Run Mentors run to change and be changed.

Run Mentors are regular runners of ALL abilities, speeds, and motivations, who have one thing in common: the desire to spread the transformative power of running. While Run Mentors often join Mile in My Shoes to "volunteer" their time and help others, they soon discover they get back twice as much as they are giving. Running side by side with Resident Members, run mentors have the opportunity to motivate new runners while building relationships that transform their perceptions of homelessness. 

Meet Joe

MiMS Distance Coordinator Joe Rauch runs (and jumps) the 2017 Twin Cities Marathon with Resident Member Brian 

MiMS Distance Coordinator Joe Rauch runs (and jumps) the 2017 Twin Cities Marathon with Resident Member Brian 

 

Joe Rauch joined Team Higher Ground as a Run Mentor at the beginning of 2016. Both Joe and his wife, Anne, quickly became fixtures at the team’s Saturday runs. In 2017 Joe became MiMS' very first “Distance Coordinator," creating training plans, coordinating mentors, rides, and races, and teaching members about negative splits, GU, and red elevens. Joe ran the Twin Cities Marathon alongside Team VOA Resident Member, Brian (4:04!) and Anne ran her first (!) marathon alongside Team Sarah’s Resident Member Nour. Joe and Anne also raised over $3,000 for Mile in My Shoes during their marathon training by sharing their stories of MiMS with friends, family, and their hometown Meat Raffle.  

Joe, what is your own personal history with running? 

I have loved running as far back as I can remember. In grade school I somehow came to the conclusion that the coolest kid in school ran the fastest mile in gym and won the 100-meter dash as well as the 3-legged race at field day. The trifecta of grade school running awesomeness. In 5th and 6th grade I made sure I had the perfect 3-legged race partner to make this possible both years.

In 7th and 8th grade I was in football and track. In 8th grade track I remember hearing a girl talk about this thing called cross-country where you raced other people around colored flags. I thought it sounded pretty awesome so I asked the track coach about cross country.  He told me I would be great, so I joined cross-country freshman year and was a captain junior and senior year. I wanted to run in college but the idea of school work and cross-country made me nervous, so I ultimately decided not to.

This led to a 7-8 year hiatus from running. During this time, I gained a lot of weight and became anxious. I didn’t realize how important running was to my physical and mental health. Then about six years ago I remember getting up one sunny day in May thinking, “Joe this is dumb, you’re a runner. What happened to you?” So I put on my shoes and managed to run 2 miles that day, and have never looked back. I decided I never wanted to feel the way I did again or go through the pain of getting my fitness back.

What brought you to Mile in My Shoes?

I remembered seeing a news article about MiMS during its first year. I thought it was an interesting idea but not for me, so I put it on the back burner. I then married one of the nicest people you could ever meet (Anne), who softened my heart. After I changed jobs to one with evening hours, I was looking for an opportunity to volunteer and thought what could be better than doing something I loved at the same time? So I signed up!

How did you become the Distance Run Coordinator?

When I started running with MiMS I heard about these optional Saturday runs that residents were doing to train for longer races. Since I liked running far, I thought I would check it out. I was immediately pulled in by the opportunity to spend 45 minutes to hours with someone and spend time to really get to know someone. Getting up early on Saturday morning to run with MiMS quickly became my favorite time of the week. When Miska gave me the opportunity this season to lead the long runs on Saturdays and coordinate the longer races I was pretty pumped.  

What was the most rewarding part of your role?

I love watching people train for something they never thought would be possible. Or something they never even thought about until they met MiMS. Then to see them not only finish the race but feel like a runner in the end. It’s pretty amazing.

How about the most challenging part?

Sometimes on Saturdays we can have 3-4 different routes so the most challenging thing for me is to remember who’s running how far. I often find myself praying nobody gets lost so badly that they can’t find their way back.

At what moment did you know that MiMS was having an impact on people? 

I think I noticed the impact MiMS was having on people the very first time I finished a long run with Peter. I remember the sweaty hug he gave me and that big smile he had on his face. After running and stretching, I remember getting into my car and just sitting and thinking: this running thing does mean something. I went straight home and got Anne to join the team.

How has your involvement with MiMS changed you or your perceptions of homelessness?

MiMS has made a profound impact on my life. Before MiMS I ran alone and was one of the most judgmental people you would ever meet. I had a very strict code to life and if you didn’t follow it, I had no time for you. Then I signed up with MiMS and this year especially I learned that homeless people are not lazy and that refugees and those recently incarcerated are looking for new beginnings. I learned that we are all full of hope and love. You see, before MiMS I knew why I ran…for me, but now I know what I run for. I run for love, hope, and as many chances as you need.

What is your favorite MiMS moment to date?

Without a doubt my favorite moment to date was training this summer with Brian for the marathon and then running the entire race with him. The look on his face when he realized what he had just done and when I saw his eyes well up with tears when he saw his wife on the other side of the fence. That is something I will never forget.


Meet Corey!

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Corey joined Mile in My Shoes as a Run Mentor just as Team Higher Ground St Paul was getting underway, and his dedication was noticed immediately. Within a few weeks he had been recruited for the core role of Resident Member Manager, leading orientations for new Residents & helping to support them & hold them accountable. While Tuesdays & Thursdays find Corey at Higher Ground, he also joins the Saturday long runs to help train Members preparing for the TC Marathon & 10 mile. This weekend, Corey plans to become the first Run Mentor to achieve the unprecedented feat of pacing Resident Members in the TC 5K, 10K and 10 Mile races - all while raising $$ as a FundRacer for Mile in My Shoes! 

What is your own personal history with running?

I ran cross country for a few years in high school, but didn't consider it to be a true lifelong activity until junior year of college. Through some challenging personal times, I discovered the power of distance running, and how it can be personally transformative and also bring people together. Even after four marathons, three half marathons, and several other races...I keep getting called back to the starting line!

What brought you to Mile in My Shoes?

I found out about the group through another Run Mentor on one of the Minneapolis teams. After learning more, I was excited to have the opportunity to get involved!

What is the best part about being Residential Member Manager? The most challenging part?

Recruiting and building relationships is the best part. The Residential Member Manager is the first point of contact for our residents, so I've had the great pleasure of getting to know them on a deeper level outside of just team events.  It is also the most challenging part, as I stay engaged with them through their daily battles of homelessness, such as searching for stable employment, experiencing anxiety from their temporary living situation, and managing mental/physical health issues.

I've learned that being an active listener,  advocating greater team support, and meeting our residents at their level is the key to this role. I'm grateful to serve our team and each of our residents in whatever way possible. 

What is your favorite MiMS moment to date?  

Favorite moment so far was presenting our Higher Ground residents with their first milestone, the MiMS Tshirt (10 runs, 75% attendance). Seeing their joy after putting in the effort and building confidence in their progress is really special. 

Favorite Question of the Day? 

If you had a theme/entrance song, what would it be?

At what moment did you know that MiMS was having an impact on people?  

When I first met with a few Mile in My Shoes Alumni runners. I was amazed hearing their stories on discovering a personal platform to overcome their challenges of homelessness through MiMS. Witnessing their leadership by example and continuous commitment to helping others is very inspiring!

How has your involvement with MiMS changed your perceptions of homelessness?

It is humbling to spend time with our team at Higher Ground St. Paul. Their energy, dedication to grow, and ability to have a good time is infectious. I am wholeheartedly convinced that anybody who joined us would also feel the same.

Our residents challenge the stereotypes of homelessness by truly being themselves. They demonstrate that we are all capable of sharing the human spirit, no matter our backgrounds or social status. It's hard to imagine another community that could have as much fun and fulfillment at 6am as we do, and they deserve 100% of the credit for that. 

After living and breathing it for several months, I've learned that MiMS is not just a "running group", it is something much bigger than that. We are a community of acceptance and possibilities...to be a part of it is truly a blessing!

What is your favorite thing about yourself? 

I believe in encouraging people to see their true potential.


Meet Whitney!

Whitney joined MiMS as part of Team Higher Ground Minneapolis in 2015, and became the team’s Race Coordinator in 2016. Thanks to her mad spreadsheet skillz and penchant for getting s@#$ done, she was asked to train oncoming Race Coordinators in 2017 when she joined the team at VOA. Whitney is now Team VOA’s co-leader, where she is known for being faster than all of the boys. 

What is your own personal history with running? 

My parents are both runners, so I grew up in a running household. I did my first 5K road race with my Dad when I was 12.  I took off right at the start and he says that he kept expecting to see me on the side of the road…but he never did, and I ended up beating him and finishing 3rd overall women!  Swimming and basketball occupied most of my time throughout high school and college, and I started to run more seriously after moving to Minneapolis to work for Target.  I’ve now run 5 Marathons and can’t get enough of it!

What brought you to Mile in My Shoes?

I first heard about Mile in my Shoes from a Target co-worker. I had been looking to get involved in the community in a way that felt true to me, and when I heard that there was a group whose way of giving back was through running to change perceptions and change lives, I was immediately sold.  I’ve now been running with MiMS for 2 years and I can truly say that MiMS days are my best days.

What is the best part about being Team Leader? 

The best part about being Team Leader is getting to know the residents on a more personal level- and, with that, being so proud of the progress made with every mile every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.

What is your favorite MiMS moment to date? 

Running the first half of the Twin Cities Marathon with Dave last year, and then watching both him and Peter make it to the finish line on Summit.  I was so inspired, so happy, and so proud.

Favorite Question of the Day? 

What is one word that best describes how you feel after a run?

At what moment did you know that MiMS was having an impact on people? 

I’ve known it since my first season as a run mentor at Higher Ground, but it really hit me after the Torchlight 5K this June when one of the VoA residents said something that will stick with me for a long time- “I just took off my shoes and I saw the word RUNNING on the insoles. Tonight I feel like a runner.  Thank you for pushing me and giving me a feeling of accomplishment and normalcy.  It feels awesome!”

How has your involvement with MiMS changed your perceptions of homelessness?

MiMS has made running more than just about me, and has changed my perception of homelessness and those working to get back on their feet.  In the past, I didn’t think that I could relate- but through the bond that comes from miles and sweat and early mornings, I have found that we have much more in common than initially meets the eye :)


Meet Julia, Team Leader, Higher Ground MPLS

Julia began running with Team Higher Ground in the summer of 2016, and came on as Social Coordinator by Cycle 3. This year she’s taken the reigns at HG Minneapolis as Team Leader. Despite not believing herself a “natural leader”, Julia has risen to the challenge in a major way  and is beloved by her team. 

What is your personal history with running?

I never played sports as a child or spent time doing anything remotely athletic.  I was the introverted, shy kid who much preferred practicing her cello, inventing my own recipes, and reading books.  It wasn’t until I was a senior in high school that my cello teacher, concerned that I was too serious of a musician, advised me to branch out and try a sport.  Realizing that cross country was the only option in which I could perform badly and not affect anybody else, I chose to run.  I didn’t particularly enjoy it, and once I headed off to college I stopped altogether.  Fast forward to 2014 when a few friends  and I randomly trained for and ran Grandma’s half marathon.  After finishing, I stood by the mile 25 mark and observed the runners coming by.  I had this idea in my head that marathoners looked like warriors: tall, young, strong, and endlessly fast - and I realized how off my perceptions were.  I saw people of all shapes, ages, and sizes covering the marathon distance in their own way - some struggling very visibly, but each person still persisting.  I was moved!  I wanted to be a part of an experience like the one I saw before me - one in which humanity in so many forms was represented and celebrated.  That was the day I caught “the bug” - as they say.  I went home that night and registered for the TC marathon.

What brought you to Mile in My Shoes?

It’s hard to believe my MiMS start was only a year ago - June 2016.  Pretty simply, I was looking for some way, any way, to gain exposure to people whose lives looked different than mine.  I’ve been fortunate to have two loving parents, a secure home, and many privileges in my life - and I’m so thankful for all those things.  But as I entered into my late twenties, I began realizing that in the context of a world that is largely in need and unfair, being a certain race, demographic and religion was sneakily creating this false illusion in my mind that I didn’t need to learn from other people - that it was safer to surround myself with people whose stories were most similar to my own.  I didn’t like that, and started to look for ways to branch out. I knew that running had been a powerful force in my life - one that had helped me become braver and stronger, and so when Mishka told me about MiMS, I was eager to see what a nonprofit centered around running might offer to people.

What’s the best part about being a Team Leader? The most challenging part? 

The way I’ve been able to grow in relationships with Higher Ground residents.  It’s very different being there twice a week as opposed to once a week - and though I find it at times to be a challenging commitment, I truly relish the extra time simply to be with HG residents.  They’re all so special in their own way and each bring such vibrancy to the team.  I’ve loved getting to see this more!  

The most challenging part for me is the whole “leader” persona!  I’m an introvert, which sometimes surprises people, but also means that I sometimes have to give myself a little pep talk in my car en route to runs to remind myself that “I got this.”  

Favorite MiMS Moment?

So many!  Pacing Peter at the City of Lakes Half last September.  Running together for 2.5 hours meant that we were able to chat at length about all sorts of things - I loved that!  He did his best throughout every mile, and even had gas in the tank to kick it into gear at the end.  At mile 12, I turned to him and said “Ok, Pete - run like a bat out of hell!” and he totally went for it, getting a negative split by more than 40 seconds.  He truly gave it all he had, holding nothing back.  Watching Peter pull out all the stops was a powerful thing for me.  I think that as people, there are a million reasons to tell ourselves why we can’t do something, or why it would be better to hold something back for the sake of keeping things safe.  It takes such bravery to truly give something everything we have - especially when there is often pain, vulnerability and messiness involved, but Peter exemplified that bravery for me in a way I won't ever forget.  

Favorite Question of the Day: 

What is the worst haircut you’ve ever had?  The answers we got from this one were so outrageous: everything from a rat-tail dyed blonde, to a mullet, to one team member (yours truly!) cutting off her own bangs.

How have you witnessed MiMS change lives? 

There have been several indications of changed lives over the past year, but a recent conversation really sticks out ot me.  I was chatting with Manny, Nick and Michael about the upcoming start of Cycle 2, and mentioned the cool position they are now in (as alumni) of being able to share what they have learned with new residents who will join the team.  Each had such a unique response.  Manny said “Yes!  Every mile changes you, man!”.  Michael W. “I’ve never had a community in my life like this one.”  Nick: “Being a part of this group has totally changed what I expect of myself.”  It was really encouraging to hear first-hand that MiMS isn’t just a fun social gathering but that it really does help people know their own worth and value as people.  

How has MiMS changed YOUR life? 

I think it’s given me bigger eyes to really see things I didn’t before - helped develop my ability to look for the stories and potential in a person rather than judging them.  MiMS has been a refreshing place to learn how important it is to listen to other people, and to develop the skill of asking good questions.  It has shaped how I approach getting to know new people (at MiMS & beyond) - less with the intention of how they can make me feel good about myself and more for simply understanding who they are & how they think, and affirming the good things about them. Also, because I now know specific people who are experiencing homelessness, I can’t assume the things I once did about this population.  

What’s your favorite thing about yourself?  

My persistence.  


Meet Ben K, Run Mentor, Team Volunteers of America 

Ben is one of the newest Run Mentors to MiMS, having joined Team VOA when it first started this March. In addition to running with the team once a week Ben also captures the team's greatest hits on (digital) film. 

What is your own personal history with running? I started running about 10 years ago. I'd never really exercised for fitness, but thought I should probably get a jump on the aging process. I remember the first time I ran, was 3 blocks and, I felt like I was going to have a heart attack. Over the next year I got up to a couple miles, but really didn't enjoy it. It was good for me and I was always glad I'd done it when I was done. But, that was it. Then, a friend goaded me into training for a half-marathon. After 12 weeks of running 5 days a week, in any kind of weather, for longer and longer distances, I got injured the week before the race and couldn't run it. After I mourned that perceived loss, I came to the realization that I'd gotten way more out of those 12 weeks than the ability to run a race.. I'd become a runner! When my knee felt better, and I could run again, I went out running without parameters for the first time in 3 months. No pacing or intervals, no required distance, I didn't HAVE to do anything.. I just ran... and I LOVED it!! I was out on a trail, and I basically just frolicked about, here and there, jumping on and over stuff, stopping to admire the view; So free!! I've never lost that since. I don't really train for much, or run long distances.. I just run around, typically 3-5 times a week, and get free!

What brought you to Mile in My Shoes?  I met a MiMS Run Mentor at a community event. We talked about the what she did with MiMS, and I KNEW it was for me!

What is the best part about being a run mentor? What is the most challenging part? 

There are so many great things about being run mentor. I think fundamentally, it's that it enables me to make something I thoroughly enjoy useful to others. It so clear to me that what we're doing when we get together is so good for all of us there!

The most challenging part? Having a positive reaction to the 5am alarm clock.

What is your favorite MiMS moment to date? Seeing genuine joy coming from a resident teammate when we'd run a new route that he really enjoyed. A childlike pleasure beamed from him as he told me, "Man we gotta to that one AGAIN!"

Favorite Question of the Day? If you had a door that could take you anywhere, but it always took you to the same place, where would it lead?

At what moment did you know that MiMS was having an impact on people? The moment I heard about it. I knew as soon as I found out what MiMS is doing that it was an amazing impactful thing! From my knowledge of what running does for whole health (physical, mental, and emotional), and being active in other communities where human connection and shared experience is at the core, I instantly knew the power and beauty of that combination. I SEE it on EVERY run with MiMS!

How has your involvement with MiMS changed your life? It's fortified my resolve to be useful to others and affirmed my understanding of the power of connected people.

What is your favorite thing about yourself? I'm happy! (I've also been told I have fun hair.)


Meet Team Sarah's Team Leader Jill!

Physician's Assistant at HCMC by day, MiMS Team Leader by even earlier in the day, Jill joined Mile in My Shoes as part of Team Emanuel in 2015. When she heard that an all-women's team was just a few strong leaders away from becoming a reality, Jill threw herself in the ring, er, circle. With a total of twelve Resident Members and even more Run Mentors, Team Sarah's is up & running - fast!

What is your own personal history with running? 

I grew up playing volleyball, so we never ran, we sprinted. When I decided not to play volleyball in college I was really confused on how to work out. Everyone was running and so I tried and and GOSH, I couldn't do it! For all the sprinting, jumping, and feet work I did, I couldn't sustain putting one foot in front of the other for more than 10 minutes to start.  Slowly but surely, I realized what a "runner's high" was. I've had a few setbacks (surgeries, broken bones) but always work hard to get back to the pavement. 

What brought you to Mile in My Shoes?

I'm drawn to this marginalized population. I work at HCMC and have numerous homeless or housing insecure patients. We know housing affects everything from someones ability to work, safety, and health to their happiness and contentment. Homelessness just isn't fair and MiMS allows me to do something small. When I lived in Baltimore I had friends involved in Back on My Feet and when I moved here about 4 years ago I checked to see if there was a group. No luck. Then, about a year later I heard about MiMS on NPR and was so excited! 

What is the best part about being Team Leader? What is the most challenging part? 

The best part about being a Team Leader is how well I've been able to get to know the residents. When I came only once a week (with Emanuel) I missed out on events/jokes/fun times and didn't feel like I ever made a solid bond. I love being present for all the runs! The most challenging part is waking up at 5:15 twice a week--I really like to sleep :) 

What makes Team Sarah's special? 

Who run the world? GIRLS! Team Sarah's is special because it is run on GIRL POWER! We are a women's only club and that allows for special bonding and giggles that you can't do when guys are around :)

What is your favorite MiMS moment to date? 

My favorite MiMS moment was the Trail Run last year. It was really fun to have everyone together during the day, proud of their accomplishment, and enjoying time together. 

Favorite Question of the Day? 

"What is guaranteed to make you smile?" I mostly love this question because people naturally say it with a huge, authentic smile AND because then when a person is moody, you know just what to do!

At what moment did you know that MiMS was having an impact on people? 

One of the resident members of Emanuel House was able to get a job on the early morning cleaning crew at Target Center because he showed his attendance at early morning MiMS. That's an impact. 

How has your involvement with MiMS changed your life? 

MiMS has changed my life in that it just makes me happy. It is wonderful to see residents showing up to do something positive for themselves when they're dealing with so much. And so many mentors coming together at 6AM to run with our resident members. It's amazing, but not surprising, that the organization is growing. Can't wait to see where it goes!


Meet Higher Ground Team Coach Nicole!

Nicole Kollman joined Mile in My Shoes at the tail end of the 2015 Season and became the Team Coach in June 2016 when the outgoing coach, Mike Gibino, took a break from the team to run to Philadelphia. Her high school & college running experience, along with her upbeat & positive personality, made her a natural for the role & the team was grateful to have her leadership this year. 

What is your own personal history with running? 

After trying a number of sports growing up and realizing I lacked serious hand-eye coordination, my dad introduced me to running. After recognizing I had a talent, I became a very competitive runner in high school, eventually making the State Championships in both Cross Country and Track and Field. After battling a number of injuries, I decided not to pursue running in college, but it has remained my favorite method of exercise, therapy, and general past time. I’ve since completed a number of 5k’s, 10k’s, and half marathons!

What brought you to Mile in My Shoes?

In college, I knew I wanted to become more involved in the community, but didn’t know how or what exactly I wanted to do. After visiting Mill City Running, I came across a MiMS t-shirt in the store, and inquired about it. I was incredibly excited to learn that the organization was based upon two of my passions: running and helping others. After doing deeper research and attending my first meeting, I was hooked.

What is the best part about being Team Coach? What is the most challenging part? 
My favorite part about being Team Coach is watching runners push through and succeed in harder workouts. A great deal of Team Coach is being strategic in what workouts we do in order to improve but also feel confident. When runners come up and say, “that was a really tough run, but I feel a lot stronger,” it is incredibly rewarding.

On the flip side, the most challenging part of being Team Coach is finding an equal balance of workouts and routes for all members of the team. We’re very lucky that we have runners of all abilities and pace groups, but sometimes finding workouts that cater to all can be a challenge.

What is your favorite MiMS moment to date? 

My favorite MiMS moment was the Como Park Relay Race. It’s a unique race in the sense that you get to race multiple times while being able to watch and cheer your team at a number of different locations. There was an unmatched team atmosphere that was beyond inspiring. The support and encouragement everyone showed one another not only motivated to you run faster, but made the entire race incredibly positive and memorable.

What is your favorite run/workout that we do at MiMS?

My favorite run is HILLS! I like it because it forces you to step out of your comfort zone. Although there are a lot of moans when the workout is announced in the morning, it’s so fulfilling to watch everyone push through and find deeper strength and motivation. Additionally, while the workout is an individual effort, there is constant encouragement to one another coming down the hill. It’s one of those workouts that hurts so bad, but everyone feel so accomplished when they’re done.

At what moment did you know that MiMS was having an impact on people? 

When I started MiMS in November 2015, it was just the end of the season and I was still getting familiar. When the season reconvened in the spring, watching everyone comeback and talk about their accomplishments over the winter made me realize that MiMS truly is in the cause to create lifelong runners. As the season continued, listening to stories of runners losing weight, quitting smoking, starting new jobs, and graduating college has made me realize that there is an incredible sense of empowerment through MiMS that goes far beyond running.

What advice would you give a new Run Mentor? 
For new run mentors, the most important piece of advice would be to step outside your comfort zone. Be willing to run with someone of a different ability level. Be willing to start a conversation with someone you might not normally interact with. Be willing to take on a leadership role or run a new race. Be willing to take that first step.


Meet Team YouthLink Co-Leader, Leslie! 

Leslie joined Mile in My Shoes as a Run Mentor this year with the launch of Team YouthLink. This cycle she stepped up to co-team lead the team & runs with the group every Thursday evening. 

 

What is your own personal history with running? 

It took me one season of cross country my freshman year of high school to learn I love to run but I'm too competitive to race.  I completed the season on the varsity team and never ran a race again...until I was 35 years old.  As an adult I discovered the pure joy and true holistic benefits of running; meditation, the outdoors, feelings of community and nods of admiration while passing other crazy runners when it's -20 degrees and icy.  Now I run fun races with friends, and I especially enjoy running as a pacer for my friends or family to help them reach their own competitive goals!

 

What brought you to Mile in My Shoes? 

My running routes wind through downtown Minneapolis.  I run past the same blocks almost daily with the same homeless men and women chatting and waving at drivers passing by.  Some folks cheer me on and give me high fives, we always say hello.  After I pass them, I think about what would happen if I offered them shoes and food if they would agree to meet me on their block for a run.  I discussed my unlikely daydream with my running buddy who told me her friend worked for a program that meets residents at shelters for runs and wellness mentoring in NY.  Coincidentally, that night one of the MiMS residents was on a news program discussing the organization and his completion of the Twin Cities marathon.  Of course we have a nonprofit like this in our wonderful city and I was so thrilled to join!

 

What is the best part about being a Run Mentor? What is the most challenging part?

I think the most interesting and quality conversations between any two people happen authentically while running.  It doesn't matter how different two people are, there are always great topics that pop up, sometimes deep and private, sometimes silly and hypothetical, but it's a great way to connect with others who I might not have the opportunity to learn from in my daily life.  I feel humbled and honored that the residents of YouthLink open up and trust me to guide them through a very challenging activity and go even further through conversation to let me into their lives.  I leave each run feeling very privileged and also extremely proud of the resident athletes.  Being a run mentor brought me closer to a population of people I want to know, learn from and understand and this is also a challenging part of the experience.  I'm somewhat introverted so relating to new people who come from very different experiences can be a challenge, but it's a challenge I enjoy.

What is your favorite MiMS moment to date? 

Ahhh, so many, how to pick just one.  I will choose the day one of our youth residents came out to warm up before a run with a big frown, lots of sass and said she didn't want to run at all.  She was grouchy and defiant.  I paired up with her and we just started talking about everything.  She ran the entire route without walking and at a pace much faster than she had before.  On our way back to YouthLink I offered her the choice to run up a steep, long hill or go back along the flat route.  I expected her to say she wanted to go back the easy way, but she shocked me and chose the long-ass hill!!  She ran the entire hill and the entire way back to YouthLink.  She was smiling and talkative and so proud of herself.  I seriously couldn't believe this was the same person.  I watched a complete attitude transformation over 30 minutes of running and talking.  It was my favorite moment of MiMS and definitely made my day!

 

What is your favorite run/workout that we do at MiMS? 

I like any of the workouts that involve the group running together.  On the long runs we typically spread out so the residents feel less like a team sometimes.  I liked the sprint workout because it's fun to see the runners develop sportsmanship and team work.  
 

At what moment did you know that MiMS was having an impact on people? 

I'm grateful to be part of the new YouthLink location and it is very apparent that Mims has an impact on both run mentors and the residents.  Introducing running and overall health and wellness to young adults who have a lot of life ahead feels incredibly rewarding.  One of our resident runners constantly asks diet and nutrition questions and mentioned he threw out his "unhealthy" food and also now considers himself an athlete!  One of our other resident runners who is pretty quiet just told me her favorite sport is now running!  I witness and hear about our impact during every run.

 

What advice would you give a new Run Mentor? 

I would encourage patience.  If the goal is to teach a challenging new and long-lasting lifestyle then it requires a great deal of patience, flexibility, and empathy.  I'd encourage them to remember what it felt like to run their first mile and then their first 3 miles.  There is no rush, starting slow, and having people just show up is success sometimes.

 


 

Meet Team Leader Sandi!

Sandi & Peter (and her famous birthday boa)

Sandi & Peter (and her famous birthday boa)

Sandi Gordon began running with Mile in My Shoes in early 2015, and joined the Team Higher Ground Run Mentor Core Team later that season as “Celebrations Coordinator” - celebrating each member’s birthdays with cards, her signature breakfast bars and of course, the boa!  At the beginning of the 2016 season she became the team’s Race Coordinator and then stepped up to be the Higher Ground Team Leader for Cycle 2 and now, Cycle 3 - comin’ atcha in a few weeks. 

What is your own personal history with running? 

In high school I ran cross country only to get in shape for basketball and I even quit cross country my senior year to focus on basketball outside of the regular season.  Now I haven’t touched a basketball in 15+ years but found distance running again with my first marathon in 2008.  Since then, running has been something that provides me an outlet, quiet time, time with friends and a sense of accomplishment and competition (although only with myself).  

What brought you to Mile in My Shoes?

I ended up in Mill City Running looking for help with a new pair of running shoes and I saw the Mile in My Shoes t-shirts.  I was too shy to ask about it so I googled Mile in My Shoes when I got home.  Right away it seemed like something I wanted to be a part of.  Running had become my sport and Mile in My Shoes was taking place in my neighborhood, so it felt like it was time to put more meaning to running and to be involved in my community.

What is the best part about being the Team Leader? What is the most challenging part? 

I love the opportunity to have closer involvement with both resident members and run mentors.  It can be a stretch for me to be an extrovert, but being team lead gets me out of my shell and helps me drive the connections for everyone that even introverts cherish.  

The hardest thing has been names!  In general I just can’t remember names the first time I’m told them.  I want to help people feel welcome and I know calling everyone by name is important for this so I’m trying hard to improve on this skill.  

What is your favorite MiMS moment to date?

When I had the honor of pacing a resident member at the Torchlight 5k last year it was clear he’d shared with friends and family that he was going to do the race.  It was fantastic to be a part of something someone was so proud of accomplishing.  

Another time during a morning run I walked with one of our resident members who wasn’t ready for running yet and I’ll never forget how gracious he was and even surprised that I was going to walk with him instead of run.  I let him know we were all a team and of course I’d walk with him!  We had a fantastic heart-felt talk that morning as well.

I also love every time we have a birthday card for a resident member.  Such a small gesture can carry so much weight.  

What is your favorite run/workout that we do at MiMS? 

While I enjoy when we can pair off and go for a run and get to know each other, I think I like our “Last Man Run” the best.  This is when everyone lines up gently running forward while the last person in line runs quickly to the front of the line and we continue until everyone has been the leader.  The best part though is when we throw in having the person in front choose the motion to run with.  Sometimes it is skipping, other times is has been the grapevine or even lunges.  It is surprising the workout this can turn out to be and I love we get to all do it together.

At what moment did you know that MiMS was having an impact on people? 

Personally I knew MiMS had an impact on me when I started to wonder if I was gaining more from MiMS than I was giving!  I’m not a morning person and on MiMS mornings I still wake up groggy and cranky, but by the time of my first hug at MiMS I’m smiles and thankful to be up early with our team.  I enjoy all the people and I think it is fantastic the relationships that form that would not have had opportunity to otherwise.  Beyond myself, I knew we were having an impact when we started to see resident members grow in their self-confidence and then to also see and hear about our resident members running on their own.  

What goal do you have for yourself or the team for the 2016 season? 

I want to see everyone (resident members and run mentors alike) feel welcome and have an opportunity to personally get to know someone.  

What advice would you give a new Run Mentor?

Don’t worry about your running ability, other’s ability or what to talk about; three things I wasn’t sure about when I started with MiMS.  The wide range of running abilities in MiMS has turned out to be encouraging and inspiring and there is room and need for every ability as a run mentor.  And as far as conversation, just let it come!  I love how our resident members are fantastic about making new run mentors feel welcome and how they’ll get the conversation going with you on their own.  And sometimes it is peaceful to quietly run together and enjoy the morning.


Meet Run Mentor Eric!

EROLF

Eric is a relative newcomer to the Mile in My Shoes family, joining us at the beginning of the 2016 season. He has quietly but quickly become a fixture at Team Higher Ground morning runs, and can often be found at Saturday runs as well. Recently Eric began helping out behind-the-scenes as well - you may have spotted him handing out race shirts at the Torchlight 5K - and is currently working on creating a Run Mentor handbook. Find out what makes Eric keep coming back for more MiMS: 

What is your own personal history with running? 

In 2012 I was out of shape, WAY out of shape.  I was huffing and puffing and out of breath just doing regular everyday activities.  I had free time, so I decided I would put it to good use.  I started walking.  Just 30 minutes at day at first, but soon I was walking, exploring my neighborhood and my town, an hour at a time, or more.  Slowly, and without even really noticing it, I had made exercise part of my daily routine.  Eventually in 2013, albeit begrudgingly, I gave running a try.  At first, I just ran from one light pole to the next.  Then I walked some more, and picked out another set of light poles and ran again.  I built upon those short runs, eventually one light pole turned into two, and then five, and then a mile.  At that point, I just wanted to see how far my feet could take me, if I kept at this running thing.  Today, just a few years later, I have run many races, from 5K to 50K, and I have some longer races on the horizon.  

What brought you to Mile in My Shoes?

Running changed my life.  It gave me purpose and structure, and lets me explore my community in a whole new way that isn't possible when you're whizzing by in a car or even on a bike.  I first heard about MiMS from a colleague at work, who heard a story on MPR about it.  I thought, that seems like a great way to give back, I should look into that.  But I didn't.  Fast forward another year, and I was on a camping trip with a couple of folks from another running group, a couple of them happened to be MiMS Run Mentors, and they talked and talked about the power of MiMS and what a fun group of people were involved.  So I finally decided to give it a shot and attended the next new member orientation.  

What is the best part about being a Run Mentor? What is the most challenging part? 

The best part about being a Run Mentor is the people!  The other mentors and residents are the best part of a morning.  Smiles, hugs, high-fives, and lots of positive vibes and powerful energy.  This is a group of people that want to be together and find a way to show up at 6am to do good and run a few miles while they're at it.  

The most challenging part of being a Run Mentor is trying to keep up!  MiMS is made up of people from all different pace groups, and I want to get to know them all, but some of them are a lot faster than I am.  But when we pair up for a run each morning, I find that no matter how fast or slow we both are, we find a middle ground, build a connection, and make it through the run together.

What is your favorite activity that we do at MiMS?

My favorite MiMS activity are Wacky-Jacks, these backwards mixed up crazy version of jumping jacks.  They're a great activity because we all feel so goofy doing them, but we have a great time!

What goal do you have for yourself or the team for the 2016 season?

I run with the Thursday morning crew, and my goal for the 2016 season is to get to know the Tuesday runners and maybe even make it out for a couple of Tuesday morning runs.

What advice would you give a new Run Mentor? 

Be ready to connect.  Running with someone is a uniquely intimate activity.  There is a bond that forms between two people on a run that creates openness and vulnerability.  That gives rise to amazing connections and bonds the MiMS tribe together!  Be ready for that, because it is what makes MiMS so special.


Meet Celebration Coordinator Kathy!

Run Mentor Kathy is relatively new to Mile in My Shoes - she joined at the beginning of the 2016 season – but she’s quickly made her impression on the team. Her positive attitude and love for snacks made her an obvious choice for Celebration Coordinator, a role she stepped into at the start of Cycle 2.

What is your own personal history with running?  

I joined the track team in middle school and quickly learned I was terrible at all the cool stuff – sprints, hurdles, long jump, etc. So I got assigned to the races that no one on the team wanted to do – the long distance 800 and 1600 meter races. I realized that I actually enjoyed the challenge of long distance running and it’s been a hobby ever since (almost 20 years)!

I only recently got into road racing and I completed the Twin Cities Marathon in both 2011 and 2013, inspired by my brother Joel – he has a goal of running it every year for 50 years in a row.

What brought you to Mile in My Shoes?

This past winter, I was inspired to do volunteer work in the community because of a bus driver I met at Metro Transit, where I work. Every year he voluntarily organizes a coat drive through Metro Transit’s bus garages, and he donates all of the coats he collects to People Serving People and the Dorothy Day Center just before Christmas. I was assigned to spend a few hours taking photos of him unloading and delivering the coats (more than 600!) in December. Learning about his passion for the project, and spending just a small amount of time at each shelter, really left a deep impression on me. I started thinking about doing some volunteering of my own. Plus, I thought it would be super cool if I could somehow blend my love of running with volunteering.

I heard a story on Minnesota Public Radio some time ago about a running program and homelessness – it was lodged in my brain and it resurfaced as I was thinking about how I could start volunteering. The magic of Google brought me straight to the MiMS website and I applied to be a run mentor right away. The timing was perfect for me to begin run mentoring in Cycle 1 earlier this year, and the rest is history! I’m hooked!

Tell us about what you do as Celebration Coordinator of Team Higher Ground.  What is the best part? What is the most challenging part? 

I'm responsible for celebrating things of all types (birthdays, life events, cycle milestones, mileage, tiny things, big things…) and it's super fun! And I like to bring SNACKS – do I even need to mention our collective love of snacks?

The hard part is finding a balance of what we should celebrate and going beyond the running and fitness stuff. A personal/life victory can mean something very different to each individual in the group. Leaving all judgment aside – and encouraging that openness from everyone in the group – is so important, but it can also be tough.    

What is your favorite MiMS moment to date?

Finishing the MiMS 5K with Will at the end of Cycle One was amazing; I was so proud of him! But there are also lots of little things I enjoy, like seeing how much everyone changes and starts to really own their running throughout the cycle. I love it when a member says something like “What? I ran that far?!” MiMS has this awesome way of gently pushing people just enough that they surprise themselves with what they’re able to accomplish.

What is your favorite run/workout that we do at MiMS?

I always enjoy when we just simply run for a set amount of time on Cedar Lake Trail, and everyone can go at their own pace and have plenty of time to chat and catch up on life.

At what moment did you know that MiMS was having an impact on people? 

I see this all the time! Like when Sir, a brand new resident member, stepped up to help as a team captain just this morning! When Jeff told me he can feel his muscles getting stronger and I can see him getting faster. Brice’s rock star attitude and positivity. All the smiles after our workouts. Resident members supporting and encouraging each other. The list goes on and on!

What goal do you have for your team for the 2016 season? 

I want everyone to feel included and empowered.

What advice would you give a new Run Mentor? 

Being flexible and open-minded is important – you never know what may be going on in other people’s lives. Also, a little positive encouragement can go a really long way.


Meet MiMS Run Mentor Coordinator Matt! 

Matt has been running with Team Higher Ground since 2014. Last year, he stepped up to take on the role of Volunteer/Run Mentor Coordinator. When someone is interested in becoming a Run Mentor, or simply has two thousand questions about the program, Matt is our man behind the screen! He's also in charge of Run Mentor orientations and generally making sure all of our Run Mentors know that they are the smartest, prettiest, most amazing volunteers of all. 

What is your own personal history with running? 

I started running around the same time I started law school. I was spending a lot of time sitting in class or studying and wanted an outlet for my energy and stress. Since then, I’ve gone from running to train for a race to running as a lifestyle, which has made everything much more fun!

What made you join Mile in My Shoes?

I had heard about volunteer running programs and saw information about Mile in My Shoes at Mill City Running, but couldn’t convince myself to go out on a limb and show up until I saw an email about the news coming to a run. I wanted there to be a good showing, so I got up early and headed over. I was greeted with a sea of welcomes and hugs. Since then, I rarely miss a run!

Tell us about what you do as Run Mentor Coordinator of Team Higher Ground.  What is the best part?

As the Run Mentor Coordinator of Team Higher Ground I communicate with prospective mentors and lead the mentor orientations. I enjoy seeing the organic, word of mouth spread of Mile in My Shoes and the enthusiasm of all our volunteer Run Mentors. 

What is your favorite MiMS moment to date?

My favorite general MiMS moment is pacing the resident members for the timed mile. Great things happen every run, but seeing the joy in a member’s face when they CRUSH their last mile time is really magical.

Similarly, my favorite specific memory was running the TC 10-mile with Peter last year. We had run several timed miles together and were hitting a hilly part of the course near mile 9. I told Peter that this was it, don’t hold anything back. Peter looked at me and said, I’m giving it all I have. It was such a true and honest statement in the moment and that day he was able to beat his own expectations and accomplish something he never though he could do.

Favorite Question of the Day? 

My favorite question to ask is “what job would you do if you only had to do it for one day,” but I think my favorite question asked was “if you could start any business, what would it be.”

At what moment did you know that MiMS was having an impact on people? 

I’m constantly reminded of the impact MiMS has on people: hearing about Harvey calling a friend when he could see the finish of his first 5k because before the race, he didn’t think he could make it; Will stating that running hills was one of his best days ever; seeing numerous, smiling resident members running by themselves outside of MiMS.

What goal do you have for your team for the 2016 season? 

My goal is to continue to bring in new residents and new run mentors. I know there are people out there who have considered joining in some capacity and I would love for them to just go for it!

What would you like to see MiMS do in the future? 

I’d love to see MiMS expand so that other populations in the cities can have the opportunity to experience the power of running. An ideal world would be seeing a MiMS alumni/member out running every time I go for a run.  


Meet Outreach Coordinator Andy!

Andy joined Mile in My Shoes during the spring of 2015 and he has returned for the 2016 season as Team Outreach Coordinator at Higher Ground.  Andy helps recruit new Resident Members to the team, leads info sessions and orientations, and reaches out to members with continual support, encouragement, and the occasional sandwich. 

What is your own personal history with running? 

I came to running at 40 through a goofy path. The short story is I joined a movie stunts class with my youngest son. I realized I wasn’t 19 anymore so it sent me on a journey to get in better shape. Through a combination of stubbornness and constant progression I’ve managed to accomplish more than I’d have guessed at the beginning.

What made you join Mile in My Shoes?

I was getting tired of running by myself. I looked for a group that wasn’t a typical group of runners. Mishka talked about MiMS in her profile on the Mill City Running website. Sounded like what I was looking for so I showed up. Cool things happen when you show up.

How did you decide you wanted to be the Team Outreach Coordinator? 

Like so many cool things that happen I was asked and I didn’t say no.

What is the best part about being a core Run Mentor? What is the most challenging part? 

The best part is being closer to the cool things that MiMS does and working with the other core members. So much focus on doing the right thing for the team. The most challenging part is not having enough time to do more.

What is your favorite MiMS moment to date?

My go-to story is the day we were encouraging residents to sign up for their first 5K. Peter was very hesitant and finally admitted he didn’t know if he could run that far. The best part is that we had just finished running farther than a 5K. Being there when Peter realized he had accomplished more than a 5K was really fun.

What is your favorite run/workout that we do at MiMS? 

The timed mile is great. Very real seeing everybody progress and be proud of their progression.

At what moment did you know that MiMS was having an impact on people? 

That time Peter realized he could do a 5K. That time when Cardious, Manny, Dave, Brice, Peter or any number of others said they looked forward to getting up really early and going for a run with the team. Very few folks look forward to getting up early for anything.

What goal do you have for your team for the 2016 season? 

A larger group of folks we know will be there every morning. I want to see a mob running through the streets every Tuesday and Thursday.

What would you like to see MiMS do in the future? 

More locations. A see of blue MiMS shirts at the event runs. World domination.


Meet Team Leader Rachel!

Rachel joined Mile in My Shoes during the winter of 2014 and in 2015 she joined Team Emanuel Housing. This season she has returned to Team Higher Ground as Cycle 1 Team Leader. You can find her there every Tuesday & Thursday morning asking wacky questions, dishing out hugs, and facilitating the “timeliness support group” (aka sit-ups).  

What is your own personal history with running?

I started running as a way to get ready for college ROTC at Purdue… and I HATED it!  I spent the next 7 years running with groups early in the morning, first with ROTC and then as a Marine.  We met 3 times a week and ran anywhere from 3 to 5 miles in the mountains.  I remember feeling so slow compared to the guys (I wasn’t) but for most of my career I was the only woman in the Airframes Maintenance shop and the men have a faster pace they have to maintain for score so they trained to that pace.  Once I got out of the Marine Corps I stopped running completely for a bit.  I tried a half marathon and a few 5k’s but it wasn’t until the Boston Marathon Bombings that I set my sights on real goals and made a more definitive commitment to the sport.  After my failed marathon attempt in 2014 I joined two different groups, hoping that these would be the ticket to finishing my huge goal of a marathon.  I signed up for a series of races, ran 1 to 3 mornings a week with November Project and Mile in My Shoes and in October 2015 I finished my first marathon.  Having a major goal and trying any number of different approaches to achieving that goal was a really great experience, not one I’d necessarily recommend but for me it was a journey.  

What made you join Mile in My Shoes?

I loved the shirt!  I remember going into a great hip little running store in Northeast Minneapolis (Mill City Running) that felt a lot more welcoming than any other running stores in the twin cities.  When I picked out the shirt with my mom Mishka explained that it was a 6am group that met at a local shelter.  “How the hell could I really get up and START running at 6am?” I thought!  I mean I used to be done by 6am most mornings in the service but there was no way I’d be able to get out of bed that early now and be friendly and helpful.  Once I came back from Washington DC and my failed marathon attempt I didn’t feel like a failure.  In fact, I felt incredible!  I mean if the training that others were doing was 3-5 miles I could do that!  I had just finished 15 miles of a marathon and left the course with a giant smile on my face.  I joined shortly into November 2014 and never looked back!

How did you decide you wanted to be Team Leader?

I’ll be honest, I thought it was a VERY big stretch to think I could be the Team Leader this year.  The 2015 season was a struggle for me at a different site.  I didn’t know the team or the routine.  Having Mike and the rest of the group have faith in me any my abilities has been such an incredible boost of confidence and a welcomed surprise!

What is the best part about being TL? What is the most challenging part?

The BEST part about being the team leader is being in the front row to see all the transformations.  I have loved watching the new Run Mentors get more comfortable with this unique group setting and even grow into leaders within their roles as mentors.  I am ALWAYS excited for the unexpected when it comes to resident members.  Even the seasoned athletes give me a giant smile when they surprise me with a new goal, accomplishment or leadership move.

The most challenging right now is getting in the grove and wrangling all the cats in the morning.  Six am is easy for NO ONE and getting such a diverse group to all move together has been a welcomed challenge and a fun lesson to learn already this season.

 

What is your favorite MiMS moment to date?

Last season one of the run mentors asked everyone what surprised us about being a part of Mile in My Shoes and one Resident Member, Deb, said “This old body can do a lot more than I thought it could.”  I STILL think about that every time I’m feeling sluggish or frustrated with my progress or even “old”.  I know what my body used to be capable of but it is one of the best things in the world when you realize – and help others realize – that this isn’t the end of the road, it’s only a curve and “this old body can do more than I thought it could!”

What is your favorite MiMS run/workout?

My favorite MiMS workout is a steady long run around the Blake School fields.  It gives us a chance to get our bodies comfortable with the pace, the distance, the rhythm of the morning.  Long runs are my favorite because there is an uncomfortable period, and then without noticing it happened there is a comfortable period.  And if you have someone to talk to and keep you laughing that is even better!

At what moment did you know that MiMS was having an impact on people?

I could see the times coming down each month with the timed mile and people losing weight, so I could physically see the transformation happening but what really sealed the deal for me was at the MiMSies last year when (Resident Member) Mike V talked about everyone he had spent time with and the program in general.  He mentioned that this wasn’t just a running club but for him, it was one place twice a week that he didn’t have any labels other than “runner”.  He was no longer Mike the Addict, or any other labels he has put on himself, society gives him or perceptions can assign to him from the outside… he was just “Mike V the runner”.  I can’t emphasize enough how wonderful it is to be a part of a safe, welcoming and supportive community that takes people where they are, what they can offer and accepts them.  Today. Right here, right now.  We do ask a lot from our runners but our ask is pretty simple, show up and try.  Showing up is way more than half the battle for many of us and I’m PROUD to be a part of this community!

What goal do you have for your team for the 2016 season?

My goal for the 2016 team is to feel inclusive to ANYONE!  I would love Cycle 2 to have as many new resident runners as Cycle 1.  I would love the Cycle 1 runners to feel as much a part of this community as our seasoned athletes.  Although I am going to be really sad, I’m also equal parts excited to pass the leadership torch on to the next person and watch this thing grow even bigger.  We all have value, we all have worth and empowering people to grow in their roles is such a wonderful thing to be a part of.

What would you like to see MiMS do in the future?

I want to see MiMS grow!  I LOVE the support we have received from the community and I talk about our team as often as I open my mouth.  I share about us at the coffee shops, restaurants, with friends and family.  I would love to see more people in the homeless or under-housed community be able to take advantage of our program and find their own solid footing.

I also want to build a ladder out of homelessness or shelters that allows our alumni the wings to grow into permanent housing but not lose the community they have come to hold so dear.  I am excited to see how the next chapter of our amazing organization can foster that transition.