Team Red, White and Blue

We all have our reasons that start us on our fitness journey, for some its the military. Many times I hear people say that they haven’t ran since they were in ______(insert branch of service). What is it that makes people stop exercising when they leave the service?

Often times the need to transition to civilian life overshadows any desire to include fitness. Eventually, not exercising becomes a way of life, a habit. Life just tends to get in the way and priorities change.

The problem is that when they get out of the service, the motivation and encouragement are gone. A camaraderie is lost. There is almost a feeling of isolation among those who have served when they enter the civilian world. Many times these individuals entered straight from high school or college, they never saw what it was like in the “real” world. The way of life is completely different from anything they have experienced.

Devotion is probably the one big thing that they miss. Devotion to the team, to the goal and to share success. Many times a veteran feels isolated, so to speak; those around him may not understand the level of devotion that a vet has experienced. To go on a run and know that you can depend on the person next to you is one thing but, to have gone out and proved it is another thing altogether. Some have trained for years together and fought in wars, side by side.  

There is an organization that is trying to help the veteran fit in, it’s called, Team Red, White and Blue. Members, or eagles as they call themselves, are veterans and civilians who support the military. Their mission statement is “enriching the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity”.

Team RWB, has provided me, along with thousands of others, with many opportunities to grow through the national training camps they host and through more local and personalized events.

As for myself, I can honestly say that without Team RWB, I would not be where I am today. They have provided me the encouragement and knowledge to get to the point of running in ultra-marathons and I am not alone. Across the country and around the world via United States military bases they are changing lives.

Their reach does not stop at running, they offer support and encouragement in many fields: triathlon, cycling and yoga to name a few. Each chapter has individuals with unique skillsets that they are encouraged to share.

Whether you are a veteran or you just want to support our veterans, I would encourage you to join them. It’s free and vets get a Team RWB tech shirt for the cost of shipping.

Brutal Truths

We all pick up little tidbits of advice along the way. Probably one of the best and most honest pieces I have ever heard was while I was in  marathon. I passed a lady who looked distraught. She was obviously struggling to make it through. What I assumed to be a friend of her’s was a few paces ahead. I say that I assume she was a friend due to the bluntness of her advice, because we tend to be more frank with someone we have ran and trained next to for hundreds of miles.

We tend to build up our shared experiences through the hardships of training, causing us to be more open and honest with each other. Like the Band of Brothers, we gain shared struggles, we’ve battled a common threat together. When one’s weakness is apparent, the others will step up and help overcome and as a group the challenge is conquered.  It’s through these shared tragedies, victories and just plain everyday drudgery that a bond begins to form.

Before you know it, you’re sitting around telling “war stories” about this race or that training run or how you helped each other. Much like the church scene in “Saving Private Ryan” where Captain Miller and Sergeant Horvath are discussing the battles of the past and soldiers they have lost. You shed tears and laugh together.

You’re building a story with these people so you tend to get very honest. So honest, that to the casual listener, you sound brutal. When you are on the receiving end, you know that it is not personal. They are just pushing you to be your absolute best. You know someday the tables might turn. Who else can you be so vividly honest with? There are not many people who you can do this with.

My two temporary running partners had obviously put in some miles together. The lady in front turned around and said “Well, some days are sugar and some are shit. Today ain’t really sugar for you.”

The advice, while blunt and somewhat comical, has a layer of truth to it. Many days since then I have thought back to that advice I heard on the course. Not all of your days can be sugar and when they aren’t, just roll with it and hope for some of that sugar in the future.

I wish I knew how they did that day. I didn’t get their bib numbers or remember their faces by the time I finished. Wherever they came in that day, I bet they are telling their war story and laughing about that day, having learned and moved on.