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Hardy Eric Harr

Marin fitness guru has a worldly goal.



Here’s a cool job that pays $5 an hour. You can earn it by hiking the Bolinas Ridge on a Saturday morning; doing yoga at Bay Club Marin on Wednesday evenings; or swimming in a nearby pool whenever you have the time. As long as what you’re doing involves physical fitness, Fairfax’s Eric Harr—a published author, CBS fitness expert, and Ironman triathlete—will pay $5 for every hour you put in.

What’s the catch? Well, ah, none, really. It’s just that you never see the money you earn. Instead, once you log on to care.org/workout and record your time, Harr will donate that $5 for every hour you hiked, stretched, swam or whatever to CARE, the global poverty-fighting organization.

“Through 2008 I’ve personally pledged $50,000, mostly from the sale of my books, to fight poverty and hunger around the world,” is how he summarizes this win-win campaign. “For every hour a person devotes to getting or staying fit, I’ll donate $5 to a CARE program that empowers marginalized women throughout the world.” In all, Harr has committed $1 million to CARE over the next five years.

After attending White Hill Middle School, Harr won a scholarship to Marin Academy and graduated in 1987. He attended Franklin and Marshall College in Pennsylvania, where he captained the swim team and earned a degree in French literature; met his wife, Alexandra, while training in Boulder, Colorado; and returned to Marin. The couple has a five-year-old daughter, Vivienne, and lives in Fairfax’s Cascade Canyon.

“Simply put, Eric is an entrepreneur,” his wife says. “He always has 12 things going at once.” In addition to authoring two best-selling books—Triathlon Training in Four Hours a Week (Rodale) and Goal Digger Fitness: A Breakthrough 14-Day Exercise Plan (Rodale)—he is a media adviser for Organic Food Bars, a fitness consultant on KPIX-TV’s (Ch. 5) Weekend Early Edition, and regularly competes as a professional in Ironman Triathlons.

What led to your partnership with CARE?   A year ago, I was in New York for a book signing and in JFK I saw a CARE poster captioned “I Am Powerful.” The photo accompanying those words was of a dignified, strong and yet graceful woman along with the message: “She has the power to change her world; you have the power to help her do it.”

That poster struck me like a thunderbolt. I stared at it for a while, then called CARE, where Allen Clinton, their director of public relations, took my call. I told him about my background, a few meetings were held, and three months later I was a CARE ambassador on my way to Mozambique.

A CARE ambassador? Mozambique? I believe there are five CARE Ambassadors: Meg Ryan, supermodel Christy Turlington, Sarah Michelle Gellar of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Sheila Johnson, cofounder of Black Entertainment Television, and now me. Mozambique is in West Africa, a 36-hour flight away, and I was there for eight days. I sat with and looked into the eyes of a father whose 18-month-old daughter had AIDS and then a mother whose husband had given her AIDS. The experience totally changed me.

What impressed you the most? It was the indomitable spirit of the people. I went pretty far into the backcountry. One morning I visited a tuberculosis ward. It was quite an experience for a boy from Marin who’d never been to Africa. These people, despite their tragedies, which include 16 years of civil war, are still going strong, still smiling and offering nothing but kindness to me.

What do you, working through CARE, hope to accomplish with the “I Am Powerful” campaign? The funds generated, the $50,000 I’ve pledged, will be focused exclusively on the empowerment of women and girls. This is because women are the true catalysts for change in the emerging world. Once you empower women, CARE has found repeatedly, things begin to change for the better.

Do you have an example? Yes, Albertina Francisco. To me, she’s one of the most powerful women in the world. Not because of her wealth or education or political influence—she has none of that. Rather, Albertina is a stalwart 44-year-old living in a village outside Mozambique’s capital of Maputo. She’s taken on the job of ensuring her community has access to clean water in nine different locations. She’s performing a job no one else would do, and she’s saving lives every day by doing it. When I walked with Albertina, and saw how people react to her, I realized I was in the presence of an authentic power—definitely a force for good. It was humbling.

The other component of the “I Am Powerful” campaign involves fitness back in America. Is there a real connection? This may sound cheesy, but I like to light a fire in people wherever they live. In Mozambique it was one way. Here at home, I believe we become empowered when we exercise, live healthier lives and become fit. So for every hour a person exercises, I’ve pledged to give $5 to CARE for projects like Albertina and clean water. Take a five-hour hike on Mount Tam and $25 will go to CARE. Even the smallest amount makes a huge difference as CARE uses the funds so effectively and efficiently. I’d like people to set ambitious fitness and health goals. Like losing 15 or 20 pounds, or running and walking next year’s Dipsea, maybe swimming some laps or getting into a walking regimen. It doesn’t matter what you do or how far or fast you go—just do something. When you feel fit and healthy, you’re better at everything you do.

If a person has fallen out of the exercise habit, how can he or she get it back? I believe that once you’re progressing toward a goal, that’s what creates your inspiration. The real challenge is in overcoming inertia. The hardest step—and most important one—is that first step. If it’s a three-minute walk with your spouse, that’s a fabulous start. The three-mile run can come later; or maybe never. And it doesn’t have to be walking or running. If swimming, or dancing, or climbing trees once gave you joy, take a dip, dance a bit, or climb a tree. Follow your bliss; do what you did as a child—whatever it is that gets you moving. Then move a bit farther, maybe faster, and before you know it you’ll begin feeling fit. That will be your inspiration. And don’t forget the $5 an hour that goes to CARE. These may be small steps for you, but if we all come together on this, it will be a giant leap for marginalized women everywhere. And that could change the world.

For more information on participating in the “I Am Powerful Workout” program, go to care.org/workout.
 


What is CARE?


It started over 60 years ago with CARE packages that included Spam, broth, coffee, raisins and chocolates going to refugees in war-torn Europe. CARE—originally an acronym for “Cooperative for American Remittances to Europe”—is a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty and now places special emphasis on empowering women in emerging countries. Last year, CARE reached 55 million people through more than 900 projects in 66 countries around the world. Of funds raised for CARE, 91 percent goes to development programs and activities, and 9 percent goes to fundraising and support. Further information about CARE, including donation opportunities, is available at care.org.
 

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