Have you ever considered using running as a way to tell people what you care about? If not, I’m sure you’ve seen people that have. Maybe a neighborhood boy or girl on the cross-country team has asked you to pledge a certain amount of money for each lap they run during a fund-raising event, or maybe you’ve seen a 5K go through your city with every participant wearing pink to raise breast cancer awareness.
When you run, you stand out from the crowd. Try going for a run in a new city and see how many people do a double take as you zip past them coming out of a coffee shop or notice the heads that follow you as you play leap frog with a public bus in traffic. We all find running curious, and those willing to run draw the eyes of many.
Thousands of people line the streets to watch city marathons, runners and non-runners alike. There is something noble about running, a simple but strenuous act. Strangers give shouts of encouragement along a race course and volunteers are on the ready to hand out water and quick energy. It’s a beautiful thing. The running community is made up of much more than just the runners.
Running for a Cause
When Rosalie Fish found out she could use running in this way, she felt excited, nervous, and powerful. She knew that running was the way for her to tell others about her story, and the stories of people in her community.
Rosalie grew up on an Indian reservation in the state of Washington. Her community is made up of about 500 members of the Native American Cowlitz tribe. Unfortunately, a lot of prejudices and stereotypes about Native Americans still exist, and Rosalie was often on the receiving end of unfair treatment in public schools.
Things came to an all-time low when Rosalie attempted suicide after the bullying, abuse, and harassment wouldn’t stop. She was transferred to a new high school and decided that she would take up running again, remembering how it made her feel as a middle schooler.
“The only thing that really kept me grounded […] and kept me going was running,” Rosalie said, “I found that when I ran, physically, I was unable to feel sadness.” At that time, it seemed that running was saving Rosalie’s life, but running would give her life even more purpose later on.
Rosalie kept running, and with the help of a dedicated coach, she was able to enter (and win!) races that she was being denied previously because of her heritage. She continued to race and her success helped her to feel empowered.
However, it wasn’t until she first saw Jordan Marie Daniel run that she truly felt inspired. Jordan is a Native American from the Kul Wicasa Oyate tribe in South Dakota. When she ran the Boston marathon, she painted a red hand over her mouth and the letters MMIW (Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women) down her legs.
Jordan and Rosalie were able to meet and Jordan was inspired to paint the same symbol and letters on herself when she ran at Washington’s track and field state championship. She said she was nervous, but her actions have been well received and given her even more motivation to run, giving a voice to those that don’t have one.
Every Runner Can Be Seen
You may think that only the elite runners can use their platform to raise awareness. While it’s true that media outlets won’t interview every runner that crosses the finish line, there are other ways to be seen. You can’t tell me that if you run the New York City Marathon in a giant homemade single-use plastic water bottle that you won’t turn the heads of thousands of people. Even if your picture doesn’t end up in the New York Times, thousands of people will see you run past and conversations will be had.
Just think about the people dressed up as Santa Claus or Wonder Woman as they sweat through the 5K or 26 miles of their race. You and I have seen them. Whether it made us think about going to see the latest super hero movie is another question, but we definitely saw them.
If you have something you care about, why not use running as a way to talk about it? Wear a costume, organize a group run, or maybe go big and try to plan a community awareness race. Choose to be like Rosalie and be proud of who you are and what you care about. We’ll all be watching.
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Thank you to Rosalie, I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the show.