Molly Thorpe, Leader, Coach, Mentor, Teacher, Hero

This is an update of a post that I wrote last year after Alan and I went to the Palm Springs Marathon Runners Awards Banquet. We were invited again this year, and I was inspired anew by Molly Thorpe, leader, coach, mentor, teacher, and more for the PSMR. I have updated the post by including information and pictures from this years banquet, but I found that the words I wanted to say about Molly echoed what I said last year. I hope that she will inspire you, too.

Every now and then you meet someone who makes an impression on your life. Someone who, through their integrity, hard work, selfless achievements, and personal sacrifices, is, simply put, a hero. I was fortunate enough to meet such a person recently, although I didn’t fully realize the scope and quality of her heroism until the other night.

I met Molly Thorpe for the first time several weeks ago a year ago when Alan and I volunteered at the Run for Ike 5k. When I met Molly, I was mostly impressed that she had managed to put the event together in three weeks, involving the community, the police, and the city government as sponsors, supporters, and volunteers. It was impressive, but not heroic. I also knew that she coached young students to run in many events, including training for, participating in, and hopefully finishing the Los Angeles Marathon. Again, impressive, worthwhile, but not necessarily heroic.

All that was before I attended the annual award banquet for the Palm Springs Marathon Runners and finally recognized just what a hero Molly is.

First, a little history of the Palm Springs Marathon Runners. The program has just finished it’s fifth sixth year. Molly was inspired to start the Marathon Runners after reading an article in Runner’s World Magazine about ‘Students Run LA,’ a similar program, which focused on taking ‘at risk’ students and training with them to run the Los Angeles Marathon. Molly embraced the idea, partly because she was a runner and a teacher and loved the idea of changing students lives through running.

Over the years, 75 (I’m not sure of the current number) students have participated in the Palm Springs Marathon Runners program. Of those, 30 more than 40 completed enough smaller events to qualify to run the marathon, and 37 of those completed the 26.2 mile race. Along the way, the children learn about commitment, dedication, friendship, goal setting, hard work, and accomplishment, just to name a few of the benefits. To date, each participant is either still in school, or has graduated from high school. Some have gone on to college. And these were troubled kids, some of whom had been expelled from school, who, had they not found this program could have ended up being written off by the standard school system.

While I was preparing to write this post (last year), I sent Molly an email asking about the history of the Palm Springs Marathon Runners. She quickly replied and asked me to spread the word about the program. Please read it so you too can feel Molly’s passion for running and children. To read it, click here.

Molly Thorpe (I apologize for the photo quality. Low light, iphone)

After we had all taken our seats, Molly introduced herself, talked a little about the program, then introduced the various people around the room, including her husband, Jay, some family and close friends. Then her teacher side came out, and she had her runners introduce the rest of the guests.

Group shot of the LA Marathon Finishers (the youngest was 13!)

We were shown a video of the runners participating in this year’s events, then Molly, again channeling her inner teacher, called upon her students to stand before the crowd to tell about their experiences. When they were finished, Molly gave each of them a personalized medal, with the LA Marathon XXVII logo on one side, the back engraved with their name, encouraging words, and Molly’s phone number, just in case they ever need her. Ever.

Some of the marathon finishers (including the principal of Molly’s school!)

This was when I realized (once again) that I was in the presence of a hero. As child after child stood before us, they all, some haltingly, some confidently, spoke about their experience becoming marathon runners. They talked about the challenges they faced, the accomplishment they felt, the confidence they gained, all through participating in the Marathon Runners program. Most of all, though, what came through during their speeches was the love and respect for the woman who, in reality, had saved them. It was Molly’s guidance, dedication, hard work, and love that enabled them to learn that they could succeed.

Vegan dinner

I came prepared with my own vegan dressing & cheese!

The rest of the evening went quickly. We were fed (pasta marinara with salad, remembering last year, I brought my own vegan dressing and cheese), many awards were handed out (Molly really knows how to put together an awards banquet!), The last part of the evening was dedicated to the Run for Ike. Ike was the Palm Springs K-9 who was killed in the line of duty last month year. The proceeds from the race to fund the ongoing K-9 program, which adds/replaces a K-9 every three years. Last year, $15,130.25 was raised. This year the proceeds were divided between the Palm Springs Police Department and Guide Dogs of the Desert.

Alan received another “Ike’s Angel” award.


Ike’s handler was able to attend this year.

Ike’s former handler, who was unable to attend last year, was present. He has been given a new K-9 partner this year, thanks to Molly’s fundraising efforts.


Palm Springs Police K-9 Ike
End of Watch: April 17, 2011

This video below is from last year’s event. Palm Springs Police Sargent Cabrera accepting the donation from the Run for Ike.

What really touched me about the whole experience was this: This dedicated woman put together this program from scratch. She worked with the community to raise money to fund the Marathon Runners. She has dedicated her life to these children. She is, of course, out there running right along side them, both in training and in the marathon. She stands behind these kids, fights for them, and when all is said, she loves them. Molly Thorpe, not only are you a hero to your kids, you are my new still my hero too.

We all have heroes. Tell me about yours.

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  1. says

    Molly stands out above all the rest. She is one amazing woman to support the children through this & she makes herself available – always. Wow. That’s commitment. I cannot believe she started this program from scratch. That’s more than amazing. Thank you for your post today!
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