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Why I Ran the Chicago Marathon on Behalf of the American Red Cross

Today in the United States, more than 64 million people each year jog or run for fitness. From hobby joggers to high school runners, semi-professionals, trail runners, collegiate runners, and master’s competitors, running has never been more prevalent. This year, about 45,000 people ran the Chicago marathon on a rainy Sunday. As I ran through the streets, with thousands of people cheering and offering support, I thought that the city had never felt brighter. 

The American Red Cross has been around for over 130 years, with the simple mission to “prevent and alleviate human suffering.” Because the Red Cross operates five distinct lines of service, it is difficult to put one exact number on the people we serve in a year. Some of my favorite stats from 2017 are:

  • Provided over 227,000 shelter stays and 3,684,800 meals to victims of natural disasters.

  • Installed more than 472,000 smoke alarms in over 197,000 homes

  • Taught 317,000 children about fire safety

  • Vaccinated 135 million children worldwide

  • Provided 1.5 million people worldwide with critical disaster assistance

  • Collected more than 4.7 million units of blood

  • Provided more than 304,000 emergency contacts to service members and their families

The Red Cross touches people from all walks of life—men and women deployed overseas, cancer patients or trauma victims needing blood, third-world children who need lifesaving vaccinations, and your neighbor down the street who just lost everything they own in a home fire. The desire to positively impact others has been the vague, indistinct impetus behind my decision to work in the non-profit sector, and I feel privileged to realize this fully in my work for the American Red Cross.

The desire to make a positive impact is historical for me, but the sport of running has been a large part of my life for as long as I can accurately remember. I was 11 when I inadvertently signed up for the cross-country team and, like so many people, developed a passion for the sport. Since then, I’ve run hundreds of races in myriad places—on Stanford’s infamous track, around golf courses, up mountains, in rain and snow and unbearable wind. I’ve stood on top of podiums, suffered enormous injuries, and met my closest friends. The sport of running is a salve for many people—creating community where there was none, inspiring us to do our best, to overcome obstacles, encourage confidence, and manage defeat. 

The common denominator between running and the American Red Cross is connection. We run together to share strength, find community, help each other, and celebrate victory together. Similarly, when I took my job at the Red Cross, my dad said something that has stuck in my hippocampus ever since, “You know, the Red Cross is always there when they’re needed.”

Over the past year, I have witnessed this first-hand, as local response teams deployed in the middle of the night to respond to a huge apartment fire, as volunteers and colleagues traveled to the Carolinas to respond to Hurricane Florence, or set up shelters for residents fleeing massive wildfires. One day as I was giving blood, I met a man who gives platelets every two weeks on the dot. A woman I met on a plane thanked me as she recounted a story of the Red Cross helping her family recover from a tornado that ripped apart their home. The Red Cross is everywhere we are needed.

I signed up for the Chicago Marathon because I wanted to run in community with 45,000 people who were equally excited about the prospect of 26.2 long, excruciating miles. I raised money for the American Red Cross not only because I believe in our mission, but because I am grateful to be a small part of making someone’s darkest moment a little bit brighter. There is a beautiful synergy in this—pursuing meaningful work and a meaningful hobby; bringing people together for no other reason than we are stronger together.

P.S. If you are interested in competing in a future race on behalf of the American Red Cross visit our Athletic Events page HERE.


Sarah Rose

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