I was asked a few months ago about joining a friend on a journey. Although I couldn’t commit right away, things worked out where I was able to travel to Chicago and run the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half with him for Project Onward.
About Project Onward:
Project Onward is a nonprofit studio and gallery for professional artists with mental and developmental disabilities. Project Onward supports the professional development of artists with exceptional talents and challenges, ranging from autism to mental illness, and provides these artists with workspace, materials, professional guidance, exhibition opportunities and access to markets to sell their work and advance their careers.
Run a Half Marathon as part of a “Moving Art Museum” — 9 runners wearing shirts designed and created by 9 artists. We run the race together, we celebrate each other, and we bring awareness to an important cause.
Meeting the Team & Artists
Saturday afternoon, after the expo, we headed over to the Project Onward studio and gallery to meet the artists and see what we would be wearing. Geo, who has worked with the artists and Project Onward in the past, made touching introductions and we got a chance to learn more about everyone. Each of the runners and artists got a chance to interact, take a look at some of their other works and get to know each other a bit more. We would be running in their art and they were excited to share it with us, and we were honored to be able to wear it.
The shirt that I was wearing was done by Adam Hines. I’m going to be honest, when we saw all the shirts laying out, I was hoping this one was for me. I loved the colors and if you can see the photo above, there is a another piece of his art that shows all the “famous and not famous” pets. From Scooby to Bubbles the Chimp, it’s an amazing piece that just made me smile. I’m not sure if you can see all the names, but it was great to go down memory lane and remember all the characters (it even had Marcel the Monkey from Friends).
Project Onward graciously hosted a pasta dinner for us and we sat and talked to each other, many of the runners meeting for the first time. We discussed how we would run 13.1 miles together, trying to stay close to one another. The idea was that we would be a moving piece of art that would run 13.1 miles. Some of us were 8-9 minute runners and some were 12-12:30 speed walkers, but we were going to accomplish this as a team.’
Running Through Chicago
Throughout the race we received comments and questions about what we were wearing. We happily told them what we were doing and who we were doing it for. After the first couple miles someone had the idea of doing “something” at each mile marker. Push ups seemed to be the idea that stuck and then hand stands got brought up, so we had fun with that. Not all of us participated in the push ups/hand stands, but we all took the mile markers as a place to gather and regroup… it actually worked out perfectly. Some of us ran, some of us walked, but we had a great time running through Chicago. Of course, we took plenty of photos, so let’s get straight to that:
As we approached the final mile, we regrouped and crossed the finish line together. We accomplished our goal of running the race together and having a good time doing it. After we crossed the finish line we met up with Project Onward and had the opportunity to thank our artists for creating wonderful pieces of art for us to run in. All of us donated our shirts and bibs to be displayed in a gallery. It was definitely a 13.1 mile journey that will stand out from the rest. It was great to be a part of something that was about MORE than running a race.
With running the 5K the day before with Shalane Flanagan and running 13.1 with this amazing group of runners/artists, Chicago was a great experience. I’m glad I was able to be a part of it and it’s a weekend I’ll always look back on fondly.
Seen on Instagram
Posted by @runayesha – thanks for cheering us on!
Posted by @niv_85 – thanks for stopping to say “hello” – love this!
Posted by @thecookierunner – glad you spotted us on the course! Thanks for BOTH photos.
Posted by @wendymindy – see all the hand stands by the experts.
Tweet out this story.
Next up: Preview for back-to-back marathons this Sunday (SF Marathon 52.4 challenge)
Thank you to everyone that shared the love on social…