StreetWise vendor A. Allen has come a long way since he first began running at the Lawson House YMCA downtown. While living there, Allen joined the nonprofit Back on My Feet, which trains the homeless and formerly homeless to become runners and begin to make changes in their lives that lead to self-sufficiency.
After battling addiction and homelessness, Allen was not in running shape when he first joined Back on My Feet three years ago.
“When I first started running with Lawson House, I couldn’t even run two blocks,” Allen says. “I had two young ladies that encouraged me to run, and then I had two miles under my belt.”
Today, Allen has three completed marathons under his belt, and each time he ran the race (2011, 2012 and 2014), his time improved. He ran the 2014 race with a time of 5:18:07, which is more than 30 minutes faster than his first marathon.
This year’s marathon was especially important to Allen, who celebrated his fifth year of sobriety two days before the race. It’s also most likely his last marathon.
“I said, if I recover, I’m going to try to do three (marathons),” Allen says. “Three is the charm, for my fifth-year-anniversary … That’s all I want to do is finish this one.”
Allen not only finished the race, but he also persevered through what some say is the hardest part of running a marathon — the training. He was unable to run during the week with Back on My Feet because their 5:45 a.m. start time was too late in the day. Instead, Allen trained on his own and began his weekday runs at 5 a.m. before attending his meetings and selling StreetWise. For the weekend long runs, Allen ran with Chicago Endurance Sports.
Despite his solo training, however, Allen wants to thank his supporters and let them know that he did not gain a full recovery and complete three marathons all on his own.
“It’s by the grace of God that I am able to accomplish the things I am able to accomplish,” Allen says. “I tried to do it on my own, and I couldn’t.”
By Colleen Connolly, StreetWise Publisher
Catching Up With Your Crowd
By A. Allen
Running with, or catching up with, your crowd is a phrase that was always told to me coming up. When the older kids would contemplate some mischief or think about doing something illegal they would suggest to me that I “catch up with my crowd.” Sometimes they would add “Kick rocks” or “Get lost!”
It took me a long time to figure out what they were suggesting.
Now I think of my crowd as people my own age who like the things I like. I find my crowd with people who are doing the thing I am doing or doing the thing I would like to be doing someday. Catching up, running with my crowd is being around people which whom I share common goals and objectives.
Today my main purpose is to stay sober and to help others. The way to do this successfully is to be around positive people, to take care of my health and to be respectful, resourceful and responsible.
I love participating with my new groups of peers such as my church members, Alcohol Anonymous members, Back on My Feet staff and volunteers. StreetWise has helped me find my crowd with vendors and staff, customers and readers. And StreetWise has helped me find my crowd with our writing group and Marcie Bearman, who helps us work and write together as a team.