Author Archive: Mike Ehredt
What do you get when you mix the west Texas hill country with a combination of Team Red White and Blue Veterans that love to run? Three days of dirt and rock, laughter and pain. I was invited back to Camp Eagle for the third year in a row over the weekend of October 10-12, by Liza Howard, Director of the Team RWB Camp and a Leadville 100 Mile winner. My role was that of a mentor, to share my knowledge and experience with other trail runners and to also get to know them and hear their story. Friday afternoon saw a convergence of Vets at the San Antonio Airport and we boarded a charter bus that would transfer us to Camp Eagle, 2 hours west. At check in we were assigned cabins that would hold 8 of us. The porched cabins faced inwards toward the center of a circle and it encouraged introductions and conversation.So why a trail running camp? Team RWB has always been about enriching veterans lives through physical activity and connecting communities and veterans through such activity. It promotes a sense of family, connecting, engaging each other and the body as well as the mind and this is what a lot of Vets need today. A connection, an external release be it activity or conversation. Those in attendance came from a variety of levels pertaining to running.
The weekend consisted of a variety of clinics. On Friday night there was a night run of a couple of miles with headlamps. A way to shake the legs out and meet and greet. At 7 a.m. Saturday four groups were formed based on the level of fitness. B-Group was my assignment for the weekend. With a jolt of coffee and a quick introduction we headed for the trails and a sunrise run and to discuss our plan for the day. The morning sessions saw us running to points around camp and taking part in Trail First Aid and improving speed on the trail, both valuable to any runner. After lunch there was a core class and a session on Training Schedules. Saturday night I was honored to show my documentary “12 Million Steps”. The world is small but made even smaller when 2 people told me they had served with soldiers whose names had appeared in the film. Saturday nights bonfire revealed many touching stories. PTSD seems to be the most troublesome part of a Veterans life and many I talked to suffer from it. Many had contemplated suicide until their involvement with Team RWB which resurrected a will and desire to persevere. Many organizations do great things but often you never realize the impact until you experience it in a conversation.
Sunday morning greeted us with a beautiful sunrise up near a windmill. Moments like that remind us that only are feet took us to a beautiful place. A full agenda awaited us as we covered hydration, nutrition, technical uphill and technical downhill running followed by a day ending obstacle course covering 3 miles. I managed a spot out on the course shouting encouragement to all who ran by. For many particularly those in the back, this might be the only time they would challenge themselves on such a course. Later after all had finished the mentors raced off. The fast, fast guys were all up front, shirtless, but I, being more about self preservation and maintaining a much slower pace, opted to keep my shirt on. My moment of glory amounted to being the second shirt guy to finish….
One more early morning run on Monday awaited us. Slowly we made our way through the scrub oak and switchbacks. The confidence level of those in my group had risen to an unrecognizable level. I was like a proud parent. I do not know the adversity they face in their private lives, relationships and jobs but I sense they have the strength to persevere. In my talk the night before I said that it does not matter how many races you run, if you win or how fast you are. It does not matter how much money you make or how successful you are. At the end of the day what matters is what you have done for others. When you do that, you win.
Five years ago on Memorial Day weekend I was running down Highway 200 in the rain towards Missoula, MT when a car pulled over and out stepped a rather large, imposing figure….really large in fact. He stood at the back of his car and as I approached and he began to speak I picked up on a thick Romanian accent. “I heard of you and knew you were coming. I wanted to come out here, find you and say than you for remembering. I lost a few friends on two tours and I appreciate what you are doing. I want you to know it was MY HONOR to serve YOUR COUNTRY.” And then he saluted. His honor….my remembering…I pondered that for many miles. You see he was a political refugee from Romania and had sought asylum and ultimately citizenship in the United States. He told me that he felt a need to show his gratitude by serving in our military to fight for the freedom he was afforded in this country. That is true patriotism.
With Memorial Day again coming up I will be traveling to Corona, CA for the Inaugural Memorial Day March which begins on Saturday the 23rd at 9 a.m. at Corona City Hall. It is a free event. Carry a flag and write a personal message on a tag attached to it. We will cover 2.8 miles to the Veterans Park then plant the flags in a giant USA Mural on the side of a small hill. Corona is a gracious and appreciative city and very Red, White and Blue. Memorial Day has a special meaning to each of us and we honor it in many ways. So take a walk, plant a flag for someone….remember friends, family and loved ones….See you on Grand Ave in Corona!!
When I was young my inspiration came in many forms. There were names and faces and books that sparked my imagination. Neil Armstrong, Muhammed Ali, Mickey Mantle. They were the spark in my eye and the drive in my heart that made me want to be more. Now that I am in my 50s I have discovered I am no less inspired than I was 40 years ago. I can thank the Boston Marathon for that. Just recently I was able to run my 3rd Boston and this time was different than the first two. I studied faces. Not only along the course but on the runners themselves. And what I saw was amazing.
A smile can be contagious and when you see a person smiling at you or at themselves how can you not be moved and smile yourself? Each person was there for a reason. Each runner had their own inspiration. Each person struggled with early mornings in the dark as they trained for their marathon. They struggled with heat and cold and injuries I am sure. Yet, they smiled as if it were Christmas morning. I discovered a new respect for marathoners. It was not that I did not harbor any before because running 26.2 miles is quite an achievement for anyone but I think that as runners we can become a little jaded or one-way in our thinking. We are all athletes, we are all one as we move forward. Be it a 5k or 100 miles. As simple as it sounds the fact remains that it is only the runner, the individual, the mom, dad, teacher, nurse, student who puts one foot in front of the other till they finish. No one does it for them. No one is any more important or special than the runner beside them. It was once said that Boston is a standing ovation for you for 26 miles. It truly is. Perhaps that is what brings out so many smiles. The people along the course struggle and rejoice with the runners. They feel the pain and they feel the joy and their energy and encouragement inspire us. If the world had the caring and support that I felt what an amazing place it would be. So smile when you walk out your day. The sun always comes up…..
These are run/walk events to connect schoolchildren and communities and veterans together. Pick the route and distance of your choice. Small flags are carried and then placed within a giant outline of the country which in turn creates a giant mural of color. Your mural can be on wood or foam board or even outlined on a hillside or in a park.