For Domonic "Nicko" Robinson, running isn't just a form of exercise, but a way to rehabilitate his life and regain the confidence he sorely missed.
Through a group called Back On My Feet, a non-profit in Baltimore that works with people in homeless shelters and residential treatment centers, Robinson has become an avid runner.
Friday, the 41-year-old and 11 others will run an overnight relay challenge of 200 miles called the Ragnar Relay. The event, which includes 284 teams, will start in Cumberland, travel through the Appalachian Mountains and finish in Washington D.C. Saturday afternoon.
Robinson is part of one of the three Back on My Feet teams from Baltimore participating in the relay. He has trained with the group, running every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, for most of the year. Depending on the event the group is training for, most runs consist of three to six miles. The group also offers optional Saturday runs of longer distances to prepare for more strenuous races.
Robinson, addicted to drugs, sought help at the Helping Up Mission on East Baltimore Street, where after a few months he heard about the running program through one of the monthly orientations. Intrigued, Robinson tried it out in February and has since run in multiple 5Ks and is preparing for a half-marathon in the next month.
"It's really helped my confidence," Robinson said. "It's really, really fun. What can I say? I love it. Sometimes I can't wait until Monday just to go out and run."
Back On My Feet, which started in 2007, surrounds people piecing their life back together with volunteers who love to run and want to help.
"We use running as a means of self-sufficiency to promote confidence, strength and self-esteem," staff member Jackie Truncellito said. "We put together these running teams to form relationships and build that confidence and self-esteem to move out from the facilities and get back on your feet through houses, jobs and education."
Truncellito said the group offers races once a month for its runners, anywhere from small 5k's to the Baltimore Festival. But for the first time, the group is participating in the Ragnar Relay.
The relay consists of 12-member teams that will follow the 200-mile journey together. Each member will run three legs, ranging from three to eight miles depending on the runner's abilities. When not running, team members will follow along in a vehicle, offering support.
While Robinson keeps tacking on the number of miles he can run, he's enjoyed the friendships he's built through the group even more. And today he takes on a steep challenge not by himself, but alongside 11 others.
"This is a special group of people," Robinson said. "They're really dedicated to our success."