Runner's World (USA)

Why RW+ member Sue Sheridan Statz is running in all 50 states.

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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.

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