself again, and maybe one day, love herself.”
How does running give people a new perspective on their place in the world?
There is a saying I love: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” BoMF is bringing individuals into the issue of homelessness. Through our program, you are not serving someone behind a counter at a soup kitchen—you are running together side by side, both of you just runners. It is through changing perspectives that we see the biggest change in our members and in our volunteers. Our program is teaching our members that there are people who care and who genuinely want to see them succeed in life. We’re empowering individuals to achieve what once seemed impossible through the seemingly simple act of putting one foot in front of the other.
What advice would you give new runners?
Every race has a start line. Something we say to our members is in order to run 10 miles you must first complete miles 1 through 9. This is true in all aspects of life—it takes patience, dedication and endurance to see change. Our members know firsthand that the road isn’t easy, but with the right resources and the right people in your corner, you can reach your own personal finish line.
Back on My Feet operates in 12 cities nationwide and offers a variety of ways for individuals to get involved, from volunteering at our morning runs to hosting a job training with your company. To find out more information about our program and to donate, visit backonmyfeet.org.