On Friends and Farewells.

Saturday was bittersweet.

wbr2r

It was the last Wear Blue: Run to Remember meet-up for two of my best girls: Julie and Jennifer. They are both fixing to move. Jennifer’s husband is getting out of the Army to go back to school in the mid-west, and Julie is PCSing with her man. On Saturday, I was running 11 miles (in preparation for the Skyline Half), so I ran 6 miles by myself before everyone else showed up. It gave me lots of time to think. I thought about how much I value the friendship I have with both women, how much I appreciate them, all the great runs and laughs we’ve shared, and how much I’m going to miss them.

Jennifer

At the German American Night Run 8k back in September.

At the German American Night Run 8k back in September.

Jennifer makes me think of the girl on the playground in kindergarten who would find someone standing alone and invite them to play with her. From the first time we  met at Wear Blue, she felt like an instant friend, mostly due to her outgoing friendliness. I can think of 100 million nice things to say about her. She’s well-read and well-traveled. She’s smart and kind and ambitious.

Jennifer is crazy fast (earning her the nickname “Fast Jennifer”) but she often opts to go slower so we can run together. She has pushed me to be a better runner. The German American Night Run was our first time to race together, and she helped me to finish way faster than I anticipated. She even had gas in the tank to sprint at the finish. Girl is a beast! My favorite run with her was a training run back in November. Or was it January? I’m not 100% sure. I just know that the two of us ran far and it was cold and windy and we should have been miserable. Instead, I had a blast! I smile thinking of us huddled behind a half wall as we took a quick break to eat our gu. Even with the wind blowing away our conversation, we talked every step of the way. I almost feel like I should pay Jennifer for all that she has motivated me!

Julie

Flying Horse half marathon.

Flying Horse half marathon.

We started as blog friends who lucked out when we both ended up in El Paso. I think we were both nervous about meeting in person for the first time, but we bravely convened at Starbucks and hit it off. Julie is an opinionated straight-talker, who tells it like it is. She is a deep thinker, multi-talented, a fantastic listener, and unabashedly honest. We are just the right amount the same to get along and the right amount different to keep our friendship interesting.

Julie understands my neurosis and struggles when it comes to running. I look to her to keep me sane. We’ve logged a lot of miles together. I will probably forever think of her when I take laps around the parade field on Main Post considering how many miles we logged there together. It was so much fun ringing in 30 with Julie at the Flying Horse Half Marathon, but my favorite run with her was a 10 Miler training run. Along with a few other Wear Blue-ers, we took on the task of running far in the heat of the July. The company made the 9 miles feel short and even though we ended up getting drenched in a summer storm, we were all smiles as we ran in.

I also owe Julie my thanks for her endless support during Stephen’s deployment. She was my battle buddy, my rock. She understood my fears, my joys, and she never once said, “It’s almost over.” She listened, and she comforted me, and I couldn’t have asked for a better friend during those lonely months. I’m honored and ecstatic to pay back the favor (in a small way) by standing up for her at her wedding later this year!

Julie, Jennifer, and Me the day before Bataan.

Julie, Jennifer, and Me the day before Bataan.

I will miss running with both women. Good running buddies are hard to find! We’ve seen each other’s highs and lows. We’ve competed alongside one another and we’ve cheered each other on. Saturday morning runs won’t be the same without them. More than the running, though, I will miss their friendship, their company. I think it was meant to be that we found ourselves all together in El Paso, a place that none of us would have chosen to live. This isn’t the end. We’ll find each other again, be it at a starting line or elsewhere.

As I drove away from post after our last run together (and after 2 hours of talking at Starbucks), I wanted to cry but I couldn’t. As sad as I am to say goodbye, I know that I’m so lucky to count them as friends. Bittersweet.

Josh!

We just said “adios” to Stephen’s little brother, Josh.

He made the long drive all the way from Dallas to El Paso (through the night!) to spend Friday through today with us. It was a perfect visit. The guys got in lots of brother time, Josh got to see some of EP’s highlight, and there was a lot of hanging around. I think the brothers would agree that they don’t get to spend near enough time together. They were able to just be, and from what I can tell, it was overdue!

brothers

I tried to get them to pose holding the spoons. Stephen attempted to spoon feed Josh and they both cracked up. I especially love this picture because it reminds me of one from our wedding of the two of them laughing.

Stephen doesn’t always genuinely laugh, but both of these are true-blue, from the heart, belly laughs. It makes me feel good to see him so happy. It’s been a crazy few years, and while there has been plenty of laughter, this weekend has been a breath of fresh air. There’s something about the easy way that laughing comes when your guard is completely down, when you are with people that know your whole story, when you are 100% yourself. That’s what this weekend has been. And it was the thing we didn’t know we needed.

I’m convinced that it takes a really special person to travel so far for a visit. My only complaint is that it was too short. Josh, you are welcome to stay at our casa any time.

Teacher Tools & Classroom Happenings

I feel like I’ve spent a looooot of time in my classroom lately. Between working through part of spring break, extra tutoring hours, and two days of standardized testing (two more to go! Ugh!), many of my spare thoughts have been about the things going on in those four walls.

Lets start with how the place looks. When the school year started in July (which feels like forever ago now!) I shared my blank canvas:

class

These days, the place is a tad more lively:

classroom

I know that I’ll never have a cutesy, coordinated classroom. I’m okay with that. I need to use my use my wall space for anchor charts, anyway. But I love what it has bloomed into. I feel that learning feeling when I walk in each morning. Golly, I hope my students feel that same feeling. I’m also crossing my fingers and knocking on wood that I don’t have to move rooms; this feels like home.

Going back to teaching after two years off hasn’t been easy. It feels like things have changed a fair amount in those two years. (Including the big, hairy state test!) Plus, I’m working in a different area that comes with challenges I hadn’t faced before. It’s really easy to fall into the trap of, “at my old school…” I kick myself every single time I say that phrase! All my previous teaching experience was at one place, and, no joke, that makes life easier. I’ve had to learn a new way of doing things while still bringing a big scoop of me to the table. That said, this has also been one of the most fun years I’ve ever had. From the admin, to my coworkers, to the students, I really can’t complain. I’ve got a set-up that is too good to be true.

What I really want to share are some of the things that have made my year easier. I didn’t come up with any of these ideas, but I hope sharing might help some of my fellow teachers out. This time of year is rough, amiright?!

Classroom Rules

At the beginning of the year, I let the students come up with their own classroom rules. I guide them, so it doesn’t end up being a list of things like “chew gum! no homework!” Instead, the idea is to come up with what the kids need to be able to do their best. Things like, “no interrupting.” Everyone in the class, including me, signs the rules and we post them up in a visible area. (You can get a glimpse of the 1st period rules in the picture below.) When a student misbehaves, we have a discussion about how they violated the rules they came up with and signed. That’s the theory, anyway. Discipline on the fly doesn’t always work like that.

Stellar Students Wall

Stellar Students

My school does a great job of recognizing the good things students do, and I wanted to do it on a small-scale. When a student does something great (a good answer, using a resource I’ve been trying to get them to use, straightening up the books, anything really!) I write their name on a star along with what they did and the date. I like that it doesn’t have to be academic; a student can get their name written up their for any good deed. I don’t know if the students like it or think it’s hokey, but I like it. I’m considering taking the stars down at the end of the year to give to the students to keep.

“What Did I Miss?”

I purchased a wall organizer (kind of like this one) and hung it at the back of the classroom. Each folder is labeled with a different class period. When a kid is absent, I stick any missed work (assignments, graded papers, etc.) in there. It makes it simple for me, and it makes the kid responsible for picking up their work. Plus, when a student invariably says “I was absent! What did I miss?” I can respond by just pointing.

Kahoot

Another teacher shared this with me at a workshop, and it has made my year! It’s an interactive game that has the teacher-created quiz projected on the board while students answer on their cell phones. Players get points based on accuracy and speed. After each round, the students are ranked and a leaderboard is displayed. It gets intense as the scores get close! (I don’t even offer prizes – it’s all about pride.) It’s super engaging for my students, the game is fast-paced (so they can’t be toodling around on their cell phones), and I can see how each kid responded to each question after the fact – valuable teacher data! You can make your own quizzes or use pre-made ones. My students like it so much that they ask almost daily if they can play. Some have even asked me if they can play at home!

That’s what I got. Nothing Earth shattering, but it works for me. Shareshareshare if you’ve any good teaching resources!

Skyline Dreams

On May 3rd, I’ll be participating in the Skyline Half Marathon. It gets better: the race is in Dallas, and I’ll be running it with my best friend!

skyline

I’m just pleased as punch to get to do it with Mary Beth. It’s been two years (!!) since we ran a race together (Big D!), and it was so much fun. Although this race will most surely be hotter (boo!), I’m hoping for a repeat of the good times. I mean, what better activity to share with a BFF than 13.1 uninterrupted miles of running along the Trinity Skyline Trail? Okay, so maybe mani/pedis, chips and salsa, reality tv-watching, or just generally hanging out together would all be just as (if not more) fun, but we’ve already registered.

I’m heading into this race with no goals, but that doesn’t mean I won’t be training. I’ve got a plan and everything.

skyline plan

Yes, I feel very fancy with my black pen and 4 pack of highlighters. I’ve spent a solid year running by feel with few plans and even less pressure. It has been 100% what I needed. Now, though, I’m ready. I’m ready for structure, I’m ready for plans. Bring on the goals and expectations and gold stars. And hopefully the PRs that will eventually come with.

For now, I’m going to be working with Run Less, Run Faster (again). My intention is to commit fully to the plan for the next month. {I haven’t been so good about the “commit fully” part of this plan in the past.} I’m not looking for any speed records at Skyline. Instead, I’m just using this as a test run to see if I can handle the requirements of training. Can I make time for 3 runs + 2 cross training sessions + work + everything else I want to do in a week or is too much? This is how I’m going to find out. My hope is that this will be a valuable fact-finding experience for when full marathon training starts in June. (My stomach dropped as I typed that last sentence. EEEEE! I have much to share on the marathon front, but that’s another story for another day.)

I feel nothing but happiness when I think about training and running in this race. I’m taking that as a good sign! Now if only I could order some nice, cool weather to go with my newfound running motivation.

Amy Reads: 2015 So Far

I’m waaaaaayyyyy behind on recapping my books this year, so let’s cut to the chase:

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1. The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells (Science Fiction) {192 Pages}

Short version: A writer describes his first person account of Martians effing everything up in England in the late 1898.

Long version: 4.5 out of 5 stars. I love H.G. Wells, and I’m convinced that he was later reborn as Ray Bradbury. Both were vastly talented writers who were way ahead of their time. It’s crazy to think that Wells conceived of an alien invasion, giant man-killing machines, and mass destruction before such things were movie clichés. (The machines and alien descriptions are especially impressive given that the book was written in 1898!) He even manages to make you feel attached to the characters with little character description. I feel like some of the story was lost on me given my lack of knowledge of England or life in 1898 in general. I was also annoyed that the protagonist didn’t seem more concerned about his wife, who he was separated from for something like a month during the chaos. Still, this classic is worth it. Wells is a master, and I’m already looking up other books by him to add to my list.

2. Here, Bullet by Brian Turner (Poetry) {80 Pages}

Short version: A collection of poems by a seven-year soldier who deployed twice.

Long version: 5 out of 5 stars. In my Good Reads review, I described the book as containing, “poems that are simultaneously beautiful and terrible.” I feel like that is still my takeaway. Turner has the eye of a photographer, zooming in on lovely scenes. The sweet smells and bright colors are juxtaposed with the screams and blood that come with war. I loved how he was able to turn a Medevac call into a poem and describe sex like war. The book was only 80 pages, but I’ve been turning it over in my mind since I read it, still trying to completely wrap my head around it. I wrote a longer review on Military Spouse Book Review.

3. The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow (Non-fiction) {181 Pages}

Short version: The how and why of the beginning of the universe and an explanation of some of science’s other great mysteries.

Long version: 3.5 out of 5 stars. I picked up this book hoping it would feed my hunger for science while not being way over my head. It mostly fit the bill. (Let’s be honest, quantum physics will always be way over my head!) The book was written with a surprising sense of humor, and I loved landing on some of the zingers. Most of the science was broken down and the pictures were greatly appreciated by this visual learner. As expected, it was a tad dry, which I didn’t love. Also, the authors were pretty intent on pointing out how the science of everything disproved the influence of a higher power. That’s not my takeaway from science at all, and I could have done without it.

4. Some Ether by Nick Flynn (Poetry) {104 Pages}

Short version: A collection of poems on a variety of topics.

Long version: 3 out of 5 stars. This book had the tough job of following Here, Bullet, which I loved so immensely. The poems were emotional and while a few were quiet beautiful, most didn’t grab me. Perhaps I couldn’t relate or I wasn’t clued in enough or I just loved Here, Bullet so much, but if this book had been any longer, I would have just skipped it all together.

5. Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand (Non-Fiction) {416 Pages}

Short version: The story of the most famous race horse of all time.

Long version: 3.5 stars. I think Hillenbrand is a fantastic writer, and I love animals. Seems like Seabiscuit would be a perfect book, eh? Yet something was missing for me. I think an emotional connect that I felt in Unbroken was lost in Seabiscuit. Some of the race descriptions felt repetitive and tedious. I think the magic of watching a race was lost in the writing. Plus, the ending felt abrupt. I wonder if I hadn’t loved Unbroken so much if I might have liked this one more. Instead, I went in with

6. Red Scarf Girl by Ji-li Jiang (Memoir) {285 Pages}

Short version: A first-hand account of what it was like growing up in China during the Cultural Revolution.

Long version: 4 out of 5 stars. I learned about the Cultural Revolution from a Stuff You Missed in History Class podcast. Even the 4-part show couldn’t prepare me for what I’d read in this book. The atrocities, both physical and emotional, that were forced upon the Chinese by their government are disgusting. Ji-li’s childhood was taken from her. She went from being concerned with making good grades to worrying about her family member’s survival. The emotional parts were almost more disturbing than the physical.

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7. I am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World by Malala Yousafzai (Memoir) {240 Pages}

Short version: The true story of a Pakistani girl who spoke publicly for her right to education and was shot by the Taliban as a result.

Long version: 5 out of 5 stars! I found this book very moving and eye-opening. More and more I’m realizing that I don’t know enough about life in other countries, particularly the Middle East. Considering our country’s involvement over there, that’s something I’m looking to change. I’m amazed and inspired by Malala’s dedication and fearlessness. I also like that the ways she is normal were included in the book: fights with friends, favorite stuffed animals, annoying siblings.

8. Blue Stars by Emily Gray Tedrowe (Fiction) {352 Pages}

Short version: Two very different military families cross paths when their service members both end up wounded at war and recovering at the same hospital.

Long version: 4 out of 5 stars. It took me a while to really dig into this book, but about a third of the way in, I was hooked. The descriptions of military spouses and our world felt very real. I struggled the most reading the part about when the women were notified, and I definitely cried. One of the characters in the book had a long-term affair. That part frustrated me because it’s such a prevalent stereotype. I don’t think the author included it to be cliché but rather to show how complex marriage can be and how war complicates that. If you’re curious about military life from the family side of things, this is the most on-point book I’ve read on that front.

9. Just One Day by Gayle Forman (Young Adult Fiction) {369 Pages}

Short version: A recently graduated high school senior ditches her friend to spend a day with a stranger while on a European vacation.

Long version: 3.5 out of 5 stars. I liked the ending of the book and the transformation of the main character. I didn’t really like the first half of the book. Who goes off with a strange man in a foreign country?! Who lets their friend do that?! I really loved the portion of the book that took place in college and examined the way friendships change. I can relate. Most of the rest of the book, I couldn’t relate to and/or didn’t find realistic. I’d consider this a classic “beach read.” If only I had a beach to read it on!

10. Lock In by John Scalzi (Fiction) {337 Pages}

Short version: In the not-too-distance future, a flu-like disease has rendered some people immobile and frozen but fully conscious. Other people and robots serve as vessels for those who are locked in, which makes solving a murder mystery particularly tricky.

Long version: 4 out of 5 stars. I’ve wanted to read this book since I read the inside cover a few weeks ago. It’s like Law and Order in a very realistic future. I love how fully developed the future world is. An entire industry has been built around the thousands of people who contracted the disease. I can totally see it. I also thought the main characters (cops, some with the disease, some without) were very believable, interesting, and multidimensional. I hoped the ending would have more of a surprise or twist, but I kind of saw it coming. I’m already looking for other books by Scalzi at my library.

11. Saints by Gene Luen Yang (Graphic Novel) {170 Pages}

Short version: The Boxer Rebellion seen through the eyes of a young Chinese convert to Christianity and punctuated by her visions of Joan of Arc.

Long version: 4 out of 5 stars. I’m always looking for “my kind” of graphic novel and this one is so it. This is the best explanation of the Boxer Rebellion I’ve ever encountered and it seemed to fairly showcase each side. I liked the parallels to Joan of Arc. I even liked the ending, even though it was sad. This book is actually a sequel/companion to another graphic novel titled “Boxers, which I’m reading now.

12. Rootless by Chris Howard (Young Adult Fiction) {336 Pages}

Short version: In an apocalyptic future America with an evil corporation calling the shots, a young tree-builder searches for his father and finds adventure.

Long version: 3 out of 5 stars. Another book with a cool concept. It feels like Maze Runner + Hunger Games + Uglies. There’s a lot of action and really beautiful descriptions. On the other hand, sometimes the action was hard to follow, the characters felt inconsistent, and it was too violent for my taste. If violence doesn’t bother you, and you liked Maze Runner, you’d probably dig this book.

*

Total books read so far this year: 12

Total pages read so far this year: 3,062

Bataan Memorial Death March Race Recap

At 7:30, with the sun rising in the distance, I crossed the start line with my six teammates and fellow Wear Blue members. We were all nervous, but there was no going back!

bataan start

Miles 1-7

The first mile wraps around the post of White Sands Missile Range. It’s nice to start on a regular ol’ road since so much of the race later takes place on sand. Moving was so welcome after standing and shivering in my corral for more than an hour. Part of me (a very teeny tiny part) was tempted to run since I knew this was easy as the race would be all day. Instead, I mentally pulled myself back. My legs wouldn’t be going any faster than a walk the whole day and, knowing what a long day it would probably be, there was no reason to go out too fast.

Blue representin'!

Blue representin’!

At the end of Mile 1, the asphalt gives way to sand. It’s loose but not terrible. Still, I could tell that the gaiters I bought this year were a good investment! The sand was no problemo. This first part of the course has two great benefits: my body felt fresh and the terrain was flat! I enjoyed chit-chatting and taking it easy. Around mile 4 we made a porta-potty pit stop and put on (the first of much) sunscreen. Another woman donning a Wear Blue shirt saw us pulled over and talked us up. Turns out, she got separated from her group. Although we didn’t know her, we were happy for her to join our group. Everyone was in good spirits. We shared snacks, helped each other put on sunscreen, and soaked up the warm rays.

Miles 8 -13

There’s a huge aid station around mile 8. This is where the sand gives way to a monstrous asphalt hill. I knew it was coming, but even having done the course the year before, I was unprepared. Hills are my number one running (and walking!) nemesis. I swear I can detect a 1% incline; I’m that much of a hill weenie. I have no idea what the incline of the hill is, but I know it’s way more than 1% and it’s not pretty.

The elevation chart. Read it and weep.

The elevation chart. Read it and weep.

This stretch tested my mental strength. As much as I hate hills, my body is more than capable of managing just fine at the speed that we were moving. The issue was more about not getting bogged down emotionally. I also had to work to hold my tongue. I’m a complainer. It’s not my best trait, and I didn’t want to bring everyone else down. One of my teammates had started telling riddles to pass the time. Focusing on the riddles kept me sane and quiet.

So.Much.Up.

So.Much.Up.

Physically, I felt good. I could tell that I wasn’t chaffed or sunburned. My feet felt fine, zero issues there. I had packed a ton of snacks in my backpack. Alternating between peanut butter crackers and goldfish was keeping my tummy happy. Shortly before the halfway point, the asphalt hill switches to hard packed dirt. The hill was behind us and lunch was near! My bad mood evaporated when I heard the music of the aid station booming. Participants can pay a reasonable $4 for a burger or hot dogs and chips. After more than 4.5 hours on the move, you bet we all forked over the cash! They even had lettuce, onions, and tomatoes! I was happy as a clam with my burger-less burger. (The bun + toppings + condiments suited me just fine.) We spent the better part of an hour eating and regrouping. Most people changed their socks and/or tended to minor aches and pains. My feet were still going strong, so I kept my socks on. With our legs rested, our bellies full, and our water bottles refilled, we headed back out for more!

Miles 14-20

This is my favorite part of the course: rolling hard-dirt hills. I love the variety of the terrain and the views of the Organ Mountains. I think there’s also a lot to be said for how much easier it is to continue on after a good rest. It had solidly warmed up by now, so I made an effort to force myself to sip from my handheld regularly. I’m really glad that I had my backpack, but I was so sick of wearing it by this point. I took a cue from my students and wore it on my front. That relieved the achiness that came from wearing it the right way.

With part of the team on my favorite stretch of course. Photo a la Stephen.

With part of the team on my favorite stretch of course. Photo a la Stephen.

Although we were participating as a team, our group had gotten a fair amount scattered. Some people were feeling good and racing ahead. Others had injuries or moved at a slower pace. I mostly hung in the middle, not wanting everyone to get too spread out. When the rolling hills reconnect with the asphalt road (this time down hill! yippee!), we saw that we weren’t too far apart. I touched based with the lagging group members, and they reported feeling okay despite the complaints we all had: hot, tired, sore feet. This was the last time that I saw some of my teammates for a few hours. The road continued down, down, down until the dreaded Sand Pit.

Miles 21-The End!

Up until this point, I felt mostly okay. I wasn’t burned, I wasn’t hungry, my feet were okay. I hated the uphill, but that was behind me. I loved getting to talk to the different members of my group one-on-one and together. It had been a pretty good day. By this point, though, I was just so tired. I was moving slow, and my joints were achy. Then the sand started. Deep and swishy. I struggled to maintain any semblance of speed. I got quiet and turned inward. I felt so sorry for myself. I started wondering why I had even signed up. I had already done this race before, I had nothing to prove. It was so hot and the day had been so long. I wanted to be done but there was so much work left to do. Not to mention, we couldn’t finish until the other members caught up to us. Even though the end was relatively close, it felt so far, so impossible to reach. I wanted to cry.

Sand pit suckitude

Sand pit suckitude

Then I gave myself a mental slap across the face. Why was I here? Why was I doing this? It wasn’t about me! It was about the people who lived out something so much worse, so cruel, so unfathomable: the veterans of Bataan. Not to mention the names on my backpack of honorable men and women who gave their lives for our country. My pity part was ridiculous and it was time for it to be over. I sucked it up and moved on.

The mile 24 aid station was run by angels handing out cookies and “trail mix” made of sugary cereal. The volunteers treated us like kings, walking around with trays of goodies and Gatorade. This was also when we happened upon one of the ladies who had fallen behind – she caught up to us! She also informed us that the two other ladies had gotten separated, were far behind, and one was at an aid station. Immediately I went into mom freak-out mode! I imagined my friends hurt and lonely. We started texting and calling. After a long wait and a few texts, they appeared! The women had gotten separated, but they had also reunited and hustled their buns off through the worst of the course to reach us. We were together and it was time to finish together! The last few miles were slow, but they were conquered as a team. Our faces were all smiles as we marched side-by-side to the finish line. It took us nearly 11 hours, but we did it!

Post-Race

With Stephen. This was his second 26.2 and my fifth!

With Stephen. This was his second 26.2 and my fifth!

Last year after the race, I was a wreck. I was tired and disoriented and alone. I couldn’t find my car and there was no one to help me. It was awful. This year, I was in worse shape physically (due to the time on my feet), but I felt so much better. Life is better with friends! We spent about 20ish minutes hanging out after the race. Some of us partook in the free food, which included veggie burgers! (Thank you post-race, gods!) Then it was time to hobble our way to our vehicles, wherever they were. Most of the team hopped a ride on a buggy from a helpful volunteer, but my car of peeps opted to walk. We found the truck with surprising ease (again, life is better with friends!). Less easy was taking off my shoes and socks. Oh, the pain! I’ll spare you the pictures but the blisters are evil and the toenails are black. That’s after not having any foot issues for more than 20 miles; those last 6 did me in. Everyone ended up with blisters, though, so I’m convinced that they are unavoidable.

My post-race treat was a grape cream slush from Sonic and a hot shower. After that, it was straight to bed because I had to work in the morning! I ended up wearing comfy shoes and walking slowly and I was fine. Overall, I love Bataan. I’d be hard-pressed to think of volunteers as kind and accommodating, the aid stations provide more than I would expect, the course is challenge but character building, and the meaning behind it all makes the whole thing worth it. I’m not sure if I’ll be back again (although some people have mentioned plans for next year!), but I do know that I’ll cherish this race experience for a long time.

Bataan Memorial Death March: The Beginning

How Did I get Myself Into This?

After completing the Bataan Memorial Death March last year, I thought I’d be one and done. It’s an amazing, moving, meaningful race, but it’s also very challenging and very taxing. I figured, “Alright, that’s done.” In my mind, it was checked off, never to be run again.

Then I joined Wear Blue: Run to Remember. Each week we would talk about forming a team. And each week, there wasn’t much of a consensus. “Sure, I’ll do it,” I told the group knowing in the back of my mind we’d never get the 5 total people needed to make an official team. We know how this story ends – people who thought they wouldn’t be able to were able, people who were on the fence decided to go for it, and we ended up with a full team plus even more Wear Blue members going for it!

wear blue

The Morning Of

After hitting up the expo on Saturday, I was really looking forward to race day. (I had been kind of dreading it before that!) Groggy after a bad night’s sleep, I woke up at 3 am. I was ready and out of the house less than an hour after that. I wondered if the other people I saw on the road were just waking up like us or hadn’t gone to bed yet from the night before. The drive with easy with no issues, just like last year. We made great time and parked with ease. We even happened to have been parked right by Julie! Huzzah!  All of us hung out in Stephen’s truck discussing our nerves. Somehow that also included everyone else mocking my “mom” sweats. They were keeping me warm! But once Stephen referred to me as Sheila (my mom’s name), I knew I had to ditch them. (No offense mom!)

We ditched the truck and bounded out toward the starting area. Our Wear Blue crew met up before the start for a circle. We all said the names of people that we were running in honor of. This is something we always do at Wear Blue. Normally, we read the names of people who have died in action on that week over the years since 9/11. Each week, I save the names by putting them in a special box on my dresser. The day before the race, I typed them up and added the names of those I personally run for and put them on my backpack. I was honored to carry those names alongside the one I picked up from Medals of Honor. I carried their names on my back and on my heart the entire day. This was the meaning behind it all.

Bataan backpack

We shifted over into our corral. By this time, we’d already been standing outside shivering for a while, and we seemed to just get colder and colder. The opening ceremonies began, and I tried to focus on the gravity of the day instead of how temporarily chilly I was. A number of people spoke including the Ambassador from The Philippines. The most touching part was the Roll Call. The speaker said the names of any survivors present, who triumphantly shout, “Here!” The names of the Bataan veterans who have died in the last year were read followed by silence. I definitely cried. Toward the end of the opening ceremony, a helicopter flew over. Stephen was unimpressed but I thought it was badass. With that the day, the ceremony was over.

The Bataan veterans were moved to the starting line and the wounded warriors followed. Our corral was one of the earlier ones and we pretty quickly made our way to the start. It takes a while to actually cross the starting line because the Bataan veterans shake the hands of every participant. It’s a really cool honor and worth the wait. The sun was finally appearing as I made my way to the front of the line. I was able to personally thank the Bataan veterans for their service and sacrifice.

bataan start

It was 7:30. I had been up for 4 and a half hours already. I was cold and tense and tired.  All that I had left to do was walk 26.2 miles…