Runner's World (USA)
Why RW+ member Sue Sheridan Statz is running in all 50 states.
I learned at an early age that setting goals rather than limits is how we get ahead. So when I began running in my 30s, I took it on with a vengeance. I was starting my career as a busy university professor and living in the Wasatch mountains of Utah. I needed a quick escape from the tenure clock while absorbing beautiful views and experiencing endorphin highs. Running was an easy choice. I loved the freedoms it provided and the solidarity I felt when runners supported each other. Although I knew that I would run forever, my goaldriven hunger needed more.
On my first trip to Haiti with my sister’s medical mission, Friends of the Children, I was not prepared for the extreme poverty and personal hardship that the people of Haiti endured every day. As an educator, I was taken aback by the primitive conditions in which children learned—cinder walls and dirt floors, wood planks for desks, few to no educational supplies, and no potable water or electricity. But I was also not prepared for their resolve, spirit, and dedication. Every day, children walked more than an hour to school. They congregated each evening under one lone streetlight to do their homework. Yet many were left behind.
I knew instantly that I could do something—that a new personal goal was imminent. I met with an amazing group of educational leaders in La Montagne, Haiti. Together we formed Elevating Haitian Education. We identified 50 high-risk children. Ensuring that these students completed school would be our mission.
Now I run not just for myself. I’m running a half or full marathon in each of the 50 United States to raise funds and provide scholarships for these children.
The lessons I’ve learned as a runner—
“MY SUPPORTERS HAVE GROWN FROM A SMALL HANDFUL OF LOYAL FRIENDS AND FAMILY MEMBERS TO PEOPLE I’VE NEVER EVEN MET.”
namely the importance of taking chances, being uncomfortable, and persevering— propel me along this journey. I am often joined in races by my own children and running partners who are as committed as I am that I achieve this goal. My supporters have grown from a small handful of loyal friends and family members to people I’ve never even met.
Ironically, although I started this quest to help kids in Haiti, it is they who are teaching me to be more resilient, persistent, and patient. I am constantly being reminded that challenges in life—whether they be educating children in one of the world’s poorest countries or running all 50 states—are best endured head-on, but not alone.