Nun who ran marathons to feed the hungry plans own race in church basement

Hometown Heroes

CHICAGO (NewsNation/WGN) — We’re weeks away from what would have been the 2020 Chicago Marathon. With that race cancelled, most of its participants are marking their calendars for next year. But one Humboldt Park nun says a higher power is calling her to keep running in 2020.

Sister Stephanie Baliga is giving new meaning to “godspeed” as she uses her wicked fast marathon speed to put food on her neighbors’ tables. She’s passionate about serving God and every last one of her west Humboldt Park neighbors.

“We’ve had a high COVID rate, high unemployment, and a lot of everybody with other issues that have made things very very difficult for a lot of people here,” Baliga said.

Her mornings are spent moving food from a loading truck to cars lined up outside the Mission of Our Lady of Angels. She estimates they have distributed about 50-60 pounds of food to 700 families so far in the pandemic. 

About nine years ago, as the mission pantry was running bare, it was Sister Stephanie who spearheaded a massive fundraiser using her faith and an unexpected skill: she’s a speedy marathoner, with a personal record of 2 hours and 53 minutes.

“I’ve run the Chicago Marathon since 2011 to raise money for the Lady of Angels,” Baliga said.

So when the pandemic put this year’s race in limbo, the woman devoted to the good lord above and a healthy dose of competition decided to make it happen on her own by running on a treadmill. But that’s not all.

“I found out that no woman has ever recorded a time for running a marathon on a treadmill… isn’t that crazy,” Baliga said.

So now on top of setting a fundraising goal of $146,000 (they’ve raised $70,000 so far), Baliga is hell bent on setting a new Guinness World Record.

“I finally found a record I can break just ’cause no one has ever done it!” Baliga said.

While 26.2 miles would be excruciating enough to run outside, doing it while staring at a basement wall requires serious drive. But Baliga said she runs to feed those who would otherwise go without.

While she’s leaving the world record in God’s hands, she’s banking on her own fortitude and faith to hit the 26-mile mark.

“I’m gonna be praying a lot, there’s gonna be a lot of praying. Jesus and I are gonna get through this together,” Baliga said.

If you want to support Sister Stephanie and her effort to raise money for the Mission of Our Lady of Angels food pantry, you can donaterun along with her or simply cheer her on during her live stream this Sunday beginning at 9:30 a.m.

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