By Dan Popovic
Atlanta BeltLine Running Series Director

In only its second year, the Atlanta BeltLine Running Series has grown significantly. On April 28, the Northside 5K had close to 700 registered runners, double the amount from the previous year. The July 14 Southwest 5K sold out with over 640 registrations, also doubling in size from 2011.

As the running series has expanded, more opportunities have been added for runners to participate in the series and explore the Atlanta BeltLine on foot. Earlier this year, we introduced the Atlanta BeltLine Run Club in order to showcase the BeltLine along with various venues located along the trail.

The first run club took place in February at Loca Luna restaurant with close to 80 runners followed by Parks Edge restaurant in March with over 100 runners. Since then the run club has been meeting monthly at Park Tavern, enjoying complimentary beer and live music after the runs.

As the running series has expanded, I have met some amazing people and formed new friendships. Some of these folks come from a great organization called Back on My Feet, where I had a chance to meet with Simone Walker, Director of Communications and Corporate Relations, to learn more about their organization.

Back on My Feet was founded by Anne Mahlum in 2007 as a nonprofit dedicated to creating independence and self-sufficiency within the homeless and other underserved populations by first engaging them in running as a means to build confidence, strength and self-esteem.

Through dedication and hard work, members earn the opportunity to create a new road for themselves by advancing to the ‘Next Steps’ phase of the program where they gain access to education, job training and employment opportunities, as well as financial aid.

According to Simone Walker, Back on My Feet Atlanta launched last year on Nov. 11. “Fittingly, it was Veterans Day as more than half of the residential members of Back on My Feet are veterans – some of recent wars,” Walker said.

According to Walker, Atlanta was chosen as a viable city for the program based on the active running population, the overwhelming homeless population and the presence of some of Back on My Feet’s national sponsors who could help fund the launch and identify candidates for the advisory board.

When I asked Walker about the success of the chapter, she stated, “As of July, 35 percent of active residential members and alum have obtained employment and 11 residential members are currently enrolled in job training or re-education. Currently, 10 residential members have become alumni – meaning they are gainfully employed and have moved out of the shelter into their own housing!”

But there are still more residential members in need of help and many local residents have expressed an interest in becoming involved. Walker said there were 44 active residential members of Back on My Feet Atlanta and more than 200 volunteers have attended an orientation while another 100-plus have expressed interest.

Walker said members receive a brand new pair of running shoes when they first join Back on My Feet, thanks to a program called Run.Give.Run. in partnership with Phidippides running store in Ansley Mall. To join the Back on My Feet Atlanta team, visit the website backonmyfeet.org, go to the Atlanta page then click on “Get Involved.”

I was so inspired by these folks that the Atlanta BeltLine Running Series invited Back on My Feet to partake in the Southwest 5K that featured a team challenge. They brought their team in full force and won the prize for the largest team. Congratulations to Back on My Feet for the amazing support and success the program has received!

For more information about the Atlanta BeltLine Running Series, visit run.beltline.org.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.