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September 11th: Running a Marathon for Sanctuary

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I have never run a marathon before.

Several years ago I ran an hour every morning. I was addicted to it. I could not imagine a day without it. The first mile was always hard, but then I'd find my stride, and by the time I was done, I felt on top of the world. I had breathed out all the bad air and breathed in all the good air. But even with that daily discipline, I could never imagine running a marathon. I didn't understand how people did it or why they would they want to.

I stopped running one day, cold turkey. (That's another story.)

I hadn't run or thought much about running since that day maybe eight years ago, until I got an email from Lisa Mueller. Lisa is a Director at Sanctuary for Families, the leading nonprofit in New York State dedicated to serving domestic violence victims, sex trafficking victims, and their children.. I met Lisa when I was doing some work fundraising for domestic violence organizations, performing shows, living room concerts, donating CDs. Sanctuary immediately struck me as a special place. It had a wholistic mission to help families, and survivors from the moment they walked in the door until they could begin again in a safe environment. Sanctuary provided shelter, childcare, job training, legal assistance, whatever was needed, with warmth and care.


Lisa's email said the Sanctuary for Families NYC Marathon sponsored team was down many runners this year. The bombings at the Boston marathon had reduced the numbers of participants in charity runs across the country. Sponsored runs are important annual funding sources for many charities.

I didn't think of it at the time, the effect terrorism would have on non-profit organizations that count on races and marathons for funding.

On April 18th, the night I went into labor with Hope, my third daughter, now almost five months old, my husband and I were watching what was happening in Watertown. The television was on for hours, as we viewed along with most of the country, the minute by minute coverage of the lockdown, my contractions getting closer and closer until they were six minutes apart. My husband is from Auburn, Mass. His mom, still alive then, was in Mass., on the Cape. Friends and family were on the phone.

It was strange to be so close to birth witnessing murder. An echo, a shadow, of twelve years ago when I was 36 weeks pregnant with Emma, my first daughter, on this day, September 11th. I watched a second plane hit the World Trade Center from my window and saw the second tower fall on the news and outside the glass panes in concert.

I couldn't do anything to help in April as I couldn't in 2001. I left the city then as the air in the east village became thick with brown smoke the next morning, a man stopping to give me his dust mask when he spotted my giant belly.


I wrote to Lisa, "I would really love to do this, but I haven't been running in years. I don't think I would make the time cut off. There must be one."

She said there wasn't a cut off and it would be great if I could come run.

I hesitated. Logistically, on the surface, it didn't make much sense or I could easily come up with reasons not to do it. I live across the country now. I just had a baby. Three children, I work, there's no time to train -- or what if financially, by the time I get there, etc., what if I can't raise enough money to make it make sense.

Then, an overriding sentence ran through my head.

You are able to do it, so go do it.

It was the coming together of circumstances. It was three kinds of home. My home, NYC, my husband's home, Massachusetts, and Sanctuary, a home for families, people I've met and listened to their testimonies.

Three homes. I have three daughters. Statistics tell me, that one in three women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime, which also means their children will experience it. Domestic violence accounts for 1,300 deaths every year. One in five prenatal and neonatal deaths. I pray that it's not them. And I realize if my prayers are answered, that means someone else's daughter will experience it instead -- unless the numbers change. So it's my friend's daughter, or my daughter's friend's daughter. A child I don't know being sold (2,000,000 children a year). A stranger's daughter. As young as five years old. I look at my baby's face. When you see a baby's face nursing on your breast, you don't fathom how anyone could ever hurt anyone. It occurs to you, everybody is somebody's baby. A baby's face is peace -- or the hope of it.

Running the NYC Marathon for Sanctuary means running for peace. Peace in the home, peace in the country, peace in the world.

I'm not an idiot. I know it's just taking a quick turn. It's nothing like what Lisa has dedicated her life to. I'm only taking it because I can, because it's in front of me, it's possible, and I'm supported by everyone around me, my husband, my children, my friends, my neighbors, my students, fans of the music I play. It's a place of deep fortune. Lisa and the people that work at Sanctuary, and places like Sanctuary, that are physically protecting and nurturing survivors everyday, and striving to change laws and make the world aware of things no one wants to be aware of... they are the leaders of peace. They count on all of us to take a turn to help: walk, run, write, give. And, the runners at this race count on all the people that can't run this time round, but wish they could and so they sponsor. In just a few weeks, I have been overwhelmed at how friends, family and people I barely know have begun sponsoring this team, and donating to Sanctuary for Families.

September 11th is a day we want to think of how we can help the world, change the world, participate in creating peace in the world, so no one should ever suffer again, so every baby is loved and protected. And safe.

So we run towards it. Run for it. Run with it.
Or walk. Or glide. Or give. Or cheer.

Singer/songwriter Ruth Gerson will be performing a benefit show Saturday, November 2nd at 6PM, the day before running the NYC Marathon as part of the Sanctuary for Families Marathon Team at Rockwood Music Hall (Stage 1), 196 Allen Street, NYC.

Sanctuary for Families NYC Marathon Team still has room for more runners and is grateful for your sponsorship donations.