For most runners in the United States, a used pair of running shoes is an afterthought, tucked away in a closet somewhere or relegated to lawn-mowing duty after a race is over. But for runners in Nicaragua, Honduras, or other impoverished regions, those used shoes are a treasure.
Take, for example, Cuba: The average monthly salary is equivalent to approximately 25 US dollars. A gallon of milk averages about 8 dollars. A pair of Nike running shoes, at around 69 dollars, is a luxury most Cubans simply cannot afford.
Enter One World Running, a Boulder-based organization promoting health, fitness and nutrition by collecting, cleaning and distributing used running shoes to those in need around the world. Founded in 1986 by sports journalist Mike Sandrock, One World Running has distributed thousands of pairs of shoes worldwide.
The majority of the shoes come from individuals, running clubs or Girl Scout shoe drives. Shoes are dropped off at running stores or shipped to the OWR headquarters, and a Boulder laundry, Community Plaza, donates their services to wash the shoes. Shoes that are in poor condition are sent to Nike in Beaverton, Oregon, where they are ground up and made into running tracks and playgrounds; the ones that are in new or near-new condition are distributed through shipments or service trips staffed by volunteers.
Just recently, Sandrock and his director, Ana Weir, led a team of volunteers to Cuba, where they distributed more than 150 pairs of shoes (including brand-new shoes donated by Brooks Running), along with hats, shirts, and bags, to runners in the town of Baracaoa. It’s an annual trip for OWR, who aids the local running community in putting on the La Farola race, an 18-mile race up and over the Cuchillas de Baracoas mountains. Other service trips scheduled for 2018 include Belize in April and Honduras in June – shoes and volunteers are needed for both. For more information, e-mail director Ana Weir at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit oneworldrunning.com.