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Join a community movement while getting healthy

January 10, 2019

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” - Lao Tzu

″‘wear blue: run to remember’ is a national nonprofit running community that honors the service and sacrifice of the American military. wear blue: run to remember creates a support network for military members and their families; it bridges the gap between military and civilian communities and it creates a living memorial for our country’s fallen military members. wear blue: run to remember exists for the fallen, for the fighting and for the families.” - excerpt from wearblueruntoremember.org.

January - the month where many people begin or renew health and wellness goals.

Gyms, yoga studios, health clubs, and outdoor running/walking/biking paths are often overflowing with the vigor and excitement of New Year’s resolutions. The gluttony of holidays is now replaced with better, healthier habits and goals.

Personally, while I rarely, per se, establish New Year’s resolutions, I do find I have increased motivation and renewed excitement for my own personal health goals. Additionally, I use the start of the New Year as a time to reflect upon my current habits and look for ways to refine, improve, and if needed, change/adjust current practices for physical, spiritual, and mental well-being.

At one point in my adult life, running was part of my fitness regime, including running a local marathon to celebrate turning 50. I loved that most races in which I participated benefited a local charity, so that my running felt as if it served a purpose greater than my own personal gain. However, a back injury brought running to a quick and unforeseen hiatus. While I dream of one day returning to the world of running, I fully recognize that most forms of movement, including walking, offer numerous benefits to the body, mind, and soul. Thus, I have learned to accept my current physical state and fully recognize that I still have the gift of life. A back injury is a minor life setback compared to other more life-altering experiences.

Still, I remember the challenge and the sense of accomplishment that followed the obligatory, once-per-week “long run,” that was part of any training plan/goal.

Thus, when Sandy Mers, friend and coordinator of the Ashland wear blue community, shared a video with me from TedxTacoma of Lisa Hallett, executive director & co-founder of wear blue: run to remember, I was reminded of those once-upon-a-time “long runs.” As Hallett described the back-story that ultimately forged the foundation of her group, I was moved to tears. She passionately portrayed the way in which running - in particular, her once-per-week long training runs with her community of friends - provided her with much needed support as well as a healthy outlet for her grief following the loss of the man who was her husband, best friend and father of their three children (one whom he never met). CPT John Hallett was killed when his Stryker was attacked with an improvised explosive device in South Afghanistan on Aug. 25, 2009.

It is from these friend/community-supported runs that the wear blue running community evolved.

Yet, from what I can tell, it is so much more than running.

In fact, Mers emphasized the importance of all participants, whether running or otherwise, in the group’s first local event held this past Saturday at Central Park in Ashland. Twelve people, according to Mers, convened 8 a.m. at the 17th Street entrance. Then, at 8:15, participants gathered in a celebration circle where they took turns reading the names of 51 military personnel killed in action during the dates of Jan. 4-6 from 2001 to present. Then, some participants ran, some walk/ran, others solely walked, and still others remained at the finish line to cheer for each participant as he or she reached their goal destination. Despite the fact it is called a run, each participant, emphasized Mers, offered “a purposeful step” for the wear blue community.

The Ashland community of wear blue established a distance of one mile for this inaugural event. However, the goal for community members participating in the February “run” is two miles, and the goal for March is three miles - at which they plan to remain for future events, although Mers is not ruling out hosting longer events. Of course, participants can always choose to do more, depending upon their training needs.

Sadly, I missed out on the opportunity to participate in this first event. That said, as I read about this movement, I found myself yearning to once more get out there on a running path, even if it means walking; and what better motivator than supporting, honoring, and remembering those who have served and sacrificed while in our American military. As the wear blue website states, the “wear blue is an all-inclusive organization that actively strives to bridge the gap between the military and the community.”

Therefore, I have joined the wear blue: run to remember Ashland community, which can be found on Facebook. It is a public group that is open to all. Each “run” occurs on the first Saturday of each month at 8 a.m. at Ashland Central Park, 17th street entrance with the celebration circle beginning at 8:15. The next event will occur Feb. 2. For more information/inquiries, outside of the Facebook page, email: Ashland.community@wearblueruntoremember.org.

In the meantime, won’t you consider participating in February and/or other future events? There is absolutely no cost; and, best of all, your effort, whether walking, running, a combination of both, or cheering pays tribute to those service members who have given the ultimate sacrifice. Plus, as icing on the cake, you’ll reap physical, mental, and perhaps spiritual benefits. I hope to see you there!

Stephanie Hill is a freelance writer and a teacher at St. Joseph Catholic School in Huntington. She is also a lifelong resident of Lawrence County. She can be reached at hill992@zoominternet.net. Or you can check out her website, stephsimply.com.

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