CINCINNATI — He may not be the fastest, but even on a cold, drizzly afternoon, Scott Decker is consistently putting in the miles. He's slowly building the endurance and stamina that will carry him to race day, his first 10k on Flying Pig Marathon Weekend.
Decker is one of a few dozen men and women training with City Gospel Mission’s Step Forward program, designed to help these budding athletes set and achieve goals they never imagined possible as they undergo addiction recovery.
The program is in its 14th year, helping more than 600 runners and walkers in the Exodus residential recovery program, build community, challenge themselves and cross the finish line on race day.
Serving as the program’s coach, David Pinson, City Gospel Mission’s advancement director, said he’s seen year after year of success stories as the participants set goals, build up their confidence and find motivation to stay engaged in their recovery programs.
“They come out the other side even more healthy and more healed,” he said.
In his second year in the program, Decker said he’s already achieved more than he ever expected, especially considering two years ago, he wasn’t sure he’d ever walk again.
While living in a tent in the woods in St. Bernard, his entire focus was feeding his alcohol addiction until a medical emergency forced him to seek help.
“God sent some people to me that saved me,” Decker said.
A spider bit him on the foot, and left untreated, an infection formed. Decker said a few folks at a nearby church offered to take him to the hospital, but he didn’t want to leave his camp and his alcohol behind.
“I wasn’t interested in going to the hospital,” he said. “The church, the outreach program, they got me to go, but all I was worried about was my alcohol.”
When he arrived at the hospital, doctors diagnosed him with blood poisoning. Doctors saved his foot and his life, but Decker lost a few toes.
“I was a bad alcoholic and in a very dark place,” he said.
From there, Decker went to a nursing home to heal from his surgery, and not long after, he enrolled in Exodus, moved into their facilities, and started his recovery journey.
“As they say in AA, you’re sick and tired of being sick and tired, and that’s exactly what I was,” he said.
While at Exodus, Decker learned about the Step Forward Program from Pinson, and though he was still using a walker at the time, he signed up for the 5k training program, hoping to walk the whole way.
“It seemed like a good thing to do,” he said.
During the most recent Flying Pig weekend, Decker completed the 5k in a little over an hour, earned his medal, and vowed to try again the next year.
“I figured I could double it,” he said.
His balance is still not at 100%, but Decker’s progress is easy for any of his peers to see.
“I am really impressed,” another program participant, Dave, said. “Where he is now compared to where he was last year, just two different people almost.”
For that, Decker thanks the volunteers and Exodus staff that have helped cheer him on.
“They give me confidence,” he said. “I was in a real dark place when I came here, and I’m not there no more. All I do now, I wake up in the morning (and) give my thanks.”
With those volunteers by his side and the tools he’s learned from Exodus, Decker believes he has everything he needs to cross the finish line when it comes to Flying Pig weekend and recovery.
“Just to know that I can do things that I didn’t know was possible,” he said.
Decker plans to walk his 10k race the morning of April 30 alongside his fellow Step Forward participants. Other Step Forward racers will compete in the 5k race and the Paycor Half Marathon.