The Crossroads spirit was with me on Sunday. At 6 a.m., I headed down to the starting line of Washington D.C.’s Marine Corps Marathon decked out in my Crossroads Farmers Market shirt and fortified by a well-wishing card from the market’s director. (For anyone interested, my tummy was fortified by some organic coffee and a PB & J on sprouted grain bread–what I’ve found to be an excellent pre-race snack).
I went into this knowing that the campaign to rejuvenate the Crossroads’ Fresh Checks program for low-income shoppers through writing articles about it and running 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) had not actually reached its goal. My attempt at a charitable and world-healing act–an act of tikkun olam–had raised awareness and monetarily netted just shy of $700 ($698 to be exact) in donations. My goal was $1,000, but I was pretty sure I had reached my limit. The market managers had sent the ask to their supporters and shoppers, too, so together we had tried the best we could.
This seemed okay, just as I figured it was okay that I had never run more than 8 miles—never hit a milestone like 10 miles or a half marathon like many of my active pals had. I divided my athletic pursuits among a few sports, and wasn’t particularly good at or passionate about any of them.
When the race got underway, I started running with my friend Ellen as she began her first full marathon, and before I knew it, my original target distance had flowed under our feet. I don’t know if it was the rock music pumped in along the route, the water stations with their cheerful volunteers, or a fan club that shouted encouragement and ran with me and Ellen for portions of the course, but I just kept going.
How far did I go? I passed 8 miles, hit 9 and 10 and 12, and continued all the way to the halfway point of the marathon at 13.1 miles. This was 5 miles farther than I’d ever run before and 7 miles beyond my goal. Later, I joined Ellen again and ran the last 3 miles with her.
We crossed the finish line together—me clocking a total of 16 miles that day, and Ellen completing 26.2 miles. We celebrated with hugs, high-fives, and hydration. We also ate the most delicious pizza I’ve ever experienced.
I’m not sure if I’ll turn into a long-distance runner any time soon, but I have been inspired to continue to raise funds for Fresh Checks until the final market on October 28.
From this day, I think I’ve learned a lesson: The confluence of community support and good food can really work wonders, whether it be the wonders of running farther than you ever have in your life or putting healthy food on low-income families’ tables.
Read more about the successful but imperiled Fresh Checks program in The Washington Post and in my farmers market column. To give online, go to the Crossroads website and click on “Donate”.
Photo: Ellen, the marathoner (left), and the author after the marathon.