Mile Matters with J&A Racing
People often ask Jerry and I how the Starting Strides program began. The idea came to me the same place where most of my ideas come from: on a running. For those of you who don’t know, Starting Strides is a program through that J&A Racing Foundation that makes running accessible to students who have barriers that prevent them from participating in the Operation Smile Shamrock Final Mile.
In 2012, I was running at one of our sponsored elementary schools with a young man who had picked me as his running partner. This young man was determined to run and spoke to me about his love of running. He told me he ran to the bus stop, ran to get the mail, ran every chance he could because running was the only thing that made him happy.
While we were running, he shared more and more. The more he ran, the more comfortable he became. During our run, he told me he witnessed his mom being shot to death at their front door. He was the only one home at the time, and he called 911 but it was too late. Since he lost his mom, he moved in with his grandma. He went on and on about how he appreciates his grandma and everything she does for him, but he told me he missed his mom every day. Running was the only thing that helped him forget that horrible day.
At this time in our run, we had already done about 2 miles. My running partner told me he needed to stop and walk because his feet hurt. I looked down, and he was wearing a pair of shoes that were maybe two sizes too small. Can you imagine? I asked him about his shoes, and he said his grandmother could only afford one pair of shoes for him each year. We finished our run, celebrated with the other kids and this young man who forever touched my life went home with his grandmother.
As soon as Jerry and I got in the car to drive away from this school, I filled up with tears and told him about my experience. I knew I had to do something. During that car ride home, we decided giving free entries to the Operation Smile Shamrock Final Mile wasn’t enough. Kids like my running partner need more. They deserve more.
What started as a program to encourage students to move has turned into so much more. Through the J&A Racing Foundation, we now partner with companies and individuals to provide support to Title I Schools in our community. These students not only get a free entry to race, but they are expertedly fitted for runnign shoes thanks to local running store Running Etc. They get new running shoes. They are given transportation to and from the race.
This year we returned to my running buddies school. He was fitted for his new shoes, ones that his grandma won’t have to buy him. Because of him and his bravery to share his love of running with me, we now have 14 schools participating in the Starting Strides program.
Fast Facts about Amy:
- Co-Owner and Race Director at J&A Racing
- Favorite J&A Racing Event: MSP Design Group Big Blue 5K.
- Favorite Personal Race Memory: Winning a bottle of wine at the Wineglass Marathon for finishing 3rd overall female.
- Random Fun Fact: My Marathon PR (3:10) is at the Shamrock Marathon prior to owning it.