Q&A with a Team World Vision "reluctant runner"

On June 12, a new documentary, Spirit of the Marathon II, will play in select theaters across the country for one day only. Following the movie, audiences will be treated a 10-minute film about Team World Vision.

In today's Q&A, World Vision's Lauren Wilgus -- one of three runners featured in the film -- describes her journey from hating running to being a Team World Vision marathon participant!

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1. In this short film, you’re labeled as a “reluctant runner,” and you talk about how you never liked running even one mile in school. What got you to start running?
I was always the girl who was "sick" the day we had to run the mile at school. I was bad at running, and I hated it. I didn't start running until I heard about Team World Vision. I had just graduated from college, was living in a new city, and needed a challenge. I had no idea the kind of life change I would experience. I signed up for a half marathon, and none of my friends believed me! Running something like that had never crossed my mind before, and it completely shocked my friends and family.

2. How did you get involved with Team World Vision?

I started working at World Vision in Chicago after I graduated from college. I had been there for about six months when Michael Chitwood, now the national director of Team World Vision, came into the office and pitched an idea to encourage people to run a marathon and raise money to help fund World Vision projects. I thought it was a cool idea and that it would be really fun to watch people run!

The more I was around Michael and other Team World Vision runners, the more I thought about trying it myself. It wasn't long before I caught the bug and actually signed up to run the Chicago Half Marathon, Team World Vision's first official event.

3. Was there a moment that tipped the scales to making that leap, or did you just know?

The only reason I signed up was because I knew that joining Team World Vision would make running about more than just me. As much as I wanted a challenge, to lose weight, and to do something totally shocking, the only reason that thing became running a half marathon was because it gave me a platform to raise money for children and communities who need clean water. I knew that a motivation like that would get me across the finish line.

4. Raising money to provide people with access to clean water is a great cause -- but why run? And why a marathon? Wasn’t there something you were already good at you could have done to raise money?

Some people say, "Couldn't I raise money without running a marathon?" My answer is, "Sure. But have you ever done it?" Doing something crazy and unexpected gave me a story to tell. And the connections between running and raising money for clean water quickly became clear. Today, I ran six miles. It was hard! It was hot outside and my legs were tired. When I got home, I gulped down a bottle of cold water and took a long shower.

When I was in Kenya, I met a woman who walked six miles every day to fetch water. Then she walked six miles home. She was barefoot and carried her baby on her back. Instead of being able to care for her other children or tend their garden, she had to make this daily journey. Today, I covered those six miles so mothers in Kenya don't have to.

When I started training, I had never run more than two miles. But I stuck with the plan -- and it was amazing what happened! I did it! I ran the half marathon, and the money I raised provided communities with access to clean water. To me, running a marathon and impacting global poverty seemed impossible. But when I put those things together, both became possible.

5. You mentioned that you’ve continued to run and raise money. Where else has your journey with Team World Vision taken you?

While I was training for my first half marathon, I got to go to Africa with World Vision and see some of the communities we were helping. The difference that a few dollars could make in these communities was amazing. Asking people for money is scary and uncomfortable. But when I got back from Africa, I decided I would never let that fear stop me from asking.

The process also made me realize that I was capable of much more than I thought possible! Finishing that half marathon was one of the best feelings I'd ever experienced. It taught me that doing something I was scared of, that required discipline and hard work, was worth it. The same was true for fundraising. Despite the fear of asking for money, I knew that the kids and communities who would benefit from that donation made it absolutely worthwhile.

6. So you made it through your first half marathon! Have you continued running with Team World Vision?

Yes! How could I stop there? After that first half marathon, I went on to run 2 full marathons and do a Half Ironman triathlon. Now, I'm training for my third marathon and raising money with Team World Vision -- and you know what? It still scares me. I'm still not good at running, and it's hard to ask people to donate again. But now I know that it's worth it.

I've also learned that this experience is contagious! Since I started running, several of my friends, my sister, and my husband have all run marathons with Team World Vision, too. When they saw what was possible, they wanted to be a part of it.

I can guarantee that if you train for a marathon and raise money for communities who don't have access to clean water, when you cross that finish line (and you will!), there is no way you'll say, "I wish I hadn't done that."


Purchase your tickets today for the Spirit of the Marathon II film!

By contributing to World Vision's Clean Water Fund, you can help provide the benefits of safe water, sanitation, and hygiene in communities of greatest need around the world.

Are you a reluctant runner? Don't be! Nearly 80 percent of Team World Vision participants are completely new to running!

Consider joining Team World Vision today to help raise money for clean water!

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