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Back on My Feet Boston was given the opportunity to provide entries into the 2012 Boston Marathon to a few (very) lucky BoMF Res Members thanks to our partnership with the John Hancock Boston Marathon Charity Bib Program. Over the next six weeks leading up to the Boston Marathon, we’ll be highlighting some of the runners on this year’s Back on My Feet Boston Marathon team, including the five Residential Members who will be lacing up on April 16: Austin Baker, Brian Doucette, Wahid Chaudhary, Jared Gately, and Chris Hatton. This is Austin’s story.

Austin Baker’s story, while filled with heartbreak, is sadly not unique to many men in Boston. A father of two, he had been living around the corner from his children in order to help care for his autistic son. Born prematurely and slowly nursed to health, Baker’s son meant the world to him. That’s when everything was swept away in a single swoop, Baker says.

Baker had been searching for a work after being laid off from his job as an operating room nurse’s assistant. While out of work, he had been staying at his ex-girlfriend’s parents’ house, where he helped the aging couple keep up the property and paid for the utilities in return for their kindness. After two years however, his children’s grandmother suffered a stroke, permanently paralyzing her right side. When they moved her to a nursing home, family members take over and demanded that Baker vacate the house. Without any legal say for the house, he had no choice.

Without anywhere else to go, Baker entered Father Bill’s Place in Quincy the next morning. He states that first night without his son was one of the loneliest of his life. “Here you are with nowhere to go at a place where you don’t know anyone and you’ve got to try to put your life back together.” Baker says of his first few days in the shelter. “I said I need to do something about this. The morning after my first night there, I got on my bike and rode to the beach and I stood up there on the rocks at Wollaston and I said I will get myself back on my feet, no matter what.”

From then on, Baker pledged that each step he would take would be a positive one.  That’s when he joined Back on My Feet. During that first morning run in the summer or 2011, he made it abundantly clear that he was serious about running. And he wasn’t kidding. In simmering summer heat, Baker would take off on team runs and lead the pack by barreling toward Wollaston Beach at a torrid pace that was hard match. With an athletic build more suited for a linebacker, he took that same competitive drive and desire and put it to good use at a number of local road races.

As his running progressed, Baker became hooked on the idea of running the Boston Marathon. Fully aware of the competitiveness and near impossibility of getting a number for someone in Baker’s shoes, his teammates encouraged his marathon dreams by highlighting other marathons in area, but Baker wouldn’t budge. Months later, when he found out that he would, in fact, be representing Back on My Feet on the Boston Marathon course, the 54 year old was nearly speechless. “This is one of the best days of my life,” he said.

“Sometimes it’s hard to not feel like things will never go right for you,” Baker says. “Running turns that around.  Running makes you think about yourself and the changes you need to make. You feel good. No one can take that away from you.”

Currently working as a landscaper, Baker is still searching for full-time, non-seasonal work. He’s honed his interviewing skills and updated his resume thanks to classes offered by Back on My Feet. He hopes to be able to put both to good use soon with goals of one day working again as a nurse’s assistant so he can get out of the shelter and back to his son.

You can support Austin and the rest of Team Running Home by making a tax-deductible donation to the team. For more ways to help Team Running Home cross the finish line of the 2012 Boston Marathon, contact Vic Acosta at vic@backonmyfeet.org.

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