Back on my feet: A story of restoration and triumph

Back On My Feet staff member Jaime Albarelli leads pre-race prayer. The local nonprofit works with those who are homeless, unemployed or both, using running as a motivational tool to help members get their lives back on track. (Courtesy Mike Shomaker)

Mike Shomaker, special to

WASHINGTON – Before Rachel Panay joined Back On My Feet, she was an alcoholic with a waning music career. And she certainly wasn’t a runner. Yet at a quarter of six on a chilly morning, she’s outside the N Street Women’s Shelter dressed in a thick black coat, wool hat and gloves preparing for a run.

She raises her hands above her head languidly and kicks her feet out to shake off the tiredness. The city is serenely quiet and undisrupted. Street lamps partially illuminate dark shops and vacant office buildings at the intersection of 14th and N Streets, just off Logan Circle.

Six, including Panay, have come out this morning — an impressive turnout considering the hour and uncomfortable nip in the air.

After some announcements about upcoming events and races, the group circles up — putting an arm around one another like a football huddle — to say the Serenity Prayer, a daily tradition.

Then they begin their pre-run warm up.


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