Three runners who participated in New York City’s 13.1-mile half marathon on Sunday trained just like everyone else in the race — going on increasingly longer runs and exercising for weeks leading up to the event.
The only difference is these three are homeless youth.
The Voice this morning caught up with a runner from the Covenant House, a private care agency for homeless and at-risk teens in the city, which helped train three homeless individuals to run in the marathon over the weekend. This initiative is designed to help give these youth or young adults — who came to the city on their own and have struggled with homelessness and have lived in shelters — a chance to take their minds off some of the hardships they have faced and devote energy towards athletic activity.
Elvis, who recently turned 21 and came from California six months ago to escape a difficult family situation, said that it was an important opportunity for him at this time in his life.
“I’ve been through a lot and sometimes that affects you,” said Elvis, who is now a resident of the Covenant House’s long-term residential program in Hell’s Kitchen. (He requested to leave his last name out). “You just need something else to do to distract you. The past is the past.”
He’s naturally athletic and saw this as a good chance to get back to those roots, he said. “I used to do sports, so this is kind of an escape for me,” he said. “It’s a way to pull myself out of anything that I’m going through and it’s kind of…therapeutic for me to run. This definitely helped me a lot.”
Elvis, who completed the marathon at a time of 1:55, is one of 11 siblings back at home in California and had a father who abandoned his family when he was 10 years old.
Brian Bob, a development manager for Covenant House, told the Voice that helping homeless members of his program run in the marathon is about giving them a sense of normalcy as they face difficult situations.
“It…empowers them. Although they are in this situation that’s not a normal situation, life can still look normal,” he said. “These are young people who are homeless, who don’t have a place to be. The fact that you have all that going on with you, and you can still run a half marathon…this is very therapeutic.”
Elvis said he had never ran this intensely before and at times training was tough. But it was something he’s always wanted to do, and since completing the marathon on Sunday, he plans on running more often, he said.
“Always since I was little, I wanted to do a marathon,” he said. “[Now], I can honestly say I can do it.”