Friday, November 13, 2015

Reflection: Marine Corps Marathon 2015

Last month, Jamie and I joined over 30,000 runners from around the world to run the 40th Marine Corps Marathon in Washington DC. We were part of a team that has run the marathon to raise funds and awareness for Nuru International over the last three years. Each year, on the afternoon before the race, we gather with runners from Team Nuru to share some laughs, tell our stories, and a little bit of the transformation taking place on the other side of the world as a result of our combined efforts. We also take a moment to grab a team photo. Not everyone can make it, but for me and Jamie this has been one of the high points leading up to the race. There's something powerful about seeing people come from all over the country (but especially West Virginia) not only because of a shared commitment to run a long distance, but also because of a desire to be part of making the world a better place. And this year, we had a couple of interesting additions. We had a second married couple run as well as a father and son duo. And one guy raised money for Nuru by selling sponsorships for his race shirt. Donate a certain amount, and he would put your name on his shirt. Donate a larger amount, and he would place a photo on his shirt. Donate a $1,000, and he would run the first mile with a cardboard cut-out of you (unfortunately no one took him up on the last offer).
The morning of the race the weather was slightly warmer than it had been over the last couple of years...and it was raining. It was a light rain, and actually was a bit refreshing as we began to build up the miles in the cool, humid morning hours along the tidal basin. As we ran, we looked around us, and there were just so many people running and working to encourage people around them (and themselves) to dig a little deeper, to consider others, and keep pressing onward. All along the course, there were men, women, boys, and girls holding signs, cheering, and spurring on the crowd of runners. We ran through Rosslyn, and across the bridge into Georgetown, and all along the way we were feeling good. 
And then we arrived at Mile 12 which is called the blue mile. A nonprofit that encourages runners to run in support of fallen members of the military and their families had placed sign after sign along this stretch of the race. Mile 12 is the point where you are almost half way through the race. You have left the crowds in Georgetown and DC, and you are making your way along a long solitary stretch of the race. And then you see the signs that serve as a reminder and memorial of the young men and women who gave their lives in service. Each year when I hit this point I get a bit emotional, and this year I found myself more emotional than I had ever been. As I passed by each sign, I thought about these individuals, their families, their friends, their aspirations, and the reality that their lives were cut short because of evil in this world. I silently prayed as I ran, and then I came upon a long column of American flags and men and women holding those flags cheering each of us runners onward. 
As I ran through this memorial, my mind went from those who had served and died to those who Nuru was serving--our farmers and their families. I began to get more emotional as I considered the challenges of my neighbors who are needlessly suffering in extreme poverty. I thought about the folks who had donated to Nuru because a group of us had decided to run the Marine Corps Marathon. I was overwhelmed with gratitude that running a race could be a catalyst for many people to join the fight to end extreme poverty.  As the weather got warmer, and the miles kept adding up, I thought about the other folks who were running for Team Nuru, and I was really inspired. 
There was my friend Justin who has known me for a long time, and who was probably close to the finish as I hit the blue mile. And then, I thought about Erinn, one of our neighbors, and a woman who is passionate about justice, about the good things coming out of our great state, and who is one of the most disciplined and determined people I know. Then my mind went to Aaron--this guy (unbeknownst to him) had three of his buddies secretly sign up so they could run their first marathon together just a few days before he got married. Imagine his surprise when his three friends showed up the morning of the race to support him, and then, as the howitzer fired, they revealed their race bibs, and crossed the starting line with him (by the way, none of these guys had trained--they just wanted to support their brother!). And then, there was Andy. Andy was Jake's roommate during plebe year at the Naval Academy. Andy and his wife have been supporting Nuru's work from the beginning. And I knew he had approached his training with discipline and rigor--as he approaches all of life. I knew these folks and many others were out there running and sharing Nuru's story so that one day we might see the end of the desperation caused by extreme poverty!
Jamie and I continued side-by-side all the way to the finish line. When she and I started training for our first marathon in 2013, we made a commitment to each other as we trained that we would train together, and run the race together. I believe that this commitment helped us to be successful in our endeavor. As we closed in on mile 26, we committed to each other that we would run the last two tenths of a mile with whatever we could muster for the quarter mile uphill run to the Iwo Jima Memorial. We crossed the finish within seconds of each other, and we celebrated together. We had finished the race.
When I think about the time all of the runners put into preparation and even the race itself--its a powerful testimony to discipline, endurance, and perseverance. Each of these runners committed at least six months of their lives to preparation. I can attest to the fact that life is busy, and there were many mornings I did not feel like running or putting time in. But, just like all of our runners, I did it anyway. And that translates well to other areas of life. Whether you are preparing for a marathon, preparing for combat, or simply preparing for another day of life, developing discipline and endurance helps you persevere. And as I stand on the other side of the race, I feel a sense of pride (in a good way) as I've come through the challenge, I've tested my mettle, and I know I have what it takes. And so I look to continue the trend of discipline, goal setting, and quality routines for life. 

And I want to encourage you to do the same. I've been reading a book by a couple of Navy SEALs, and in their community they have a saying, "Earn your trident daily." I like the sound of it. What if you and I made the decision each morning to bring our best to shape the world around us? What if we pushed ourselves just a little harder to make certain we are the kind of folks that those around us can count on?
May each of us apply discipline and rigor to our lives so we can bring our best to the world around us and spur others to do the same!

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