What some of you may not know about Topo Athletic is our headquarters is located at the mile 7 mark of the Boston Marathon. This is one reason, among many, why the Boston Chapter of Back on My Feet (also known as BoMF) holds a special place in our hearts.
Over the years we’ve been happy to contribute in as many ways as we can to support their cause, but this year we wanted to make it official. In addition to sharing their members’ amazing stories of strength, resilience and hope, we’re proud to support Back on My Feet’s Boston chapter by committing to donate all of our inventory of lightly tested shoes to them and their members.
When we spoke to Jen Hyde, Program Director at BoMF, we were almost overwhelmed by the touching information she shared about the program. How she described the weight that is lifted from a member’s shoulders when they receive a new pair of shoes, especially ones that fit and accommodate the swelling and pain that comes from living on the street day in and day out, was simply humbling.
“Running shoes for our members bring community, support, self-esteem, goal setting, and light the fire to keep striving to get better than you were the day before. Our members especially appreciate Topo shoes for their wide toe boxes, which can accommodate many of the major foot issues that develop from being on the street for so long. They say proper-fitting shoes make them ‘feel normal’ again,” said Jen. “BoMF is known for running (people see us ALL over the city!), but I wish we were known more for the things people don’t see unless they are in our program, such as finding our members jobs and homes and making sure they have all the skills and resources necessary to create the life they deserve.”
Thank you for joining us last week as we shared the story of Wes Doty from the BoMF Philadelphia chapter. Stay tuned for more updates from him in the weeks to come! Today, we are proud to introduce two Topo Athletic fans that are members of the local Boston chapter: Jason A. and Brian K. Check out their Q&A’s below!
Tell us a little bit about yourself!
My name is Jason, I’m 42 years old. Born and raised in the city of Taunton, MA. Just got out of incarceration, doing a lengthy time of incarceration. I was released last summer in June into a long-term treatment program for drug and alcohol substance abuse. So, with that being said, I was released with a GPS bracelet, bail and to a program which was the Hope House here in Boston. When I did get there, within a matter of a week or so, the organization Back on My Feet came into the building and discussed with us what they had to offer. I was totally baffled and amazed by the resources they had for people like us. I couldn’t not take this opportunity.
What were you first impressions of Back on My Feet?
I remember when they mentioned BoMF, at first, I was like what is that, what do they got to offer? Because all you hear when you get to Hope House is all these programs that are going on: this program does this, this program does that, which program is better fit for what situation you’re in. When we were in the SOAP (30 day intensive program) group they had mentioned BoMF was coming in and what I liked a lot about it was primarily waking up early in the morning, I like waking up early in the morning to start my day, you know, go to work. That was always something that was instilled in me when I was a kid and then years ago when I was in the military too. It feels good to have people who push me in the morning and there’s a group of us running together.
Can you tell us about what brought you to your time incarcerated?
Because of my past behaviors with being addicted to drugs and alcohol and also my behaviors of selling drugs and being around the wrong people; that lifestyle of not being on the right side of the law brought me to bad places and made me do bad things. I got caught, not only once, but a lot of times. So many times, they don’t give you too many breaks so you start doing a lot of time for it.
How has Back On My Feet helped you thus far?
Before I got to the Hope House, I already had it in my head because I had a good five months sober, that I’m done with my past behaviors. But what BoMF did to me, it gave me that little (not little a lot actually) that structure and stability like something that gives me something to look forward to in the morning, something to have pride in.
Were you running before BoMF or did you start with BoMF?
I’m going to be honest with you, I hadn’t run in a good 18 years. I remember the first day we went running it was pouring rain out, I was cold, and I was running in Carhart boots and I kept up. Even though I must’ve coughed up a lung and half, I was really amazed with myself that I made it throughout the run. Within the next couple days, I did it again and it just got easier and easier and literally 3 weeks ago we did the 5k and I did the 5k in 32 minutes. Considering that I’m a little overweight, I hadn’t run in year and had been beating up my body because of drugs, alcohol, stress – not only that, I’ve done road construction all of my life, so I’ve put a beating on my body. I haven’t taken care of my body the way I was supposed to. Now that I’m sober and clean, that’s another thing that BoMF has helped me with too.
You had been running in construction boots. What was it like to get that first new pair of Topos?
It felt like I was running on my feet, I feel like I’m running on clouds. They’re very comfortable and light, feels good.
What do you like about the shoes you run in now?
What I like about them is that they’re light, they feel nice and comfortable, like they’re wrapped around the shape of my feet. When I run in them, there’s no movement once the laces are tied nice and tight. Where the toes are, it’s wide, not like a regular sneaker, it’s not like a pointy sneaker like most running sneakers are. I was born with my right foot as a flat foot, so it does feel better running with a wider foot at that point. They seem to be very well put together sneakers, dependable sneakers. The colors are flashy, they’re sharp looking kicks.
Are you training for anything now?
The only thing I’m involved with are my runs that I’m dedicated to with the program, part of my participation with the program for giving back to you guys and whatever you ask me to participate in that I am able to do. Running outside of the program, like the Boston Marathon, maybe in the future!
Can you talk about your goals with the next few months?
My main goal right now as we speak is to stay sober, keep on working on my recovery, continue with my daily meetings, counseling. Other than that, I have a goal of getting my driver’s license back, which BoMF is contributing big time to help me out. I’m most grateful for that. I’m in the process of trying to get back into the construction field. I applied for a couple of the unions. I wouldn’t mind down the road to go back to college, some school, to have in my back pocket. I wouldn’t mind getting into counseling, like drug addiction counseling or something. I figure if I had 24 years of a career in it, why not?
Anything you want to add?
I just want to say thank you to BoMF and all you guys at the sneaker company, Topo.
What’s your story?
I am an athlete; I used to run track and cross country and play hockey. Eventually I started using drugs and alcohol, didn’t pay attention to health. Came in 2015 to Hope House and ran with BoMF for a little while but then left without graduating. Then I came back to Hope in June 2019 and joined BoMF again and have stuck with it since then.
Where are you on your journey?
I am 10+ months clean and graduated from Hope House in early February. I am living at the Hope House Graduate House now. I have a job working as an afterschool counselor and tutor, which is what I really wanted to do for a career. I am hoping to be a science teacher someday.
How has BoMF helped you get back on your feet?
Running has helped with my mental and physical health. I was in poor health both mentally and physically. I became a consistent member with BoMF, showing up 3 days a week. In the fall, I trained for the Baystate Half Marathon and that was a great goal. BoMF provided me a bib for that. After participating in BoMF’s Next Steps program, I was eligible for financial aid. BoMF provided me money to cover my move in costs to the Hope House Grad House.
How did you start running?
I used to run cross country when I was younger, so it was easy for me to pick it back up. When I joined BoMF I started run/walking and eventually graduated to fully running.
Why do you keep running?
I keep running for my physical and mental health. I enjoy being part of a team and having some structure and goal to work towards. I like to pick races to focus on as goals and work towards them, it helps keep me motivated and in a good routine.
Are you training for anything?
Yes, the New Bedford Half Marathon, it will be my second half marathon. Sunday, March 15.
What does a new pair of shoes mean to you?
It means I am able to run faster, train better and look fancy!
What Topo model are you running in now and what do you like about TOPO shoes?
I am running in the Fli-Lyte 3 for BoMF runs, I like the style and color. The other pair of shoes I would like to run in are the MTN Racer – they look like a great trail shoe. I would like to start running on trails more often to get out of the city.
Anything else you would like to let us know about you?
I would eventually like to run the Boston Marathon. Even though I have moved into the Grad House, I continue to run with BoMF. My mom is a marathon runner and me starting to run has helped with our relationship because we have something in common to talk about. I also like pizza-a lot!!
Back on My Feet is a national non-profit, operating in 13 cities across the US. They use the power of running and community as catalysts to combat homelessness, helping their members (those experiencing homelessness, in recovery or are in danger of losing their home) ultimately achieve sustainable employment and stable housing. Since founding, Back on My Feet has helped more than 7,000 men and women achieve jobs and homes, and together they have run almost 1,000,000 miles. 2020 marks the organization’s 10 year anniversary in Boston.
Interested in learning what you can do to help support your local Back on My Feet chapter? Visit www.backonmyfeet.org and click “get involved.”