#RunWithRonnie: Homeless Artist to Run in San Francisco Marathon

Ronnie Goodman sleeps under a bridge, and he'll run in the SF Marathon next month, possibly as its first homeless runner.

By Riya Bhattacharjee
|  Thursday, Jul 10, 2014  |  Updated 12:56 PM PDT
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Nich Barresi

Ronnie Goodman

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Ronnie Goodman is 53, a former addict and homeless. He’s also a self-taught artist and runner – two things that have helped him snag a spot in the San Francisco Marathon on July 27, possibly as its first ever homeless runner.

Goodman will be running to support his favorite cause – the Hospitality House Community Art Program on Market Street, where he honed his art skills.

An article about Goodman’s transformation in the San Francisco Chronicle – he spent six years behind bars for burglary and eventually found a calling in art – caught the eye of the organizers behind the San Francisco Marathon.

And they wanted to help.

“We reached out to Ronnie to see what he thought about working with us,” said Lark Ryan, a spokesperson for SF Marathon. “He came up with the idea of creating a painting and starting a raffle.”

Goodman's painting shows a guy playing a bass guitar at the 6th and Market intersection, which happens to be where Hospitality House is located. It's also his running path.

"It's like a metaphor of love, music and rhythms," Goodman said.

Race participants can donate to Goodman's cause. For every $10 given to Hospitality House, donors will be entered into the raffle to win a piece of Goodman’s art:

"Since he’s evolved through the Hospitality House, it’s great he wants to help his community," Ryan said. "This is the first time we have helped a homeless runner set up a program like this."

Goodman described Hospitality House as a "sanctuary."

"It has been a big part of my life - I'm happy to be able to give back," he said.

For someone who sleeps under Highway 101, Goodman’s in pretty good shape for a race.

He runs every day, typically covering between 7 to 12 miles.

"I started running when I was in junior high -- I did track and I also ran with my cousins, that's what made it so much fun," he said. "Then I dropped out of high school, got into drugs and alcohol."

Running helped kickstart Goodman's path to recovery 15 years ago.

"Running helps me stay grounded," he said. "It's like meditation to me. I think about how I am going to paint. That's why I thought it was great to combine both."

When Goodman runs next month, he will be in the second half marathon, which goes by the studio on Haight Street where he paints and sells his work.

Fans of Goodman’s work describe it as “breathtaking.” One person told the Chronicle that they belong in a museum. Another said they “come from God.”

Goodman works with bold colors and vivid imagery, bringing raw emotions and street scenes to life with the strokes of his brush.

"I am inspired by my life," he said, adding that his run down Market Street was what motivated his piece for the marathon.

"I run by the Ferry Building and the Bay Bridge - I love everything about that street, have loved it since I was a kid," he said.

On June 8 Goodman ran the 7.5-mile Dipsea Race in Marin County.

“Ronnie’s story is really inspiring,” Lark said. “We are really excited, I think he’s ready for July."

Below are photographs of Ronnie working on the artwork that will be raffled off over race weekend (July 25 - July 27). Photos by Nich Barresi.

Chris Roberts contributed to this report.

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