Our Mercy Home Heroes team coordinator, Jim Harding, is fond of reciting the team motto—“no distance is too far to save a child.” On the afternoon of August 29, and well into the evening, Harding put his miles where his mouth is, trotting 50 kilometers, (31 miles), to raise funds for our young people.
While the event stretched out over 6 ½ hours, Harding never strayed far from home, lapping a grid of streets surrounding our West Loop campus 52 times to log the targeted mileage.
It was an unusual way to celebrate a 50th birthday, but Harding felt it was a great way to mark the occasion while proving what hard work and determination can accomplish. It was by far his longest run since his second Achilles surgery last November, and his second longest run ever. Harding has completed 26 marathons and one 50-mile race, the latter being when he was in his 30s.
In explaining his idea for the 50K in One Day fundraiser, Harding said that as the person responsible for recruiting members to our Heroes marathon team, “it’s important that I’m leading from the front,” meaning that he does not ask anyone to do something for charity that he hasn’t. Harding has recruited 224 runners to enter the 40th Bank of America Chicago Marathon on October 8. Our Heroes raise significant support for our work with young people.
In addition to inspiring our team members and potential future runners, he hoped to encourage our young people to set goals and push their limits. Running, especially distance running like marathons, “is all about going out of your comfort zone,” Harding said. Whether teammates or youth, Harding wants people to understand that it is not failing to fall short of a goal that is set high. “I wanted them [our kids] to see that,” he said.
Harding was joined by more than 30 young people during various stages of the event, including seven young women who joined from the Walsh Campus. One of our young people had recently taken up running to improve his overall health and well-being and managed to complete about 11 miles, far longer than his previous longest run.
“I hope the kids were inspired to see this guy who hobbled around for two months on a peg-leg crutch earlier this year out there running for 6 ½ hours,” Harding said. “That with hard work and dedication, you can turn around what looks like an awful situation and do something great from that place of pain.”
Several others helped Harding stay on course, especially those who joined him in the late laps as night fell in the West Loop. He was also encouraged by others who ran at points, as well as a large contingent of fans in our courtyard. With Fr. Scott, coworkers, youth, and family, and friends making plenty of noise each time runners passed, the scene resembled a miniature version of our annual “Rockin’ Race Day” marathon cheer station.
“It was an amazing evening. I never ran a lap alone. We had so many coworkers, kids, Heroes, business people from the West Loop and friends that joined me for anywhere from one lap to 30. It was truly a team effort. It was so great to see everyone rally together for our kids.”
Thanks to everyone who helped coordinate the effort and to those who donated to the cheer station atmosphere, including Morgan Street Café, who provided coffee and cake; K-Love radio Chicago (94.3FM), who provided music; CARA, (Chicago Area Runners Association), who provided water and Gatorade; Big River Race Management, who tracked every runner; and Fairlife, who donated milk for the youth and the runners.