CHICAGO (CBS) — On Sunday, 45,000 runners will pound the pavement in the Chicago Marathon.
As CBS 2’s Megan Mawicke reports, crossing the finish line after 26.2 grueling miles will a be life changing moment, but even more so for two men who hope it’s the start of a successful run towards turning their lives around.
“This is my bathroom which also functions as a closet for my stuff, but this is home, for now,” said Wahid Rashad.
“I’ve been sleeping in a room with 5 people, sleeping on floors, in bathtubs, in chairs,” said Isaac Denson.
Denson, 39, is a convicted felon who was in prison for 20 years. Rashad, 63, was a mortgage broker who lost his job two years ago. Both are homeless in transitional living right now, but have bonded through running.
“Running itself, some days are worse than others but it’s a passion for me,” said Rashad.
“I feel great man. I feel like I am at peace. I can think better,” said Denson.
Both men are trying to turn their lives around step by step and are training for the Chicago Marathon. They are getting help from Back on My feet, a non-for-profit organization that provides job training, educational scholarships, and housing assistance but only after they maintain regular attendance in the running program.
“Running is the vehicle we use in order to get them back on their feet but then they also need the skills that they need in order to reintegrate into society,” said Meredith Weber, Communications Director for Back on My feet.
“When I joined Back On My Feet, it gave me a focus. It gave me a sense of achievement again, mile by mile so I took the focus off of material and the focus was on the physical,” said Rashad.
For the last 4 months, Denson and Rashad, along with 3 others training for the marathon, have been up Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 5:45 running. They have each logged over 600 miles so far.
“Don’t focus on us being recovering alcohols, drug addicts. We are human and we have strengths and weaknesses and the running is a way of giving us the confidence to try again,” said Rashad.
“I just want people to know all people that are homeless are not scammers. We are actually trying to make it in society. We are going to school and trying to be productive citizens. We are not asking for handouts, like putting change in a cup. We’re just asking you to give us a chance,” said Denson.
CBS 2 asked Rashad, “Have you thought about how you are going to feel when you cross that finish line at the Chicago marathon?” “No, I’m just thinking about doing it again.”
“I’m going to feel so happy and so thankful because all the hard work paid off and I did not quit. I’m just trying to make it. Just trying to do everything right so I can show the guys that dreams do come true,” said Denson.
Isaac is just 2 years away from getting his bachelor’s degree and has talked at 72 schools in the last year telling kids about life in prison. Wahid is renewing his mortgage broker license and wants to get into housing counseling. For more information about back on my feet go to www.backonmyfeet.org.