In honor of the POW/MIA 9-11 Rememberance Run 5k I ran this morning, the first in the Base-2-Base race series, I am going to list the top 5 reasons I love running:
- Setting goals, prioritizing my health, and achieving goals empowers me.
- I LOVE to sweat (this came after years of taking calculated measures to avoid sweating, but it finally happened).
- The aerobic activity helps the wheezing I sometimes suffer from allergies.
- Endorphins, baby! Running keeps me Jill-mellow, which is sort of glowing and shiny.
- Running presents extra opportunities to connect with: nature, my community, other runners, spirituality, my inner-Jill.
Sigonella 2011 POW/MIA 9-11 Rememberance Run 5k
The sun was just edging over the horizon in the east, Mt. Etna looked down on us from the north; she was spewing a steady stream of smoke this morning which formed the only cloud in the sky. Up ahead, I could see the streams of runners coming together at the registration booth. The air was nearly crisp, hinting at an autumn that is still weeks away. After we registered, we chose a slip of paper from the basket bearing the name of a POW, MIA or 9-11 responder. The run’s theme was a “Rememberance Run,” and we were running in honor of the dead, lost, and imprisoned who bravely put their duty ahead of their safety.
Police dogs and their trainers getting ready for the Sigonella 2011 Rememberance Run 5k.
I pinned the tag to my shirt, read the name Ronnie Gies and wondered who he might have been. My heart caught in my throat and I could feel tears rising in my eyes. The feelings caught me off guard since I had been focused on light stretching, loosening my joints and planning my mental race. The announcer called for a moment of collective silence and a calm descended on me. “I will run hard for those who can no longer run.” This simple thought would return to me throughout the run.
Jill before the run.
We were still meditating in silence when nearby sprinklers sprung out of the ground and started squirting water. This was as good of a start signal as any, and the group took off. The “Chief” selectees lead the way, running in formation. (History of Chiefs here: http://www.history.navy.mil/faqs/faq46-1.htm). The great turn-out of about 500 people clogged the narrow pathway and it was a slow jog for the first half-mile or so as the runners stretched out on the road.
The sunlight was getting stronger, but was not yet hot, and it produced beautiful orange and yellow tones as it struck the tall grass on either side of the path. As Dave and I came up alongside the Chief formation, I listened in shock to the highly offensive stanzas they were calling and repeating, “killing commies” was one glorified activity included in the chant. I shrugged and felt more strongly than ever that I would not fit in with such a group. Though I respect the heck out of the work Chiefs do, I still can’t stomach lines such as those. Perhaps the sailors, soldiers and first-responders being honored had trained to such cadences. It occurred to me that I do not understand much about the training of the very people I was honoring during this run. Perhaps such lines are cues to seek out the enemy, and naming “commies” is just antiquated language from the caller’s training runs. “I will run hard for those who can no longer run.”
Here we are in the soft morning sunlight. At the very front of the pack pictured here, you can see the tops of the flags at the head of the Chief’s formation.
Refocusing on my mantra, I settled into a steady pace, I felt amazing: quick, light steps on the ground; a straight line from my hips to my temples; and a slight pitch forward as I leaned in and let my legs propel me ahead. We rounded the last corner and had just under a half mile to the finish. I turned up my exertion another notch, and then another, my cadence and breath increasing with my acceleration.
As we neared the finish line, I realized there was no finish line. This race wasn’t about setting a PR or even knowing your time, it was about community, camaraderie, and remembering those who couldn’t run with us. The benefit of the run was recognizing the collaborative efforts of all different kinds of people who agree to work toward a common goal. I may not understand those who put their lives in harm’s way to protect me, and they may not understand me, but they go out there to fight for me all the same. In honor of all Ronnie Gies and all of the POWs, MIAs and 9-11 responders, and for those who continue to put yourselves in harm’s way, thank you for your service.
Sigonella 2011 Rememberance Run 5k tag honoring Ronnie Gies.
Read about Mr. Ronnie Gies, of FDNY, here: http://longisland.newsday.com/911-anniversary/victims/Ronnie-Gies.