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Running Toward Recovery

Running is hard. Addiction recovery is even harder.



For some of the men and women in Portland Rescue Mission’s addiction recovery programs, the challenge of running and addiction recovery go hand-in-hand.

Three mornings a week, weary-eyed residents at The Harbor (for men) and Shepherd’s Door (for women) lace up their running shoes in the wee hours of the morning, stretch their legs, pray together and hit the pavement.

They’re training for a 13-mile half marathon.

If that sounds grueling, it is. Training your body to run long distance takes dedication. Drive. Focus. Pain. Endurance. Positivity. Desire.

So does addiction recovery. The lesson in character-building goes straight to the heart for the men and women enrolled in our New Life Ministries.

“They’ve never done this before,” says Heather, a volunteer who runs with the women of Shepherd’s Door.

“They’ve never set a healthy, positive goal and they’re apprehensive because they think they may fail. And some days it’s hard, but that’s okay. You can have a bad day, you can have a bad run, but just how you come back from that in a healthy, positive way.”

“I have discovered that I can finish something that is really difficult,” says Marianne, a runner and graduate of the recovery program. “I have discovered that I can persevere and that when I feel like I can’t take another step, God helps me get through it.”

Through running, they’re also learning the best way to do recovery — together. When one person feels weak or wants to give in, friends listen and encourage. The difference of doing it together creates lasting change.

“I start at the beginning telling them, ‘This program is about fellowship. We just happen to be running.’”, says Tim, a volunteer runner with the men at The Harbor. “It’s amazing, because you’ll have an opportunity to spend hours and hours and hours over the miles that we run over the months together, and you learn so much about people.”

The bonds of friendship, the focus on God, the emphasis on a healthy mind and body, and the miles of pavement are making a difference as these men and women run toward recovery.


“I just remember the hardest times that I went through in my life, homelessness and drugs,” says Colleen, in recovery at Shepherd’s Door. “Running has really softened my heart, has really opened me up and has really gave me a chance to live again and grow. I wouldn’t be able to do this without the encouragement of my peers and the encouragement of my mom. That is just really striving me to want to wake up every morning, get out here and run my heart out. And God’s grace has really given me the strength to keep going.”


“It’s helped me with cravings. It’s helped my anxiety.  It’s helped my depression, and it makes me feel good about myself,” says Marianne a runner and now a graduate of Shepherd’s Door. “It’s helped my confidence level, and just feeling better in general. My health. For my recovery, I get a different kind of satisfaction from running that I don’t need from drugs anymore. I also feel like God has taught me about fellowship.”


“Most of my life I was a drug dealer involved in just selling drugs,” says Zeke. “My life was desperate and hopeless, and nothing seemed to fill this void that was in my heart. I felt this major loss of love and I felt abandoned and rejected. I didn’t feel good in my own skin. As I came to The Harbor, my relationship with God has blossomed and my relationship with other men and with other people has blossomed.”

“By running, I’ve found that my body is healthier,” Zeke continues. “I’ve changed my diet. Now I really care about what I put into my body. I’m more conscious of the things that I eat and I’ve had higher self-esteem. I feel more energetic, more positive. It’s all around just boosting my self-esteem and made me feel healthier in all areas.”

Running and his time in recovery, have changed Zeke’s outlook.

“I never had dreamed of really going to school. I’m realizing that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. I just have this faith and this hope, this desire to go to school to get an education that I never had before and this built a hope in me that I can do anything, I could tackle any obstacle I might face.”


Interested in volunteering with the running program at Portland Rescue Mission? Contact volunteer@pdxmission.org.