Nothing inspires me more than sharing my passion and love of sports with the kids I work with in North Minneapolis. Coming in a very close second is following the journey of other athletes who also share the same desire to give back despite the rigors of daily training, help traveling and competition. 

 

 

Nothing inspires me more than sharing my passion and love of sports with the kids I work with in North Minneapolis. Coming in a very close second is following the journey of other athletes who also share the same desire to give back despite the rigors of daily training, traveling and competition. Zoila has always been one of MY biggest role models. She embodies the essence of a true champion and I am honored to call her a fellow In-the-Arena teammate and friend.

 

I follow Zoila and her In-the-Arena Community Service Project in Alamosa, CO. She just missed qualifying for the Olympics in the Marathon in 2008 but that hasn't stopped her from believing in herself and the opportunity she has to make a positive impact on the youth in her community. A few weeks ago I noticed that Zoila was coming to the Twin Cities to race the Twin Cities Marathon! I was so excited to finally meet her in person and watch her run!

 

Excited to meet Zoila and watch her run! Planning our route to get maximum cheering in.

My goal was to cheer Zoila on from as many places as possible during the Marathon. Luckily I had a 4 hour + run planned for that day which meant we had plenty of miles to cover ourselves! Chad, Brian's Twin brother, joined us for the adventure and helped us get Zoila to the finish line with a big smile on her face :)

I love making signs for people. In-the-Arena means a lot to Zoila and she raced in an ITA jersey so we wanted her sign to represent all her passions.

Our first cheering spot just past 2 miles into the race. It was a cool morning and perfect conditions for the event.

We loved watching the top runners but also enjoyed seeing many other friends racing as well!

We ran to mile 17cheered and then moved to Mile 21. Mile 21 is a tough one because that is where the hills start and the effort sets in. Here Zoila gets her game face on!

Zoila was amazing! She finished as the 7th woman overall and was the second American woman across the line! It beautiful to watch her run and I was energized the whole way for my own workout. In all Brian, Chad and I managed to cover 24.5 miles ourselves while cheering for most of the 10,000 marathon runners along the way! It was an awesome day for cheering and training :)

Zoila and I met up for lunch the following day and I was so honored to give her the poster I made for her.

Our Run Club program has come to an end for the year at the Boys and Girls Club and we crushed our goal of running 2,000 miles as a club! We are so proud of our kids and have already started looking at the schedule for next spring! We still have our neighborhood projects going strong however and the biggest success this year has been getting the kids out biking in Theo Wirth Park. We have partnered with a lot of great organizations, businesses and individuals to help connect the neighborhood kids with bikes, helmets and healthy snacks.

 

Below is a day in the life for the Thomas Ave. North Training Club.  Brian and I strive for consistent and ongoing connections with our youth. We do plenty of single day appearances and events but we truly feel there is a greater connection and success with long term exposure and programming. It certainly isn't easy but it's definitely worth it. We do everything from running sprints around the block to relay races, building jumps for our bikes and taking trips to the nearby playground and of course...getting over to Theodore Wirth Park to search for wildlife :)

Time to get some helmets for the new bike owners.

Jazeer seems to think he always needs to wear his helmet. 

Thanks to Venture North Bike Shop and the American Neurological association for providing free helmets for the kids.

Checking out the bike tuning station outside the shop.

Brian making sure the bikes are ready to go.

The kids are very influenced by their surroundings. Amir checking his own bike.

We have collected a few bikes from some friends and neighbors which we have connected with the kids who we feel help keep the neighborhood clean and participate in healthy outdoor activities.

Heading out down the block.

Exploring the paved trails near Theo Wirth.

The goal is to teach the kids how to get to Theodore Wirth Park from their doorsteps on their own. We always travel the same and safest route to get to the park and we have identified the central meeting location near Wirth Lake should we get separated. When Brian and I aren't in town to bring them ourselves, we have encouraged their older siblings to also join so that the can continue exploring all that Wirth has to offer. So far it's working great! 

Would it be better for my recovery if I wasn't spending over 500 hours a year volunteering and giving back? Maybe. I could nap more, spend less late nights planning my training and focus more time on myself but I know that would not make me a better athlete in the long run. I have found a way to balance my community outreach, my club outreach my sponsor obligations and my training. Most importantly, I absolutely love all of it! I have been bringing the neighborhood kids over to Theodore Wirth on a regular basis and run while they bike. My distance/ recovery pace is the exact same speed they can bike and I get my workout in while they experience something new exciting.

Walking the bikes on the Wirth Lake boardwalk.,
Adventuring onto some single track trails!!!
There have been tons of studies on recovery and how to maximize it for elite athletes. I have found that surrounding my athletic goals with civic goals is the best for me. I love knowing that at the end of my racing career some of my best memories will be of the time I spent giving back while also training and racing at my absolute maximum. Zoila's story truly encompasses this concept. Her journey is one of the most inspirational I have ever heard. Watch her video below to learn more about who she is and what she does!
 

 

Easy recovery ski

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