On a December Saturday in New York City, David Harbour found himself back in his old neighborhood. The Stranger Things and Violent Night actor was participating in a run with the charity Back on My Feet, which helps unhoused people build independence, find community, and work toward employment in part through running.
The run was taking place around Tompkins Square Park in the East Village, which is where Harbour lived at a time when he said he was struggling with addiction. As he ran, he couldn’t help but reflect on the trajectory of his own life, and the lives of the runners around him.
“It was quite poignant to be with that group and see all these inspiring people, people who were making a great change in their lives,” Harbour told Well+Good.
The run came about thanks to a partnership between Back on My Feet and the athletic wear brand Brooks. Through December 14, Brooks is holding a Buy Gear, Give Gear program, during which it will match purchases made on the Brooks website with sneaker and apparel donations to Back on My Feet.
“It gives a lot of people who are struggling the opportunity to experience the benefits of physical exercise,” Harbour says of Brooks’ Buy Gear, Give Gear partnership with Back on My Feet.
It’s a cause that’s important to Harbour thanks to the role running has played in his own life. Like so many people, Harbour struggled with anxiety during the pandemic, and used running as a way to cope. As with the Back on My Feet program, the act of getting up and committing to a physical activity helped him build strength physically and mentally. Running has been proven to have multiple mental health benefits like improving your mood and building focus.
Harbour also shares that the Back on My Feet run reminded him of running’s ability to build connection and gratitude. By focusing on the act of putting one foot in front of the other, you tune in with the incredible knowledge and capacity embedded in your bones and muscles—which is something that all of us can share. A gratitude practice is a proven method of reducing stress and boosting happiness, and studies have shown that having a connection to one’s community is “a significant predictor of mental health and well-being in later life.” As Harbour has found, it turns out running is a great way to do both.
“There is something about this communal run where, whatever the circumstances of our lives are, we’re all human beings,” Harbour says. “There’s something about it that keeps you grounded in the present moment and that keeps you grateful for the physical abilities that you have and that connects you to other people in a simple, profound thing that a lot of us can do together.”