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.


  1. Rachael, I LOVE this post! First, thank you for including our ANG Team photo! How nice of you! Second, the USAFE team was awesome! Third, so sad that Sid wasn't able to finish the marathon. I didn't know that. I hope that whatever his reason was that he's OK! Fourth, Chief was right! He's such a motivational man. He doesn't even realize how much of a good influence he has. Next year (if I make the team!) I hope I get to spend even more time with you!!

  2. Aunie, Sid is OK. Just ran into some hiccups and couldn't make the time cutoff. We even tried to keep it open a little longer, but he just lagged too much. Perhaps the wind was too much with his flag.. not sure. I haven't talked to him, but he is OK. You're welcome for including the photo. You all were inspiring to me! The USAFE team cracked me up, quite honestly. And Chief is truly full of wisdom without realizing it. He's a cool guy, and yes, inspiring as well. I hope you get to come back next year, too! This year was really a wonderful experience for me, if you couldn't tell ;)