The Sole of Columbus: YMCA Residents Get Active
The sun is gradually dipping below the Columbus skyline as we cross over the Scioto River, following the trail back to the North Bank Pavilion. Cedric is breathing heavily and good naturedly complaining about how I’m killing him with my persistence that he finishes this nine-minute set. We’re following the Couch to 5K program and this week that means running for nine minutes and walking for one minute. We finish the set as we round the curve that runs alongside Spring Street, heading back Downtown where the rest of the team is either finishing their workout or waiting outside the Pavilion.
Cedric is drenched in sweat and out of breath, but still has the energy to try to persuade me to let him walk the last set. I make him a deal. He can walk longer than the one-minute rest allotted if he runs full speed from the railroad tracks to the Pavilion. He protests claiming he doesn’t have enough energy to run full-speed after our workout. We come to acceptable terms after I agree to play a pump up song to give him the motivation to finish. He requests “I Got This” by Jennifer Hudson. I find the song on YouTube and hit play. We start running when we hit the hill under the train tracks, passing Charles and Larry as we head down the path. We pass Jenny and David further down the path. I look at Cedric, who has his eyes focused on the finish as we pick up the pace. I realize I’m now running at full speed – and I’m really working to keep up with him. I can’t help but start cheering as we race up the last tiny hill to the brick wall outside the Pavilion where the rest of the team sits. Everyone hears me and sees Cedric racing up to the finish. They all cheer and clap as Cedric comes to a stop. I pat him on the back and give him a high five. We all laugh at his good-natured moaning and groaning. He says that’s the last time he’ll run with me, but he’s smiling and beaming as he accepts high fives from the other guys. Three months ago when the season first started, Cedric was running for two-minute intervals. Now he’s running for full nine-minute intervals and sprinting in to the finish.
Cedric is just one member of our running team, Columbus Sole. Sole is comprised of many of the male residents who live at the Downtown YMCA. We meet every Monday and Thursday from April through September and divide the time into three seasons that culminates with the team participating in a local 5k or 10k. The group is comprised of about 16 residents and 18 non-residents (what we call volunteers). Many of the residents have come from shelters or are in need of low-income housing. Some have come from prison. Some lived off the land.
The group is open to anyone interested in bettering their lives through running or walking. The majority of our members are on the Couch to 5K program, but some will never run due to health issues. Members like Norm, who is recovering from two hip replacements, credit Sole with help in their recovery. Other members, like Cedric, follow more rigorous training schedules and hope to complete upcoming races. Sole member Terence is training for the Emerald City Half Marathon in August.
Despite the obstacles and history that these men have experienced, they continue to persevere– both with their physical and community goals. Over the past two years since the group started, we have seen significant improvements in the stamina of some of the members. However, sometimes the improvements we see go beyond physical. Seemingly mundane things like remembering names can go a long way in building relationships within the team. That’s why the mission at Sole encompasses more than just physical goals, we work to empower all the members to commit to a goal, experience accomplishment in some form, build trust in others and connect to the community.
Our first race of the season is today, June 13th at McFerson Commons/Arch Park. We have 12 members who have qualified to compete in the race – four more than the first race of last season. These men have worked hard to attend at least eight practices and push themselves in their training. In the past year and a half of my time as a member of Columbus Sole, I find myself continuously surprised and humbled by these individuals, their stories, their strength and their heart.
If you’re Downtown today, come cheer on the team at the BT5K. We’ll be the ones in the Carolina blue jerseys donning our awesome new logo.