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Homeless runners conquer Tustin half-marathon as part of recovery process

About 3,000 runners participated in the Tustin Hangar Half Marathon on Sunday, March 3. For at least six of those runners, the distance to the finish line paled in comparison to the distance they traveled to get to the starting line.

Those half-dozen homeless runners are associated with the Orange County Rescue Mission. They were joined by volunteers from Up and Running Again, a nonprofit group that works with members of the homeless community, training them to run as part of an effort to get them back on their feet.



“Generally speaking, they’ve all had some sort of addiction, whether drugs or alcohol,” said Brittany Watrous, program director for Up and Running Again. “At the rescue mission they are in a recovery program. One of the guys lived in a tent city in Santa Ana near the courthouse. Some of them are homeless on the street.

“They have broken lives one way or another.”

Some of the runners, ranging in age from their 20s to their 40s, were complete beginners. They trained for 13 weeks, starting with five-minute runs, in preparation for Sunday’s 13 miles.

“A lot of these guys have had unhealthy habits. This is about turning those around – here is a healthy habit to replace the other addictions with. Here is a way for them to focus on goal setting,” Watrous said. “Through finishing this they say, ‘I can reach these goals. I can finish this. I can go back to school.’ It’s a sense of accomplishment that hopefully spurs them on.”

Up and Running Again, which has expanded to other rescue missions, began in Orange County in 2010.

Though some participants drop out over the course of training, every runner who has started a half-marathon has finished it, Watrous said.

And the hope is that completing the run inspires them to achieve other goals.

“For some people, sometimes it doesn’t work and they go back into their addiction,” Watrous said. “But we’ve seen a lot of positive stories.”

Source: Orange County Register

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