I have been training for this run for the last two months. I started from a base of above-average running fitness (think 18:15 for a 5K) and peppered my training with a 13-miler here and a 40-mile-day there. But I don’t expect any of that running to get me to the finish line. The joy of the last mile will get me to the finish line.
Camping next to the beach in Eilat will be a group of 70 children from Youth Futures. My crew and I will have the privilege of running along the beach, into the waters of Eilat alongside them to mark the end of the journey. After that, we’ll sing beach songs around a campfire until the sun sets.
Of course it won’t just be my crew and the kids in Eilat. The mentors from all of the schools in the Eilat region will be camping out too. I wish I could share with you the admiration these kids have for their mentors. When a group of Philadelphians visited Netivot, a boy from Youth Futures, shy at first, opened up about his relationship with his mentor. The 11 year old, after explaining all that his mentor helps him with, shyly concluded with “הוא כמו אבא שלי” (he’s like my father).
Another example of the admiration these kids have for their mentors is the “Youth Futures Room” at Netiv Yitzchak, a school at which I volunteered. The room is small, unheated, dimly lit, and has a broken door. However, it is by far the most popular room at the school. With decorations on the wall, smiling faces, and a line of mentees pushing to get inside during every recess – you can tell something special happens there.Max, Yisraela, Malka, and Reut (their mentor) in the Youth Futures Room
While at WashU, I had the opportunity to see similar admiration on the faces of kids from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri at the Take Steps for Kids Running Project events. It was possible to see the bonds between Bigs and Littles grow stronger every month during our field day activities.
During my run, if ever I am feeling week, tired, or nauseous, I will think about the power of mentorship. While I may be feeling week, I hope to enable at least one more child to know the life changing benefits of having an additional positive role model. Knowing I am doing a small part in making that happen will give me the power to push on.