News for North Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Want To Help The Homeless? Try Running 50 Miles

A Dallas “ultra-marathoner” --- that’s someone who runs races four times as long as a standard marathon --- ran on a treadmill in downtown’s Victory Plaza for 12 hours.

Since Wednesday morning, Elysa Nelson was averaging nearly 5 mph, on one of three treadmills, strategically placed in public to raise money for the homeless in North Texas. 

“You know, 12 hours on a treadmill is awful, right?” she says. “I mean, there’s no other way around that. It’s horrible. But 12 hours being homeless is unimaginable. To me, this is just a really small way to show all the different things that were doing to try and help that population in Dallas.”

Trying to raise $10,000

She’s with the non-profit organization Back On My Feet. Its goal is to raise at least $10,000 for four shelters in Dallas County. There are other runners too, but Nelson is the only one running for 12 hours straight. She prepares with a special snack.

“So I eat these things called rice balls,” Nelson says. “It’s a mix of sushi rice, sweet potatoes and bacon. I’ve been eating one of those an hour.”

To keep hydrated, she downed bottles of a holiday cocktail, without the alcohol --- cane sugar, potassium, sodium, and a mystery dried fruit flavoring.

When the 12 hours were up, Nelson had passed her goal of 50 miles, and raised more than $6,500, to help people like Johnathan Norton. He’s trying to balance himself while running on the treadmill.

First time on a treadmill

“This is my first time being on a treadmill, so I was like, I hope I can do this!”

He did, smiling with glee. Norton is from Russia, and came to Texas when he was just a kid. Now at 32, he’s facing a few challenges. For four months, he’s been living in a local shelter, and has been without a job. But with the help of Back On My Feet, he’s physically fit, and soon, he’ll get some money to purchase things for his new home.

“Desk, bed, chair, couch, kitchen ware, ya know, stuff like that,” Norton says.

Gina Parker, executive director of Back On My Feet, says her group helps individuals get back into life.

“The way that we see it is, if we can get them to change their perception about themselves, and start feeling good about what they do, and who they are, that starts them on the right track to becoming self-sufficient.”

Doualy Xaykaothao is a newscaster and reporter for NPR, based in Culver City. She returned to NPR for this role in 2018, and is responsible for writing, producing, and delivering national newscasts. She also reports on breaking news stories for NPR.