The races, set for Oct. 20, features a 26.2-mile-long Metro Health/Grand Rapids Marathon, in which five men from Guiding Light are competing.
Five more will team up to compete in the Pepsi Zero Sugar Marathon Relay, each of them running a different distance to total 26.2 miles. And one gentleman will toe the line in the Foster Swift Half Marathon of 13.1 miles.
“All 11 of us are involved in Guiding Light’s recovery program,” explains Daniel I., who serves as spokesman for those signed up to race. “We all plan to start and finish the race together.”
According to Daniel, all the men got involved in running to varying degrees several months ago. During this past summer, they entered and finished several different runs of varying distances, but nothing longer than a 10-miler. In recent weeks, they’ve been training at a rate of 20 to 28 miles a week.
Their goal in competing side-by-side is to build camaraderie and cultivate a spirit of lifting one another up, which is something that also surfaces during sessions revolving around their recovery from alcohol and drug addictions.
Running also has emerged as a powerful tool for self-awareness and meeting goals: “In the past,” says Daniel, “when anything became difficult or something was beyond my natural ability, I turned and ran away. Running has changed that.”
Several weeks ago, Guiding Light’s runners were motivated by a visit from Greg Meyer, long-time ambassador for the Amway River Bank Run, and a long-distance ace who excelled at West Catholic High School and the University of Michigan. He is a past winner of the Boston Marathon and dozens of other races, including seven River Bank Runs.
“Greg’s generous gesture certainly inspired our men to consider what more they might accomplish,” says Stuart Ray, executive director of Guiding Light. “For men in recovery, it’s important to identify behaviors that are healthy and sustainable. Running – whether it’s training or competing in races – provides an outlet for these men fighting their way back into society.”
“This marathon wasn’t on any of our radars when we started competing this past May and ran a 5k at the River Bank Run,” says Daniel. “We were all thinking that, OK, a 5K maybe. A 10K would be insane. And now, some of us are actually entering a full marathon.”
Daniel says that “realistically, we’re hoping to average about 11.5 minutes a mile,” and that might include some walking. In other words, nobody’s out to win a medal. It’s finishing together that counts for more.
Daniel shares that the Guiding Light team was offered a discount on their entry fees. They’re trying to raise money or attract a donor or donors to offset the rest of the cost so that Guiding Light will not have to pay the balance. That amount stands at $600 – or $700 if the men create the opportunity to have shirts made that announce them as the team from Guiding Light.