The sun was barely rising when Mary Galloway, sweat streaming down her face, came running down the sidewalk on Pacific Avenue into the parking lot next to the Long Beach Rescue Mission.
She was greeted by fellow runners with high fives and shouts of “awesome” and “Way to go, Mary!”
You would think that Galloway had just won the Long Beach Marathon, but, in a way, she had achieved something even more meaningful. The 58-year-old divorced mother of two children has been homeless while struggling to find work, and is now fighting back with help of a new nonprofit.
Back on My Feet, formed last fall in Long Beach and Los Angeles, helps the homeless become self-sufficient in a seemingly odd way: encouraging them to run and exercise.
“This is helping me a lot,” Galloway said as she received pats on the back and congratulations from her fellow participants after finishing her run/walk through the streets of downtown. “I feel really good about what I’m doing now. I’ve lost 30 pounds.”
The nonprofit, which will hold a public “fun run” this Saturday at Lincoln Park, uses running as motivation to give homeless people a renewed sense of self-esteem and self-confidence, said David Walker, executive director of the Southern California chapter of Back on My Feet.
Participants are required to attend at least 90 percent of the runs, which take place every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 5:30 a.m. to 6:30 a.m. They can run or walk, depending on their conditioning.
Walker said running, especially at such an early hour, helps build discipline and motivation to get the day off to a good start, participants say. It also helps break down the stereotype that homeless people are not able-bodied.
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