When you give a girl an education, you’re giving her a chance to live healthier, delay marriage and childbirth, resist domestic violence, secure a better job, earn higher wages, and break the cycle of poverty. I volunteer with She’s the First to give girls in developing countries the chance to be the first in their families to graduate from high school. While volunteering, I’ve met amazing women like Erin Leigh Patterson. Last year, Erin Leigh ran 26.2 miles in Atlanta to sponsor a year of education for 26 girls in Nepal–one for each mile. On November 3, she’s doing it again in New York City. Learn more about her big goal in the video below. Consider donating to give the gift of education or tweet your support. You can also follow Erin Leigh’s training story on Twitter and Instagram.
Of all the causes you could have selected to support with your marathon training, why did you choose to support She’s the First? When I was in college, I learned a lot about human trafficking (which was taking place right in my neighborhood in Atlanta). I learned about the problem of exploitation both locally and globally and was completely devastated by this and also felt very helpless. It’s such a complicated issue — people are trying to make ends meet, feel needed, support their families, and then the spread of disease (especially HIV) across communities — so I always knew that I wanted to help fight this any way that I could. Educating girls is such an important thing in the fight against trafficking. With an education, girls are empowered to care for their families and communities without being exploited. In addition to the fight against trafficking, education is such a powerful tool in the fight against poverty. In a world where we have so much to give, I want to do any small thing I can for those who don’t enjoy that.
How is training for your second marathon different than training for your first? The unknown is out for the most part, so I am able to just focus on the training. I knew it would be a lot of work and a lot of time, more than I could have comprehended before actually doing it, so I am simply enjoying it much more. I also have a fabulous coach who helps me adjust workouts when needed and prioritize the important things (like speedwork and long runs, not just miles miles miles like the first time around)!
You ran your first marathon in Atlanta. What will it mean to you to run your second marathon at home in New York City? I am so excited to participate in the event where I am already training. NYC is such an inspiring place to me, so traveling all 5 boroughs on race day is going to be epic! I also feel much more confident about my training — Atlanta is more hilly than one can possibly describe. And while the NYC course is tough, too, I will be much more familiar with the terrain and the weather, which definitely eases the nerves a bit.
What role has technology and social media played in gaining support from others? The thing I love most about social media is the opportunity we all now have to be story tellers. By running and telling my story people were really invited to be part of the journey. In the past I could have sent a letter and a few emails, but now I get to post pictures, report good days and bad days, and show appreciation for the support. This experience would have been incredibly different without that.
How do you find time in your busy schedule to stick to a training plan? Wake up early! I am not an early riser, but I have found a few friends who are willing to brave a sunrise run with me, and getting it out of the way first thing leaves less time for excuses. Also spending time with friends while running is a good way to stay connected to a community while getting in your workouts. I also just have to say no to things now and then, but I remind myself that I won’t always be marathon training so I need to make it count. Most of all, the girls in Nepal inspire me. They might not have a chance at an education, so my loss of sleep is nothing compared to them. Their stories and smiles make a great alarm clock.