TCS NYC Marathon Spotlight: Erika Tullberg

TCS NYC Marathon runner and Sanctuary team-member Erika Tullberg shares why she’s running this year.

For seven years now, Sanctuary has organized NYC Marathon teams and each year we’re amazed by the commitment, strength and mental fortitude of our incredible runners. This year, we’re proud to say, is no exception! When our team member Erika first started running three years ago, she claims she “couldn’t run more than a block.” Next month, Erika will run 26.2 miles throughout NYC’s five boroughs in honor of the families Sanctuary serves and those who have generously given on her behalf.

Erika is nearly 85% of the way to her goal of $3,000. Help her raise the remainder by donating through her CrowdRise page today.

A New Year’s resolution

I started running three years ago, somewhat on a whim. It was just after New Year’s, I was feeling out of shape, and I knew that getting another gym membership that I probably wouldn’t use was not the solution. Running seemed appealing, because you can do it whenever or wherever you want – so despite the fact that I couldn’t run more than a block without stopping, I gave it a try.

My initial goal was to run a charity 5 kilometer run/walk that I had walked for several years.  Those early cold, dark January mornings I walked far more than ran. Gradually, however, the balance flipped and I was actually running, which amazed me!  I did my 5k, and then another; and another after that. That fall I did my first 10k.

Support made all the difference

The following spring I convinced a friend to train with me for a half marathon – it seemed like a good bucket list challenge.  The race ended up going horribly for me, but the bad taste it left just gave me incentive to try again. The following year I signed up a training group. Having that support made all the difference, and I ended up doing three more half marathons over the subsequent year.

Still, I didn’t think of myself as a runner and never thought I could do a marathon. I didn’t think I could stick with the training, especially during the heat and humidity of the summer, and more importantly, I didn’t think my injury-prone body could take the pounding. Several friends from my running group had qualified for the 2016 New York City Marathon, however, so I figured that if I was ever going to try it, now was the time to do it. I had people around me to help me through the process and I still had the option of running with one of the many charities affiliated with the marathon.

Running for Sanctuary

I put a lot of thought into what organization I wanted to run with. I have always worked in social services, and most of my work has been with children and families that have experienced maltreatment, violence, and other kinds of trauma. Through my work I was familiar with Sanctuary for Families, and knew that the money I would raise would provide concrete help to women and children who have experienced unspeakable trauma yet often remain marginalized and forgotten by society. Running for Sanctuary has also given me additional incentive when I’ve wanted to throw in the towel because people are now depending on me – both Sanctuary’s clients and the people who have so generously donated on my behalf.

One thing that running has taught me is that as hard as it is physically, the largest part of the struggle is mental – to keep running when every fiber of your being is telling you to stop. It seems hokey to say that it’s a great metaphor for life, but it is true. Sometimes you just have to focus on the next step, and if you keep putting one foot in front of the other you will eventually get to where you want to, need to, and can be. Sanctuary for Families helps people to do that every single day.

Unfortunately I’m still not one of those people who feels the “runner’s high” when they are running. What keeps me going is the support of my running friends and the satisfaction I know I will have once I am done. So when I make my way through the city to Central Park on November 6th, I will focus on getting through the next step – remembering all of the people I am running for, and hoping that the strength I have unexpectedly found in myself will help provide strength to others.

Donate through Erika’s CrowdRise page to help her meet her $3000 goal!

Merriam Mikhail: Why I run for Sanctuary

Two years after I began volunteering, I was inspired to take on another challenge.

Merriam Mikhail is a litigation associate at Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP and a longtime Sanctuary volunteer. On Sunday, November 1, she will join nine other Sanctuary supporters to complete the TCS NYC Marathon while raising funds in support of our work. 

Tell me about yourself. It is the first question participants master as part of the interview skills workshop I volunteer with through Sanctuary for Families’ ground-breaking Economic Empowerment Program. Cohort after cohort, the women’s answers to this commonplace interview question always amaze me.

Some grew up just down my block, and others have immigrated to the United States from all over the world – just like my Iraqi parents. Some of the women have PhDs, while others weren’t permitted by their families to attend high school. Many have already had impressive careers as engineers, pharmacy technicians, bank tellers, financial analysts, human rights workers, and advertising account executives. Others embrace the opportunity to explore a new career, or even their new-found freedom to choose one. All of the women are strong, confident, hard-working, and intellectually curious.

You wouldn’t know it from a job interview, but the women in the Economic Empowerment Program also have one other thing in common: they are survivors of gender violence. They have complex needs, ranging from safety to housing to legal advocacy and clinical counseling. Sanctuary is New York’s leading service provider of these much-needed resources, serving over 18,000 women and children last year alone.

It is also critical for survivors to achieve long-term stability. Thanks to my law firm’s partnership with Sanctuary, I have volunteered for the last two years with the Economic Empowerment Program—a pioneering career readiness and technology training curriculum that helps participants break the cycle of poverty, homelessness, and abuse by securing a living wage job.

Through an intensive four month training program, the women focus on professional development, literacy upgrading, and advanced office technology skills that position them for living wage jobs. The program achieves consistently high placement rate – placing 70% of graduates in positions with salaries averaging over $14 per hour in 2014.

I decided to run the 2015 New York City Marathon with the Sanctuary for Families Marathon Team to help these women secure the resources they need on their courageous journey to a bright future. Four months ago, I wasn’t even a runner, let alone a marathon runner, but in comparison to the challenges Sanctuary’s clients have already overcome, running 26.2 miles almost seems like a walk in the park.

At the conclusion of a recent graduation ceremony celebrating the completion of the program’s rigorous 14-week professional development curriculum, one of Sanctuary’s clients cheered, “Time to go start my new life!

Above the chorus of cheers along the marathon route on November 1, the unshakable determination in her voice will energize me on to the finish line.

You can make a donation to support Merriam and the rest of this remarkable team on their journey to the finish line. Thank you!