Sunday, September 27, 2015

A few new experiences

Over the course of the last week, I have processed many thoughts about my experience with the 2015 Air Force Marathon.
 To be quite honest, sometimes experiences hold such depth that words just do not do it justice. I have searched for the perfect verbalizations, but come up empty. However, I have been asked by several people about it, so I want to attempt to put together some of my favorite moments.

 Last year when I was part of the event as staff, I had come into it so close to the unfolding, that I was busy learning and growing and asking. This year I was in it full circle and so much more invested, so the meaning of the weekend held a different perspective for me. I spent the year "talking" to different people through email, and race weekend brings about the moments to put faces with those conversations and handshakes with the thank yous. I get the opportunity to know some of the runners more in depth because my position allows for working closely with registration issues, so when I personally know some of the winners, I think I feel as much victory as they do.  I love my position and what I get to do.

 While many of our staff already knew well one of our guest speakers, this year was my first to really get to know Chuck Engle, Marathon Junkie. He was spunky and fun and motivating. He was very down to earth.

 I had the opportunity to work with all the military teams who take part in the military challenge within our marathon. I spent 6 months "talking" to these people through email. Some of them I had more interaction with than others. Some were considered underdogs, determined to prove themselves stronger than viewed. Others flew in from miles across the world, where they serve our country diligently, to be part of the weekend events. And some had unique stories of competition.   These runners/military members inspire me with how fast they are and how diligently they train. I got to know a few more in depth than others, and learning their stories really makes me take a step backwards to evaluate and realize how fortunate I am for my freedom. Here are a couple of team snapshots I captured.

 One of our dedicated runners set out to complete our event as his 200th marathon. This man is not
young. I don't know his age off the top of my head, but he has had countless life experiences that could leave many people bitter or depressed, but he is so humble and happy. Sid runs for those who can't, to remember fallen heroes, and he carries a flag in all his races. He did not end up finishing our race, but I still find him admirable. I got the opportunity to talk in depth with him before our expo opened, and he left a lasting impression on me.

 One of my favorite experiences from the weekend was getting to know the pilots of our featured aircraft, the U-2 Dragon Lady. Confession: I know absolutely nothing about military aircraft but I have a total fascination with it. These guys helped me be a little less ignorant, and became my friends along the way. They are my heroes. I loved hearing their stories and learning about just how much sacrifice they have made. They are great runners, but even more so,  down to earth, dedicated Americans who give every day to make this a better place for us. They inspired me.  When the plane flew over our event, as cheesy as this will sound, it brought tears to my eyes. The history and the patriotism soared through the air and could not help but be absorbed by the runners, volunteers and staff. I am grateful for this experience.

 The best words I heard all weekend, advice that was really just a conversation and not meant to be advice at all, was from my friend Chief W. Chief said something along the lines of "... it doesn't matter who you are or what you do, you just have to walk with confidence. No matter how you feel, how you carry yourself makes a world of difference in people following and believing."  Chief  had no idea those words would stick with me as much as they did, but they are words that will likely forever be in my memory. In that moment something clicked in me and I very much appreciated that conversation, even though it wasn't about me or meant for me.

 The experiences of the weekend go on, the people I encountered becoming pages in the book of the story of my life. If you can't tell by this post, I completely am in love with what my job is and what I get to do. There are times when it is challenging to work all year long for one day... but those challenges fade and pale in comparison to the moments given to us in the hours of the marathon. I am completely blessed. I have found my element. And I am humbled by the people I met this year. Words cannot give justice to what I have carried away from the experiences; but I hope that my demeanor will carry with it the lessons I took away from this year, as we quickly begin walking into the 2016 planning.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Busy day, busy mind.. FULL heart.

When the heart is full and the mind is racing, the words are difficult to share.
  And yet writing is how I process, and project the depths of my heart for others to better understand me.  So I continue to press on with this blog, even though it more often than not has taken pauses and back seat to other aspects of life lately.

 This week happens to be a pivotal one in life for me. Well, pivotal may not be the right word, but this week holds much significance in my career. The Air Force Marathon takes place this week, and if you follow me at all, you know that's my career.

 There are times during the year when working day in and day out for ONE day to arrive can be frustrating.  Moments feel like eternity when each day is spent prepping for a few hours to pass so quickly. Which is why when the week comes around, I do my best to savor it with every bit of my soul. It is in this week that the office politics, the harder days, the fight for my life lessons that happen along the way almost fade into the distance and the actual here and now shapes the emotions and feelings. It is in this week that I am somehow able to set aside all those negative thoughts and smile from the inside out because I LOVE what I do. It is in this week that people who have known me from my other jobs come by as a participant, see me briefly and later tell me " You are glowing.... " because they can see it's not a fake smile or a make others happy smile. It's a smile that comes from my heart to resonate to those around me.

  Let me just get real here for a moment. I sometimes battle the very real thought of "I'm 'just' an admin..." I can't help it, and bear with me as I share this vulnerable story. There are days I long to move up the chain or  be important or just plain out do more. I fight off the crazy negativity that certain people have a tendency to push my way. I still struggle with the dark places of insecurity. But something has also transpired in me over the last year. And as I have wrestled with that old beast the last few weeks due to circumstances a bit out of my control, in the last few days, those thoughts have all gone away. Because I know that whether or not the title is admin or .... (you insert any title in here) it's really not about a title. It's about the heart. And if anyone has a heart for this event, this girl is it. Me. It's not to say I'm so great. It's not to say I even want a bigger, badder, higher position. Because what I get to do is unique. I get to interact with the runners. I get to solve their problems race week. (People think I'm crazy when I tell them that's my job, but guess what? I happen to love that!) . I get to talk to more of our runners than many of the other staff members. I have heard countless stories that to some may be a burden, but to me... they touch me. Oh, there are crazy ones, too. And ones that I can only later tell others about with my eyes wide in disbelief, but quite honestly, it's a role that fits me to a T. And i wouldn't have it any other way. I love the experiences I am gaining. And the people I am meeting and the pieces this leg of my life journey is using to shape me. Be it through the runners or through my co workers or through my own private journey....

  When I left the coffee world, I shared some of my favorite stories of people with whom I'd interacted through the years. Now, the stories are beginning to form of the runners I am meeting.  What I love about this week is that the many people I hear from through the year (while planning all year long...) I finally get to touch base with in person. It's a beautiful week for me.

  I close out with a brief story, as quite honestly, though the week's almost over, it's really just begun in some aspects because  tomorrow and Saturday will bring along much more significant memories for me, no doubt.  I have "met" many people through the year. Because I meet so many, I cannot always remember them when they come to look me up race week (even if I told them to.. it generally takes me a minute to place which person they are).  I had one runner email to ask for a deferment to next year because he was going through chemo/cancer and simply couldn't complete the event as originally anticipated. While, for several reasons, that is not a request our event can accommodate, I responded (unknowingly) graciously to this older man. I told him what he could do, etc. And essentially wished him the best of luck in his journey forward. (I summarize...) Anyway, this man and his wife came and  found me today, sought me out. I won't go into great depth because it sounds as though I am bragging in sharing, which is not my intention at all.  By the time they left me, shook my hand, i had to fight back the tears because his story was so moving, and his response to me was so humbling that I had no words. This man, fighting for his life in cancer, came to thank me.... when I had done absolutely nothing. He and his wife, as his caretaker, were my heroes, because the road of cancer is so close to my heart. I was completely humbled.
 I don't share that to say "Yay Rachael..." I say that to simply say this week is why I love my job so much. These are the moments I sit and write, even when I am so sleepy, because I don't want to forget them. When it's winter and the race day is behind us and the future one is so far ahead, these are the moments I hang onto. The reasons of many why I love being an admin and "talking" to the runners and solving issues. It's not just  about the running... of course I love that. But it's about so much more to me.
 Gone are the politics.
   Gone are the people who think they are better than me.
     Gone are the frustrated sighs of trying to learn something beyond me.
 And here are the memorable moments.
 The reasons why I do what I do.
  The passion behind my piece of this huge working puzzle that could not be put together without the amazing team of people I get to do this job with.
     The Air Force Marathon.
 2 more days full of fun moments, memories, laughs, probably some crazy new stories, and maybe some new friends.
  but I had to pause and take a moment to share before the moment passed.
   It's not about me. But it's in this week and these moments I can take in and see the day in a new light. And be the strong me I know is in there.
              I love this week and the reminders it gives me.
 Oh, it was a busy day (though my day does not compare to what the logistics team/race director is out there doing right now, they deserve far more credit than they get). And my mind is busy with a million thoughts all over the map. But my heart is FULL.
No doubt there will be a few more posts in the days to come...