Back in May 2015, Runwell started a pilot program with Gateway Community Services, Inc., a nonprofit drug and alcohol rehab facility in Jacksonville, Fl. These participants were given the opportunity to train as runners, and to run the 2016 Gate River Run 15K, which is the largest 15K in the nation, also taking place in Jacksonville.
After months of training and several races in between, eight participants from Gateway represented Runwell in the Gate River Run this past weekend (March 12, 2016). Of 14,000 finishers, five Runwell participants finished in the top 10 percent, and other than one runner who had to withdraw due to a knee injury, all finished–despite the overwhelming humidity.
Just under a year ago, these individuals were struggling through some of the hardest days of their lives, in active rehab for addiction, wondering what their future would bring. It took a great deal of effort and commitment and trust, but over the last ten months, they became athletes.
Runwell Events Director Kim Pawelek helps lead the Gateway group, "They’ve formed such fabulous relationships with each other in a short amount of time, and to see this develop before our eyes is truly inspiring. It’s tremendously rewarding to see them grow and to show such appreciation, enthusiasm and encouragement towards others."
Michael Martinez is a Runwell ambassador who has been involved with the Gateway group since it began, organizing and leading group runs and motiviating rehab patients to train for this race. "I have run the Gate River Run five or six times now, and this year was by far the most gratifying for me because of the presence of the Runwell participants. Seing this group come together as a team and the camaraderie was uplifting. While it was not ideal running weather, everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and they were truly grateful of the opportunity to experience the marquee race here in Jacksonville," said Martinez.
"Another great thing is the awareness and acceptance of our group in the running community, and how others have reached out to us. They know who we are and what we represent. I believe our presence in the community is only just beginning, and that we are going to make a big impact here in Jacksonville."
We're so grateful to be a part of this incredible ongoing journey. Thank you for your participation and support.
Check out photos taken by Martinez and participants before, during and after the event.
The Gateway group on their last training run before the 2016 Gate River Run.