Martin after finishing the Lung Run 5k on August 27, 2017

Martin after finishing the Lung Run 5k on August 27, 2017

Martin speaking to the Iraqi Youth Leaders from World Chicago about Chicago Run

Martin speaking to the Iraqi Youth Leaders from World Chicago about Chicago Run

Summer 2017...two words...CHICAGO RUN!  The summer program officially began at Little Village High School Campus during the month of July and I couldn’t wait to get started.  From the first day of practice I knew we were off to a great start.  The positivity and energy brought by everyone who came to practice was inspiring - it was as if we all knew each other our entire lives.  Better yet, right away I could see bonds and connections forming among the runners and coaches. On Tuesdays, practice would consist of team challenges that offered even more time for everybody to learn how to communicate, respect, and show good sportsmanship. In the end it was all about having fun and supporting one another. Creativity from the coaches as well as ideas from the runners made each and every day a unique experience.

Then there were the two World Chicago events.  One group of students we got to bond with was from Iraq while the other group was from the U.K.  On both occasions, I alongside a couple of other Chicago Run youth spoke about what Chicago Run has meant to us.  Afterwards, we participated in ice breakers and small group activities.  At the end of each event we ate lunch and  had the opportunity to talk, learn about each other, and share social media since so many friendships were made! It was terrific!  Both events were great and showed us that no matter where you're from, or who you are, you can’t judge a person without getting to know them first. 

In addition to all the fun, there was always work to be done.  By that I mean we all knew there was a 5k on August 27, 2017.  So we had our days for our long runs whether if it was at the park or over the bridge.  Everyone had a goal in mind and never gave up.  Everyone worked hard at his/her pace and we supported each other along the way.  Then the day came, August 27th, everyone was lined up at the start line and the excitement was amazing! So many runners in one spot, you just felt like you belonged and it was a wonderful feeling.  As the 5k began and I went running, I felt alive, as if there's nothing to worry about.  It just feels so peaceful, as you're focused on your run, despite everything happening around you.  When I finished the race, I waited for the other runners to arrive & cheered them on as they crossed the finish line.  During that time, I was also quickly interviewed about Chicago Run and my experience with it so far.  It went great and once everyone crossed the Finish Line, it was all chatter and high-fives, and all around.  Everyone was so proud of each other, giving feedback, and advice.  I could tell no one wanted to leave.

This summer is the best one I’ve experienced so far in my life.  I won’t forget anybody or the memories at all.  Chicago Run has changed my life in all sorts of ways and I can’t thank them enough for everything they have done for me and others as well.  For now though, I just have to continue my running and wait to see what lies ahead of me in my future.  One thing I know for sure though, whatever it is, it will definitely involve Chicago Run and I’m proud to say that. 

Reflection by Martin Garcia, L.A.C.E. Up! program participant 

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