Life has its own unique struggles for each one of us; they are different for everyone. Natural disasters displace tens of thousands of people each year; accidents and injuries as a result of our own errors or those of others change lives; illnesses and ailments impact generations (right now 1.5 million people it is going through treatment of a cancer). All of these people want encouragement that is unique to their own fight.

Last year, 528,375 people finished a marathon in 658 races in the United States. What if only half of them, or even a quarter of them, ran that race as an encouragement for someone in the midst of a life changing event? Then 132,093 people, going through a traumatic event will be encouraged knowing that the spirit of self sacrifice is still alive in the midst of their uncertainty.

In January 2010, I started a journey of encouragement for others. Following a two-mile training run for my first marathon, I discovered a high school friend was starting chemo-therapy treatment the next day. Reconnecting, I made the commitment to him that my training and run would be done for him. When I felt like quitting, I thought about my friend and his fight to survive; I kept going. As a way to show my commitment to him, I had the race medal engraved with his name and my time (with my initials). After I got my picture with the medal, sent it to him as an encouragement. That was my “one medal”.

Since then, I have had the opportunity to run in one Ultramarathon, three cross country relays, three marathons, three half marathons and countless other races and fun runs. My friend has five medals, another honoree has another and I hold on to two in honor of those whose memory endures. In all of the opportunities, I quickly discovered how important the power of encouragement is in our self-centric society.

In the future, I’ll share more about these stories and other One Medal moments with a spirit of encouragement and motivation.