Ainsley’s Angels are on a mission…
Ainsley’s Angels are on a mission…
…and Go! Running is proud to support and partner with them! Ainsley’s Angels gives children and adults with special needs the opportunity to run races across the country. Their main mission is to build awareness about America’s special needs community through inclusion in all aspects of life – to bring joy and acceptance.
The Little Rock Marathon Debut!
Currently in 30 states and 60 cities, they are brand new to Little Rock, and we need your help to officially welcome them to our community during the Little Rock Marathon this weekend. They are bringing 24 Angel Runners and 6 Athlete Riders to participate in this year’s race. We couldn’t be more excited that they are here and joining us for this beautiful event. And, we are sure that their spirit will make race day even better. Our own Meghan Lewis will be joining them as an angel runner! So cheer them on!
When Jarrett Banks came in our store, we knew this was meant to be. Some of you participated in a recent Thursday night run where we ran with one of our Athlete Riders and learned more about the program starting up here in Central Arkansas. So we asked Jarrett to share a little more about this life changing organization:
How does a race with Ainsley’s Angels work?
We pair Angel Runners with Athlete Riders (children and adults with developmental disabilities) in endurance events. Two to three runners are assigned to a racing chariot before each race. The Athlete Riders “Roll with the Wind” in life and in endurance events. We like to say that the rider in that chariot “pulls” us through the race and across the finish line! Anyone with a disability that prevents them from racing on their own may participate as an Athlete Rider.
What is the experience like for the Angel Runner?
Being an Angel Runner is the best running experience you will ever have. These athlete riders are gracious enough to be including you in their life, which is a really special thing. You learn things you have never even though about, like what it’s like to live with spina bifida, cerebral palsy, or MS. That’s a powerful thing. And, the sense of fulfillment you get giving someone else the joy of finishing a marathon. Someone who thought they could never ever be in a race. It’s life changing.
What is the experience like for the Athlete Rider?
For the athlete rider, they are just like any other runner in the race. They register just like everyone else, get a t-shirt, go to packet pickup, get a medal. And they love getting to finish before the other runners. The athlete rider is the core of the team and pushes the team across the finish line with smiles, cheers and immeasurable inspirational spirit. We will be going to the expo, too… and we will be doing that this year, too. Stopping in to hang out with Go! Running for sure and other friends. We will have a booth there, too. So come see us!!
What is your favorite part about being an Ambassador?
The kids just smile and laugh, and the joy of the people that we push in each race. The first person I pushed was 48 years old. He said, “Jarrett Banks, I just never thought I could do anything like this and run in a race.” Just the joy they get feeling able bodied. For once, they don’t feel different. Before I did this, I always assumed that people with disabilities didn’t think about doing a race. But they really do! I hear them say they have friends who run, or they have always wanted to run a marathon.
How much does it cost for the participants?
Registration is free and provides each Athlete Rider with insurance during our events. Angel Runners will only be asked to make a small donation to cover the cost of the Ainsley’s Angels Tech Shirt to wear during our races ($25).
What made you choose the Little Rock Marathon?
We don’t actually choose races; we have to be invited to each one. We currently have a chapter in Northwest Arkansas and wanted to expand to Central Arkansas. I was doing the route 66 half marathon in Tulsa and I just happened to have a booth at the expo. Here I met Gina and Geneva (LRM chicks in charge). We visited and they invited us to come to the 2018 LRM. Since we have to be invited to any race we attend, we were all really excited about a chance to run the Little Rock Marathon. We’ve done 7 races in Western Arkansas (the first in September). Our first half was on February 11th – the Fort Smith half marathon. So this is our second half marathon to include people with disabilities.
What can I do to help or get involved? Go! fundraising for a chair this year.
We are currently looking for a Central Arkansas Ambassador who would help coordinate races, runners, and riders. Or, any volunteer who is great at fundraising or grant writing. We are also working on raising money for new equipment. Riders and runners don’t have to spend money to come to a race because we pay for everything. We need a few new chairs and a trailer to haul everything to each race. These special rolling chairs and cost $1,000. We raise money, donation by donation, or sometimes a company buys a chair and they get their logo on the side for every race. You can be a “Guardian Angel” and donate to Ainsley’s Angels through their website. Since our organization is 100% volunteer based, 95% of the donations stay right here in Arkansas and go directly to fund Riders and Runners in each race.
** Go! Running will be putting on a fundraising event to raise $$
for an Athlete running chair in the near future. So be on the look out!
Do you think you have what it takes to be an angel runner or an athlete rider? Ainsley’s Angels is currently recruiting angel runners of all paces as well as riders. Register at http://ainsleysangels.org.
Running Through the Community: The Little Rock Marathon
It could be a new trail, a dog park, a kid’s playground, or maybe even helping to find a cure. And when you lace up those shoes and enter that race, you may be having a much bigger positive impact on your community… simply by running a race. We wanted to share some of those impacts – a few you may not expect! So over the next year, you’ll be introduced a little of the “back story” on some pretty familiar races.
So set a goal, Sign up for a race. And look at our community soar.
Since the Little Rock Marathon is right around the corner, we caught up with one of the Chicks in Charge – Gina Marchese, and she had some fun things to share! Read on… and don’t forget to join in the race on March 3rd and 4th!
Photo Credit: Little Rock Marathon
The Little Rock Marathon benefits Little Rock Parks, but what does that mean exactly for our running and walking community?
The Little Rock Marathon produced our first race in May 2003, and has contributed over 1 million dollars into our parks system, helped build an amazing, growing running community through free training, and annually provides about a 5 million dollar economic impact on Central Arkansas. Whew. So Thank you for running!!
Tell us about one of your favorite projects that has made a difference for the running community.
A little know face, is that we were part of the original group of communities that starting Global Running day in connection with New York Road Runners. It began as ‘National Running Day’ and then it caught on globally. We love being part of this and proud Go! Running is there, too.
The LRM Medal is famous… Tell us how it all began!
We started off with a standard size medal. Geneva and I ran another race in Texas and Geneva did the marathon and I did the half marathon. We got the same medal except for the wording, and we both looked at each other and said, “we can’t let that happen at our race.” So we got on the phone and changed our medals the very next day. We chose to GO BIG in Little Rock. As the years went on, (Geneva designs our medal and I am her focus group), we just kept enlarging the size to where we now have the distinction of having the largest finisher’s medal (that we know of). Runners World endorsed it. Thank you Bart Yasso!
Adding the LIPS!
At our 10th year, we added lips! I have a lip fetish, all kinds of lip stuff, so Geneva put it on the medal and we cracked up and have stuck with it ever since. We call it our race director’s kiss to all our finishers!
When did you decide to do a Medal Unveiling?
Oh, the early days of YouTube. We decided to unveil our medal and have a little fun with it, so we decided to do the unveiling at a press conference. The very day of first unveiling, Little Rock had an ice storm and the city was in lock down – so NO press conference, of course! But Geneva and I made it to the office and were determine to do something so we did a video on our phones, Kevin Clay (our video guru) uploaded it to YouTube, our video went viral and the rest is history as we say! We now do everything on social media. We say we put the FUN back into the medals. Now people run for the medals and we love that and do just the same. This year’s is lots of fun… and sealed with a kiss. Wishing you all the best of luck and lots of fun along the way. Come join us.