No Surrender Running Club is a program that believes that all youth have the potential within themselves to do great things! Due to many factors, some youth in urban settings face many obstacles that can make success seem almost unattainable. NSRC works directly with inner-city organizations well established within a community to help these teens experience success, work with mentors, build skills, and ultimately believe that they are capable of achieving amazing things.
No Surrender Running Club serves youth that live in the Garfield Park neighborhood. We focus on the Garfield Park area because youth from this neighborhood face many struggles and difficulties in their everyday lives. For example, youth may lose family members to deportation or violence. Virtually 100% of youth participating in NSRC from this neighborhood come from families that are at or below the poverty line. In addition, this area has one of the highest crime rates in Grand Rapids. This neighborhood has very limited resources for youth outside of school and many attend schools without athletic programming.
Volunteers from local running groups, nonprofits, churches, and businesses are trained as mentors and run with our youth to complete races that will take commitment, dedication, and hard work to be able to complete. NSRC participates in at least three races per year, ranging from a 5k to the Grand Rapids 10 mile Bridge Run.
No Surrender Running Club was started in 2010 by a small group of runners who knew that in addition to providing great health benefits, running also teaches you about setting goals, working hard for something, and increases your internal motivation and self-esteem. From there, the idea was born to work with at-risk youth in the community and train together for a Half Marathon (13.1 miles).
When we began talking about this idea to our non-running friends they started wondering if we had lost our minds. We had many people suggest that a 1 mile run, or maybe a 5K at most, would be more doable. Well, luckily the running community is kind of crazy, and we had several people who were excited about volunteering for NSRC. In July 2010 we had our first training session. We showed up with our running shoes and a vague sense of what we needed to do to get these kids ready to run 13.1 miles. In October 2010 we had six kids, ages 10-14, finish the Grand Rapids ½ marathon. They were tired and sore, but they also had a visible sense of pride and accomplishment.
Three years later we went from one training “season” a year to two; spring, and summer/fall. In 2016, we participated in a 5K Farmer’s Insurance March of Dimes Run For Babies, the 10K Huntington Reed’s Lake Run, and the Grand Rapids 10 mile LMCU Bridge Run. We had 40 kids participate throughout the year, all of whom achieved things they didn’t know possible! It has, and continues to be, an amazing ride. We have seen kids cut 3:00 minutes per mile off their time, and we have some kids that are so fast most of us can’t keep up with them unless we are on a bike.
At-risk youth are just like any other kids; if you set your expectations low, then they will meet your expectations. Conversely, if you set your expectations high and give them your time, attention, and the tools to succeed they will not only meet your expectations, they will often exceed them. You don’t need a magic wand or even a high level of expertise to make a difference – you just need to show-up.