Tim Mann is program director at Back on My Feet Los Angeles, a local chapter of a national nonprofit that uses running to help the homeless improve their outlook on life as the first step in a process designed to help them find jobs and housing.
"We tell people when they're joining this program it's not an easy program. It's not for everybody," says Mann on a recent morning. The goal is to help the participants "feel better about themselves so that they could take that positivity and that good energy and apply that to other areas in their life to move forward."
"I don't know many of my friends that could commit to getting up at 5 a.m. Monday, Wednesday, Friday and running at 5:30," he notes, adding that the "challenge" of that schedule is "the point of the program ... to get people ready for what else is out there in life."
"Running really simulates life," maintains Mann. "You're gonna have rough patches, you're gonna hit a hill, ... but you push through it. You're gonna run through a whole range of emotions every run. But the point is to start it and finish it and not give up on yourself every run, and that's really what we hope translates from the program."
Back on My Feet started in Philadelphia in 2007; it now has chapters in 11 cities, according to its website. Los Angeles is the newest chapter, having launched in Oct. 2013.
The program recruits people living at homeless shelters and halfway houses. Those who want to train for half or full marathons also run on Saturdays. Participants who achieve a 90 percent attendance record for the first 30 days move on to the "Next Steps Phase," which involves Back on My Feet staff providing access to educational and job training opportunities and financial aid, the website says.
The organization claims that since Sept. 2008, 5,127 homeless people have taken part in the program, and that 1,850 have found jobs and 1,289 have secured housing.