Recovering addicts celebrate substance-free life through Flying Pig Marathon

This year, 53 men and women recovering from addiction ran the Flying Pig Marathon, thanks to Step Forward, a program from City Gospel Mission.

“Our goal with Step Forward is to show men and women God’s love by training for the Flying Pig Marathon,” says Step Forward director David Pinson.

Participants train two days a week for three months with volunteers from the community. Pinson says that the relationships built during the practices are beneficial to everyone.

“The volunteers are telling me that this a part of my journey now,” says Pinson. “They say ‘I saw a life literally change in front of me.’”

One of those volunteers is former U.S. Representative Jean Schmidt. Though she has run more than 130 marathons in her 39-year running career, she says this program and race are special. “They’re giving back to me as much as I’m giving to them."

Amanda Graves never thought she would be a runner. After a three-year addiction to heroin, a family member encouraged Graves to apply to Having the Courage to Change, a women’s residential recovery program at City Gospel Mission. Graves says once she was there, she learned she could be loved and accepted.

“For the first time in my life, I felt like I belonged somewhere,” Graves says.

That sense of belonging inspired her to start running with Step Forward. After befriending a few volunteers, Graves says the group “tricked” her into running a 10K. Now she’s completed three Flying Pig 10K races.

“I finally got my life back,” she says.

Joseph Wright is also grateful to have his life back.

Two years ago, Wright was a full-time heroin addict. “My whole life revolved around heroin,” he says. “It was pretty hopeless, honestly.”

While spending time in jail for a probation violation, Wright applied to Exodus, the men’s residential recovery program at City Gospel Mission.

"My first week in Exodus was the first time I had ever ran,” says Wright. Building relationships with the volunteers helped him succeed. “They didn’t want to know about my past. They never held my past against me.”

During his time in Exodus, Wright completed the Flying Pig 10K. This year, he returned to Step Forward as a participant in the Flying Pig Half Marathon. He says running is the perfect metaphor for recovery.

“At the end of the day, we’re all trying to cross that finish line,” Wright says. “It doesn’t matter how fast you’re getting there or slow you’re getting there, what matters is that you get there.”

Read more articles by Allison Smith Cohen.

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