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The whole BoMF Chicago Family at our most recent all-team run, in celebration of Sarah's Circle!

The whole BoMF Chicago Family at our most recent all-team run,
in celebration of Sarah’s Circle!

Even a brisk and windy morning couldn’t damper the enthusiasm of Back on My Feet Chicago this past Friday! On a morning much colder and darker than the average person might prefer, our Back on My Feet teams found smiles in every step and new friendship in our miles.  Teammates from all four Chicago teams gathered together to celebrate the revamped Uptown team and to have a morning together as BoMF family.  Despite shivers at first, everyone left the run warmed up and warm at heart!

Our new Uptown team, formerly made up of Residential members from the North Side Housing facility, now also welcomes teammates from the shelter around the corner, Sarah’s Circle.  This all-women’s facility is thrilled to partner with Back on My Feet, and three women make up our first batch of eager participants.  With a particularly strong and enthusiastic group of NonResidential teammates by their side, the new women—all trying running for the first time—already feel so much support and encouragement.

Friday was incredible because it gave our new members a chance to meet the whole Back on My Feet family, and it reminded old members of why our BoMF family is so special.  While riding home from the run, a longtime Lawson House teammate said, “There’s just no other group like us. Nowhere else where you can be this happy, find all this positivity, feel this energy.” 

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves… and we are excited to share these sentiments as we welcome the women from Sarah’s Circle into our Back on My Feet circle.   

The revitalized and revamped Team Uptown, now welcoming women from Sarah's Circle!

The revitalized and revamped Team Uptown, now welcoming women from Sarah’s Circle!

This month, our honored Members share what Back on My Feet means to them.  It (almost) goes without saying, that they mean so much to us too! We’re lucky to have them as part of our family.

Shawna, Team Lake View

“I joined BoMF because I thought it was such a great program.  I originally read an article about it in Runners World a few years ago and it was so inspirational it brought tears to my eyes.  It seems like there are so many people out there that can benefit from the program and I just wanted to help wherever possible and running seemed perfect.  

 It’s a sense of joining a ‘family’ that depends on you to show up but they don’t judge if you can’t make it.  Everyone is always welcoming regardless of the amount of times you can or can’t get to the morning circle.  Though I’ve only been a part of the team for a few months, it’s part of me now and I hate missing the morning runs!

 As for a few fun fact about me, I’m a shoe size 10 and I like to eat hard boiled eggs or toast and almond butter after I run. I’m also trying to get better at juggling, my revolutions are about 3-4 before I start dropping.   I’m currently training for Chicago’s F3 Half Marathon in January and the Austin Half in February.”




Peter, Team Lake View

Peter has been a part of Back on My Feet for almost four months now, and has gone from running barely a block to running a 5k with BoMF! He is always a happy and upbeat presence in the Lake View morning circle, whether or not the end of his run takes him by Dunkin Donuts for coffee.  In his time with the team, he has completely blossomed, going from a quiet and shy teammate to the team’s most outspoken and talkative member! He says of BoMF: “It has been really inspiring.  For me, it has helped me to—really what it stands for—get back on my feet.  I had a ‘Who cares?’ attitude before, about everything, especially about small things like being on time. But now, that’s all changed.  I’m not working just yet… but it’s getting me there.”





Michael, Team Lawson House

“I’m born and raised in San Francisco, and came to Chicago to prepare for graduate school. I have always been active my whole life, as a three sport athlete in high school. I picked up running in college and have continued running marathons and half since. I prefer not to run with any music/headphones, just the sound of my feet pounding of the pavement.  When I finish running, my favorite thing to take down is a bowl of oatmeal with peanut butter and a sliced banana.

I joined BoMF as soon as I moved to Chicago because I have a desire to help others and a passion for running, so this was calling my name. I’ve had the chance to meet some amazing people as a member of the Lawson House. I’m so glad to be involved with the team. Everyone there is welcoming and so enthusiastic  to be part of the team, which makes it a lot easier to get up at 5:30 in the morning and run.”


Will, Team Lawson House

Will joined the team at the end of September and has maintained an impressive 100% attendance rate since then.  He just this month earned his 50 mile medal and was smiling ear to ear as he put it around his neck! He joined because a friend on the team encouraged it, and he is so glad he followed in her footsteps.  Will says, “I like the Back on My Feet Program because it teaches me about goals and how to achieve them. What can I say? I just love Back on My Feet!”


Laura, Team St. Leonard’s

“I was introduced to Back On My Feet through a Streetwise article. I had just finished training for and completing a marathon and needed a little inspiration in my own running. Now I look forward (yes…I said look forward) to waking up early to meet with the team each and every week.

I’ve been running for over a decade now and am training for my 3rd marathon in Big Sur California in April 2013. Knowing I’ll eventually hit a “training slump” while working towards Big Sur, I can rest assured that Back On My Feet runs will be an excellent way to re-charge my batteries and find meaning in my running again. I enjoy talking to all of the members of our team, residential or not. We all have so much in common in our lives and our running.

I knew I could feel comfortable with the team when during one of the morning runs where we had several new members I took an embarrassing spill (all too common for this runner!) and was helped up and checked up on several times throughout the morning by almost every member of the team. Good to know one has so many people to lean on, literally and figuratively! Thank you for all you do Back On My Feet, and thank you to my team for your continued support and inspiration!!”

Duane, Team St. Leonard’s

In early August, Team St. Leonard’ s was lucky enough to welcome Duane as a member.  In his relatively short tenure with the team, he has accomplished quite a lot—has has logged over 125 miles already! He recently completed the Santa Hustle 5k and has plans for many more races with Back on My Feet. Duane says of the team, “It’s a good team, supportive of each other.  We help each other set goals, and we keep each other healthy and motivated.  Back on My Feet is a great way to wake up in the morning… It’s, really, it’s the perfect way to start my day.” 

“Millions of Santas filling the streets!”

Here in Chicago we are not used to running a holiday-themed race in 50 degree weather, but nobody seemed to mind leaving hats and gloves behind to run the Santa Hustle 5k last weekend! On a bright and sunny (and completely un-December like) Saturday morning, 18 Residential Members and over a dozen NonResidential Members made the trip down to Solider Field and found themselves among 8,000 other Santas, all in red shirts, hats, and even beards.  It was a sight to see, with one Member– who couldn’t run because he had to catch a train out of town– reporting he could see “the millions of Santas filling the street” as he waited for the Amtrak.  

Runners were able to enjoy a new course through the Museum Campus area and on the lakefront path, and in accordance with the holiday theme, there were not just your average water stops but also cookie stops along the route. Our members were just as focused on finishing as they were on fun, as everyone spent time together taking pictures in their costumes and even met a reindeer at the post race party.

Our top three finishers were Joe from St. Leonard’s (21:08 minutes), Al from Lawson House (24:35 minutes) and Carney from Lawson  House (24:55 minutes).  It was Carney’s first official race with Back on My Feet, as well as Rex’s, from Team Lake View.  Rex was proud to cross the finish line with teammates Peter and Kyla. 

Without a doubt, we enjoyed all our Santa time together and now look forward to enjoying the holidays, waiting for the real Santa to appear!


A post-race photo, with a few of our Santas!

Duane (our yoga guru) in the warrior pose



At the Lake View YMCA this past Sunday, BoMF Chicago took a momentary breather from the busy holiday season and enjoyed a yoga session together.  Residential Members from three teams came together to practice stretching, breathing, and relaxing.  Some were brand new to yoga, like Dawn of Lawson House and Willie of St. Leonard’s, but others were quite familiar with yoga and all its benefits.  Duane, of St. Leonard’s, had practiced yoga for a year and half, and told us, “Keep at it, it works!”  Denis, from Lawson House, was giving it a try for the first time but prepared for the session by reading a yoga book!



Our whole crew hard at work!



All participants tried downward dog, warrior, and even a balancing act of a pose called the “crow.” Joe from St. Leonard’s said when we finished up, “I feel muscles I’ve never felt before!” Everyone agreed that yoga was much harder– but more beneficial– than we might have first thought.  Our instructor, Cari, reminded us how important it is, as runners, to take the time to stretch and relax! Everyone enjoyed the session and looks forward to  “keeping at it,” as Duane recommended.  We may just need to have another yoga class again soon!

Though a month far more mild (weather wise) than expected, Back on My Feet Chicago found plenty of ways to spice things up.  From our annual pre-Thanksgiving fun run to ever-expanding morning circles, there wasn’t a dull moment this month for our teams.

At Team Uptown, we celebrated the enrollment of Residential member Frank into Inspiration Corporation’s Culinary Arts training program.  This terrific program helps participants learn the meaning of commitment and responsibility while also learning their way around a restaurant kitchen.  We wish Frank well there and hope for his success! We also send well wishes and hopes for speedy recovery to the areas damaged by Hurricane Sandy.  Teammate Danny was planning to run the NYC Marathon (he grew up in New York) but instead volunteered for a few days in clean-up efforts.  Uptown enjoyed time spent at the Feaster 5k, always a favorite BoMF event, and we were especially proud of Lee for running the 3.1 miles.  NonRes Monika, Eric, Jaya, and Beth were there to support, run, and contribute delicious eats!

Smiling at the end of our Feaster 5k!

Team Lake View took to the lakefront and enjoyed the Feaster 5k as well.  Carmelo was proud of his first place finish, and though a backache slowed Omar down, he too had a successful race.  Team Coach Stephen—who literally just happened to bump into him along the route—jumped into the race and helped him to the finish line! Lake View also enjoyed a special Thanksgiving lunch on the actual holiday.  Team leader Jay and NonRes Julie helped to coordinate a wonderful afternoon full of food and good company.  It was a real treat to share holiday time with the Back on My Feet family, and everyone left stuffed.

Lake View celebrates Thanksgiving together!

Though the theme of November can often seem like it is food, the focus at St. Leonard’s this month was on homes too! We had two Residential Members move out and into their own apartments. Both Issac and Jorge are proud to have places to call home, and it is all the more exciting to make this move just in time for the holidays.  They still plan to run with the team when they can! In the meantime, new members eagerly fill our ranks.  Both Ron and Willie joined the team this month, and completed their first 5k fun run.  Ron’s enthusiasm was unmatched as he cheered, “Back on My Feet! We’re taking over Chicago!” We certainly hope so…

Ron at the finish of his first 5k!

Last but certainly not least, Lawson House too had a month full of accomplishments.  Residential teammate Dawn celebrated two exciting things—both her birthday and reaching 50 miles!  A few teammates, with Wahid at the forefront, remain involved with Streetwise Neighborhood Carts and keep busy vending fruit.  Carney finds himself equally busy as a delivery person with UPS… and knows that December will only be busier as holiday packages fill up the delivery trucks.  Lawson House runners—among them Team Coach Dave and Res Al, Wahid, Anthony, and Carney—are happily logging long Saturday miles as they train for January’s half marathon.

Though we don’t know when exactly winter will hit, or what it may bring to us in Chicago this year, we look forward to the months ahead and hope they stay as hectic and happy as November has been! 

Our last cheer in short sleeves, maybe!

Post-race moment at the Feaster 5k!

We don’t usually think of Thanksgiving and 65 degree weather as going hand in hand, at least not in Chicago, but last Saturday brought a happy marriage of these two unlikely things.  For our Back on My Feet kickoff of the holiday season, all four of our teams gathered downtown for a 5k fun run and a pre-Thanksgiving feast.

 The spectacular and sunny morning brought out almost 50 BoMFers, many of whom took the chance to wear shorts and t-shirts for one last time.  We ran an out-and-back course along the lakefront path, allowing the maximum amount of high fives, smiles, and shouts of encouragement to be exchanged.  Carmelo, representing Team Lake View, was our first Residential Member to cross the finish line!  In hot pursuit were many others, including close contenders Al and Carney from Lawson House and Ron and Mark from St. Leonard’s.    

For Ron, it was an especially important day—this was his first run with Back on My Feet!  He already seems to be one of our most vocal and passionate teammates though, as he peppered all passerby with cheers of “Go Back on My Feet!” and “Back on My Feet in the house!”  His enthusiasm was infectious, and whether BoMF folk or not, everyone running by on the lakefront was smiling. 

We had even more reason to smile when we returned to Lawson House for our potluck lunch.  It turns out our NonRes are not just wonderful runners but wonderful chefs too… and our table was spread with dish after dish of Thanksgiving delights.  There were sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie, stuffing, green bean casserole, cornbread, pecan pie, and so much more. Bess of St. Leonard’s even treated us to a full turkey! All of us seemed in agreement, as we chatted and mingled at our tables, that this was a day filled with so much to be thankful for!

BoMF Chicago Staff would like to thank everyone who came, everyone who cooked, and everyone who has been a supporter of Back on My Feet.   We hope your Thanksgiving next week is filled with as much to be thankful for as ours was on Saturday!

A crowd with much to be thankful for…

Taking in the fall scenery (and some great food!) at Water Fall Glen

This month brought Team Lawson House to all kinds of places, from nature trails and kitchens to marathon course and ballrooms.  We started out the month like everyone else, with the exciting Chicago Marathon.  Lawson House was proud to have three second-time Residential member marathoners out on the course on race day, and it was thrilling to see Andy, Wahid, and Anthony cross the finish line!

After those 26.2 miles of city streets though, we could all use some variety, so we took a daytrip out to the scenic Waterfall Glen Nature Preserve midmonth.  A perfect fall day weather-wise was made even better by jogging through wooded paths, hiking to waterfalls, and having a picnic together.  We were even treated to a bonfire, carefully brought to life and tended by Daniel.  The trip offered a welcome respite from downtown and allowed us to enjoy the fall season together.

We took in the excitement of Bash with all three other BoMF teams and many, many supporters at the end of the month, but then also had our own Lawson House excitement to finish out October too.  Almost all our Res members and more than 10 NonRes visited the new Ronald McDonald House downtown on October 29th.  We made and served dinner for dozens of families, and spread all the smiles that we had to offer.  It was a happy meal for all, and a chance to share our Back on My Feet spirit with others in need. 

The gentlemen of St. Leonard’s full of smiles at their marathon cheer stop

October started out in the way only one month a year can… with the renowned Chicago Marathon!  We set up shop at Mile 15—just a few blocks from St. Leonard’s—and were lead by cheer captain Laura as runners streamed past.  We cheered on Gavin, Kate, Shelley, Anne, Brett, Ashley, Paige, and our very own St. Len’s alumni Akbar! How happy we were to see all these folks, as well as the many other BoMFers on the course, accomplishing their goals.

Speaking of goals, we also had four new Residential members join the St. Leonard’s team this month and commit to setting goals, circling up, and moving forward with Back on My Feet! As Nathaniel, Marvin, Mike, and Ray have settled into the team, they’ve already made great progress.  Longer standing members of the team continue to do that as well, with seven members taking Financial Literacy or Tools for Success classes this month and two members taking even bigger strides.  George moved into his own apartment in Mount Prospect, and Mark was offered (and will soon begin training for) a position at Accenture.

The work we do as a team on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings certainly seems to be carrying over… Everyone at St. Leonard’s has been and will continue to offer each other support, one mile or moment or marathon at a time! 

Team Uptown with Founder & CEO Anne at Bash!

We were proud this month to have many teammates involved in many ways in the fabulous Chicago Marathon! An enormous, gigantic, and humongous congratulations goes out to our runners—Amanda, Danny, Cory and Michelle—who completed the race with incredible results.  It was a perfect weather day for the race and all those who competed did an amazing job. 

Uptown also had many cheerers stationed along the course, with dynamic duo Elizabeth and Ian popping up at different points, as well as Eric and Jaya doing the same.  Sonja handed out water for runners, and Jim even jumped in with Residential member Anthony to jog a few of the tougher miles.  Everyone played a part in this day, offering support and making it something memorable, meaningful, and fun.

We closed out the month by making a few more memories at the Birthday Bash.  Uptown enjoyed hearing from founder and CEO Anne Mahlum, and even got a picture with her before night’s end! We were glad to see and hear from the person who made our team—which means so much to each of us—possible!

Team Lake View representing well at the Pilgrim Kids Care 5k

The energy and enthusiasm of Team Lake View continues to spread! October saw a steady growth in the size of our circle, and even better, we welcomed three new Core members on board this month.  Shawna is stepping up as Volunteer Coordinator, Stephen as Team Coach, and Kyla as Social Coordinator.  We’re lucky to have these stellar NonRes to help our fast-growing team. 

This month was also special because of its memorable races.  We cheered on thousands of runners (including a few of our own NonRes) at mile eight of the Chicago Marathon early in the month, and then in the last weekend of October we took on a much shorter—but equally exciting—race at Montrose Harbor on the lake.  Carmelo, Will, Peter, and Howard all ran this 5k race and it was amazing to see each of them push themselves until the very end. As Peter and Howard’s first race ever, it was especially inspiring to see their finish.  NonRes Jay, Vic, Kim, and Kyla all also participated, so there really was a great showing for Team Lake View!

That same night, we traveled downtown for the 2nd Annual Birthday Bash. All our members were recognized and given framed team photos. With great speakers, a delicious dinner, and good company, it was a wonderful time for all and a perfect wrap-up to a wonderful month!