How Mile in My Shoes is Sharing The Power of Running
I’ve been running for about ten years, and running has truly changed my life. I’ve met many amazing people, doing many amazing things. These people have inspired me to do amazing things, and I’ve run farther and faster than I ever thought possible.
Running has been an outlet for my competitive tendencies, my desire to grow and move forward and better myself. Running has become the best expression of my self.
Recently, two amazing people have shown me how to give that power to others, so that they may change their lives for the better.
Meet Mike and Mishka
Mike Jurasits and Mishka Vertin came to town in January 2014, and met up with the like-minded crazies at Mill City Running. They were fixtures at Wednesday night runs and Flapjack Friday morning runs, but both felt themselves missing an experience that they had come to know and love back in New York City – waking up early in the morning and sharing the power of running with others.
Mike and Mishka had been a part of Back on My Feet, an organization that “promotes the self-sufficiency of homeless people by engaging them in running as a means to build confidence, strength and self-esteem.”
Whether because of the climate, a lack of interest or something else, nothing like Back on My Feet existed in the Twin Cities, and Mishka states that,
We found ourselves missing that experience of waking up and teaching new people how to run, [and being with] a group of people that we may not spend a lot of time with if it weren’t for making it intentional. We were missing those relationships in our lives here.
Mike and Mishka decided to start their own group in Minneapolis. They called it Mile in My Shoes (MiMS).
What is Mile in My Shoes?
MiMS mission reads that it is a “volunteer-led team sharing the power of running with a local homeless shelter. We run to transform each other – and ourselves.”
They are based out of Higher Ground, a local shelter and housing facility run by Catholic Charities on the edge of downtown Minneapolis. The group consists of residents and local runner-volunteers.
MiMS meets on Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 6:00 am at Higher Ground. The group starts with a warm-up, led by team captains who are residents at the shelter.
As Mishka explained,
The hugs are really important. It started at Back on My Feet, the importance of touching each other, especially for these guys who are not used to that kind of treatment – especially from strangers!
After the first hugs, everyone gets together in a circle, and Mike gives the route and workout for the day. Then they have a “Question of the day.” Mike gives the question, and asks everyone to discuss it while they run and to come back to the cool-down with an answer.
Finally, there’s the team cheer: “Mile in My Shoes Woo!” And then they are off! At MiMS, it’s very important that no one runs alone. Each practice they mix it up, and run with someone else.
At the end of the workout, the group once again meets in a circle for a cool-down led by a resident and answers to the “Question of the Day.”
(One recent question – “What would you tell your 12-year-old self if you could go back?”) The group has more hugs, goodbyes, and it’s all done by 7:00 am.
Passionate about Mile in my Shoes
Both Mike and Mishka are passionate about MiMS – and in particular, about working with the homeless population. Mishka feels that adult men suffer from a lack of empathy and resources in our society. There are lots of programs for women and children, but,
adult men, especially in lower-income communities, and likely suffering from health issues, are a population that people tend to ignore. You don’t look at adult men with the same potential for change that you do with young people. Plus, a lot of the men were athletic in their younger years, ran or played sports. These were proud and happy times for them, and running can give them the opportunity to feel that again, and to regain some of that self-worth.
For Mike, he personally experienced the ability to use running to,
“bounce back, to start over, to make a bigger change. The program was intriguing to me, and once I witnessed the power to change other people’s lives, I bought in.”
The team has grown over the summer and has had several successes. The MiMS runners ran at the Como Park Relays and a recent Salomon Autumn Trail Series race. They’ve had barbecues and pick-up basketball games to celebrate.
The men have seen some big changes in their lives. One member has lost over 30 pounds. Another has been going through difficult family issues, and the team gives him a reason to get up and face the day. Yet another has significantly cut back his smoking habit. Mike and Mishka hope to keep the program going over the winter, even though they realize that this may present a challenge.
Mishka acknowledges that it will be hard to get both volunteers and new members to start over the winter, as well as get enough warm gear to outfit everyone, but she hopes to keep the feeling of the team together over the winter, even if they just meet once a week.
Mishka and Mike are already thinking about the long-term future. They would love to inspire others to start their own chapters and expand to different shelters and drug treatment centers.
Pursuing non-profit status may be a goal for the next year. But the immediate goal is to keep the team running, and to recruit a group to start training next spring for the 2015 Twin Cities Marathon or TC 10 Mile.
How YOU can get involved!
MiMS is always seeking runner volunteers, and suggest coming at least once per week to get to know people and get the most out of the program. You can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or reach out on Facebook or Twitter.
Additionally, Mill City Running has MiMS shirts for sale. Each purchased shirt directly provides resident members with gear and clothing.