Rabia Khan Harvey took a cue from her best friend, former Mercy Home Heroes coordinator Katie Rutkowski, when deciding to run her first marathon this year. It was both Katie’s connection to Mercy Home for Boys & Girls and her history of running multiple marathons that inspired Rabia. Rabia explained that her background in higher education gave her a particular admiration of Mercy Home’s dedication to kids.
“My feeling on it is that Mercy’s mission is to really create emotionally safe environments for the residents of Mercy Home as well as really give them tools to feel empowered to live successful lives despite all the adversity they’ve experienced.”
Before running with Mercy Home, the most Rabia had ever run or trained for was a half marathon, so she knew she would need some help with training. She decided to train with the Chicago Area Runners Association (CARA) and ran with a group near her home every Saturday. She also ran in the morning before work. At first, training was all smooth sailing. “It started off so easy, in my opinion,” she said. “It felt like it was doable.” But when it came time for the 20-mile run, Rabia hit a wall. “I remember feeling so exhausted and just mentally [like] there is no way I’m going to finish 26.2 [miles],” she said. “I never thought I would hit my wall, but I did.”
She posted on Facebook about how much she struggled with that particular run and received support and encouragement from her fellow Heroes. She was able to speak with other experienced runners who assured her that it was a normal part of training to hit a wall. “They gave me lots of inspirational quotes and messages,” she said. “I realized so much of it was a mental game at [that] point. I started feeding myself with positive quotes and [the knowledge that] so many people were going to back me up on race day.” The Heroes community on Facebook was also instrumental in Rabia’s success during the marathon. “We started really supporting each other online and cheering each other on,” she remembered. “I think having that sort of confidence, [that there are] cheerleaders behind you on good and bad days made a big difference.”
The relationships she built while training for the marathon and conversing with other Heroes are an especially treasured part of Rabia’s experience with the Heroes: “If I had never run the marathon, I would have never made so many new friends.”
If there was one part of the marathon that Rabia was nervous about, it was the prospect of fundraising $1,000, but her fears were soon abated. “It’s really not that hard, people do back you up,” she explained. “You do have to remind them though.” Rabia said that through her reminders and Mercy Home’s good reputation, she was able to meet her fundraising goal before her training even began in May.
And when it came to race day, Rabia was thrilled with Hero HQ and the race day experience Mercy Home provided. “I was beyond impressed with headquarters and all the different amenities that were there,” she said. “We felt so special.” She loved headquarters so much that she couldn’t wait to get back after finishing the marathon. “I wanted to go back to my Mercy Home family,” she said.
Rabia experienced firsthand what a part of the Mercy Home family she was while running through Mile 16, the Mercy Mile, and saw our kids out cheering for her. “That meant so much to me,” she said. “When I saw the kids out there, I was so emotional. I was doing this for a greater cause, it’s not just for you.”
Now, more than a month after finishing her first marathon, Rabia describes the experience as “life-changing.” “I’ve become a happier, more confident person because I ran the marathon,” she said. Because of her wonderful experience, it was a no-brainer for Rabia to sign up as a Hero for the 2018 marathon. “I had to run with them again,” she said. She has shared her journey with friends, and they have also decided to sign up as Heroes. “I didn’t realize how many people I was inspiring,” she said. “I got people who don’t even run to sign up for the marathon!” Rabia encourages anyone who is considering running as a Hero to take the leap.
“Mercy Home is going to take care of its runners,” she said. “They really, really treat us like heroes and you do get to make so many new friends you never thought you would.”
We are so grateful for wonderful Heroes such as Rabia who continue to support our kids!