Since her first solo run in 2006 – 30 miles on a trail in Oregon – more and more runners each year have joined Lisa Shannon’s Run for Congo Women group to raise funds to sponsor women in eastern Congo. Events across the United States and in few European cities have raised $600,000 – enough to sponsor 1,444 women in Congo through Women for Women International.
Last February, Shannon organized one run she has wanted to do all along – in Congo. Michelle Hamilton, a reporter with Runner’s World, was there to capture the story, featured in the latest issue of the magazine.
On a rainy day in Bukavu, 47 women participated in a one-mile run to show solidarity for the many other women like them who have survived years of war in eastern Congo. But they weren’t just running for their fellow Congolese, as Hamilton’s piece explains. During a conversation with her Congolese “sisters” in 2007, one woman asked Shannon:
“Do they rape women in America?” Shannon said, yes, women are raped all over the world, and in fact, a few American RFCW runners had been raped—it was one reason they chose to participate. The women nodded. Then one raised her hand, “What can we do so that we can support other women?”
As Shannon explained, “I realized that their desire to help was part of their healing process, part of regaining their strength. And that’s the heart of sponsorship [through Women for Women], tapping into their power.”
It’s worth pointing out that four years ago, with just the first set of group runs behind her, Runner’s World selected Lisa Shannon for its “Heroes of 2006” honor. “This is only the beginning,” she said at the time. Indeed. Since then, Shannon has spent long stretches of time in Congo, appeared on Oprah, helped raise well over half a million dollars for Congolese women, and written a book, A Thousand Sisters, about it all.
The seven-page spread in Runner’s World, featuring Sarah Elliot’s photographs from the Bukavu run, is on newsstands now and will soon be available online.