Running for water in the face of adversity

Apr 07, 2019
“Joy is a decision, not a reaction to circumstances.”

That was Valerie Switzer’s mantra when she ran the New York City marathon in 2016, and it has stayed with her, holding an even greater meaning now.

Turning 30 was a memorable year for Valerie, so she decided it was time to do something bold and uniquely for her. As a stay-at-home mom immersed in all things baby, she set a goal to complete a triathlon. The part that frightened her the most was running so she tackled that first. She started small: first a 5K, followed by a 10K and then a half-marathon. By her early 40s, she needed more.

“When I turned 42, I decided it would be a good year to try something that seemed crazy to me. A full marathon because the run was 42 kilometers long so what better way to celebrate my 42nd birthday? And then I thought, if I was going to do this crazy thing, why don’t I raise money for a good cause while doing it?”

That’s when Valerie learned about Team World Vision and everything changed about the meaning and motivation behind her runs. Powered by her love of running she has helped to provide clean water to hundreds of people in several developing countries.

A woman runner shows off the back of her Team World Vision shirt.

From an early age, Valerie knew about the work World Vision does and was determined to help.
“I couldn’t understand how there were kids in the world without enough to eat or drink. It was inconceivable to me that this could happen, and I just couldn’t accept it.”

In addition to fundraising for water projects through World Vision, Valerie also sponsors three children. She’s inspired to help because her three kids have so much, compared to her sponsored children.

In total, Valerie has completed two full-marathons (including the New York) and a half-marathon, all while raising funds for World Vision. She has also motivated her family to participate and fundraise alongside her. Her husband, Brent, and three children, Shauna, Sara and Cody have all run with her and helped bring the total amount raised to more than $10,000.

This year’s Global 6K is different because it holds a deeper meaning for Valerie. She was diagnosed with breast cancer one year ago, so when she heard this year’s Global 6K Run for Water would coincide with the anniversary of her diagnosis, she took it as a sign: she would not only participate, -  she would host the run in her community.

“It seemed like an opportunity to take the trauma associated with that date and turn it into a triumph. I want to spend that day with my friends, my family and my community. It’s something so special and important to me.”
It’s been a challenge hosting the run and managing her health, but she is pushing herself because she believes in the cause. She has already increased her fundraising goal because she has surpassed it, twice.

A triathlon may or may not be in Valerie’s future, but a lifetime of clean, accessible water for the people she’s running for absolutely is. She says she couldn’t have done any of this without her faith, her family and her friends, and her decision to find joy is powering her too.  

Editor’s note: Valerie, along with her community of 100 runners, raised $15,000 for water projects in the Democratic Republic of Congo this year.