How a Marathon Became a Movement Comments

  • By Erin Leigh Patterson (as told to Rachel Hofstetter)
  • March 22, 2014

I began to tell the stories surrounding my marathon: about the training, but also the stories of the girls I hoped to sponsor in Nepal. By the time the marathon rolled around, my friend Brooke and I had used the power of our networks, of social media and of pure fun (happy hours, etc) to raise over $9,000 — enough to send 26 girls to school for a year, and then some.

It was only the end of March, but my marathon year was supposed to be done. I’d conquered! Except that it wasn’t. In Q2, inspired by our marathon, She’s the First launched a Run the World campaign. Soon lots of people were picking races and raising money to send girls to school (now it’s an annual movement, and it’s going on right now). I felt like I was a full-time storyteller, sharing what the experience of the marathon and supporting girls’ education had meant in my life, and encouraging others to do the same.

And then, in the end of June, my “putting one foot in front of the other” strategy landed me a great new job. That great job included the opportunity to run the New York City Marathon. Did I want to? The NYC Marathon is notoriously difficult to get in to (about 1 percent of applicants get in through a lottery system). I hadn’t been expecting to do another marathon (at all!) but when handed the opportunity, I knew I had to take it. In Q3, I was marathon training again.

And if I was running, I had to make it matter. So I decided to (again) raise money to send girls to school. Twenty-six miles meant 26 girls — getting a second year of life-changing education. 

On November 3rd (Q4!), I crossed the finish line of my second marathon in just a few short months. As I was raising money, I felt like I was taking people along on my journey, but it turned out that I needed them on my journey. It was their support — all of the people who’d sent in $10 or went to a fundraising yoga class or tweeted a message of encouragement or showed up for a happy hour — that carried me through. And most of all, it was the girls I was raising money for. Try telling Sabina, a first grader in Nepal, that you skipped out of training because you’re best friends with your snooze alarm. Not happening. Instead, I carried the girls’ stories with me each step of the way.

Like in a marathon itself, the day to day of training — of life! — can sometimes feel challenging, anti-climatic. But it’s only that day to day, person by person, one foot in front of the other, that gets us through the marathon. The marathon races, the marathon goals, the marathons that make life amazing.

And about that marathon goal? In the end, we raised over $17,000 with my marathon year — enough to send 26 girls in Nepal to school for two years. And that means I get a year off from marathons to rest and focus on my 2014 Word of the Year: hope. 

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