To train for one of those bouts of insanity, I was running around my neighborhood on a recent weekend. There were some of your usual suspects out and about - the one guy who’s exacting and meticulous about mowing his lawn, or the dog that always looks like he’s just about to jump off his property and chase you, or the older couple that’s happily out for a stroll. There were plenty of kids too - pre-teens darting about on scooters or bikes, little kids playing ball. I ran past this house where several little kids were playing in the front yard. A small boy stopped digging in the grass and watched me as I slowly huffed and puffed up the hill to the house. Just before I reached the corner of the property, he turned and ran up the sidewalk ahead of me. For a few seconds he kept pace with me, ducking his head over his shoulder regularly to see where I was.
One of his playmates noticed, so she looked up from her game of pretend and watched as we ran.
“Why are you running?” she demanded.
The boy and I both turned to look at the girl, thinking of a reply, but before I could say anything the boy stopped running and, just as I passed him, looked at his shoes and then looked at the girl and said, “I dunno.”
Why are you running? It’s a simple question really, but it’s one with countless answers. To get fit and strong. To fight disease and decay. To look into the abyss and quell the restlessness. But for many, running has a humanitarian side. Many races - from dashes and fun runs to marathons and ultras - benefit charities. When I was in college, many university chapter organizations chose to put on 5Ks as their big annual fundraiser. I participated in a few, cursing myself for waking up before 8am on a Saturday. I’ve had friends who have walked for babies and to raise money for research on Alzheimer’s, or who have ridden bikes for MS, or who have fundraised for Crohn’s disease with their half marathon races. I’ve always admired these people who put forth so much effort in their fundraising. So often running can be a selfish, solitary thing, so when my fall race offered a way for me to sign up to fundraise as a runner I thought, “Let’s do this!”
So yeah! Let’s do this! The Bull City Race Fest will celebrate its third year in downtown Durham this October, offering 1 mile, 5 mile, and half marathon races. I’m really excited to “run local” on streets that marked my formative years. I can’t wait for the food trucks and the local bands and the vibe and energy, and I’m excited to announce my first race fundraiser benefitting Bull City Race Fest’s primary beneficiary Habitat for Humanity of Durham.
I got involved with Habitat for Humanity in high school (has it really been ten years already?!) when I volunteered at the Harnett County Habitat for Humanity ReStore, taking in donated household and construction items, and cleaning and shelving those items. Purchases at the ReStore fund home building projects and other community initiatives. I spent a summer volunteering with a friend at the ReStore with a few long trips to Chapel Hill to volunteer at the UNC Center on Poverty, Work & Opportunity (now the NC Poverty Research Fund), all the while being exposed to research on upward social mobility, of which affordable housing is a main tenet. Despite market fluctuations, bubbles, and busts, investments in housing is still one of the pillars of wealth accumulation.
The Durham chapter of Habitat for Humanity has a solid track record, building about 20 homes per year and offering repair services and community support and outreach. With 30 years of work in Durham, Habitat for Humanity of Durham has practiced an open door policy for volunteers and beneficiaries and has built more than 300 homes. They have been granted by the City of Durham several historic abandoned properties to rebuild and offer to lower-income families as a fight against blight and decay and as a safeguard against the growing issue of gentrification.
All this, and Habitat for Humanity of Durham readily takes in volunteers to build and refurbish homes. So often charities can be criticized for inefficiently spending money abroad and turning a blind eye to issues in their own backyard, but in this regard Habitat distinguishes itself. It offers those opportunities to get involved locally, which is how I found myself at a build site on Saturday morning, moving and organizing wood so a Bobcat could get on the site the next day, and then mixing and pouring concrete to stabilize posts for the back deck. It’s hard work, sure, but it’s amazing to see the diversity of volunteers at the site, from first-timers like myself to veteran builders who have been part of Durham Habitat’s work since its inception in 1985. Durham is fortunate to have AmeriCorps volunteers dedicated to Habitat for Humanity, and one volunteer told me about a recent home kick-off where he met the family who is buying the house. He said he discovered just how much having a home means to them. Stability. Safety. Security. A home is such an important part of a person, and I’m glad to say I support affordable housing in this city that I love. So if you can, please pledge with me your support of Habitat for Humanity of Durham, whether that means volunteering with me for a construction shift or volunteering or donating goods or shopping at the ReStore, or donating to my Bull City Race Fest fundraising page. Together we can run local and build Durham.
P.S. "But Liz, why are you just running 5 miles and not the half marathon race?" The short answer is "I'm lazy!" The long answer is some combination of trying to increase speed, manage time, and plan for other races. But that's another story.
You can donate using the widget below, or you can click this link to get to my fundraising page: https://runsignup.com/lizgoodman