Meredith Dolhare: Running with Heart

Note: This blog post is a companion piece to Care Ring’s “Seeking the Heart” podcast series in which we talk with leaders from across the region about their ideas and insights on how we can create a better health care system for ALL. To listen to “Seeking the Heart,” simply click here, or search for “Seeking the Heart” on your favorite podcast platform.

Running saved Meredith Dolhare’s life.

A survivor of addiction and trauma, Meredith found solace and comfort in running extremely long ultramarathon races. And she ran them better than just about any other woman on the planet. Sports Illustrated dubbed Meredith the “Iron Lady” for her remarkable accomplishments.

And now, through a program in Charlotte working with homeless men, women and children, Meredith uses running to save hundreds of lives every year.

Started in 2012 as a weekly running program for unsheltered neighbors, RunningWorks is today much more than just a running club.

RunningWorks provides career development services, mental health counseling, transportation support, housing assistance, and much more. Meredith figured out early on how the full range of social determinants must be addressed in order to move an individual away from homelessness and toward hope and healthy living.

Meredith offers clues to how our region should think about building a better system of care for all. Any intervention that comes forward has to think holistically – especially for populations that are often on the margins and have not historically had the kind of wrap-around support necessary to climb out of poverty.

She also gives powerful testimony about how real, lasting change only happens through building trusting, long-term relationships with the people we serve. Our homeless neighbors are not looking for a handout. Meredith teaches us that they are looking for a loving, supportive relationship.

This kind of heart-centered caring for all of our neighbors is what sets Meredith – and RunningWorks – apart from many other programs and nonprofit agencies.

“It’s always been in my heart to help others,” she explains.

That heart has also lead Meredith to serve for the past few years on Care Ring's Board of Directors, offering valuable insights into how we can best serve the community, and directly supporting our mission. Care Ring partners with RunningWorks to provide medical services to their clients at little or no cost, helping us to reach a population that often times has difficulty accessing health services.

Author: Donald K. Jonas, Ph.D.
Executive Director, Care Ring

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