Monday, November 12, 2012

New Trail runners, Old Trail runners. New Road runners, Old Road runners.

My Grandson John and I drove 123 miles northwest of San Antonio to Camp Eagle early on Saturday morning. We were volunteers at the Trail running Veterans Day Camp  I was honored to be asked to participate at the "Running camp on the Nueces." A camp for our Armed Forces Veterans at Camp Eagle near Rock Springs Texas. The camp sits at the headwaters of the Nueces river in the heart of the Texas Hill country. Team RWB (Red, White, and Blue) was sponsoring the camp and it was directed by my good friends Liza Howard and Joe Prusaitis. Many accomplished Ultrarunners were invited to share their experiences and knowledge with our Vets in hopes of getting them interested in our wonderful sport and to form new friendships and natural relationships in hopes of helping them experience a smooth transition back to civilian life. We met with some nice individuals. Ira relayed his experience in Iraq and how his unit survived an ambush. He said he couldn't remember anything after he went down as a result of a bullet to his head. He survived, but as he looks in the mirror, or if someone asks,  the scar on his head will forever remind him of that fateful day. Another Veteran there will not have to look in the mirror to be reminded of his injuries. He lost his lower right leg and now dons a prosthetic leg. Nonetheless, he was out there running the rocky trails. Even a fall and landing on a prickly pear cactus did not seem to dampen his spirits. I met other veterans too, Albert from Fort Lauderdale, Fl, Lopez from McAllen, Tx. I hope I was able to provide some help and good company to the veterans I met. Highlight of the week; running down a winding technical trail behind a female veteran. The pace was smooth and consistent. When we reached the end of the trail at the bottom of the hill, she turned and high fived me.
There were so many other ultra running folks at the camp with much more experience and knowledge than I have. People who have run multiple Ultras, Winners of 100 milers and Mountain races in the US and around the world. Maybe I was able to show these vets that even average Joes like me can enjoy our sport and rub elbows with the elite types. That is what is so great about the sport of trail running. The majority of the folks in this sport are humble approachable people who enjoy sharing there thoughts and knowledge. The first new person I met when I arrived Saturday morning introduced himself as simply, Marshall. Marshall? I asked. Marshall Ullrich? Yes it was THE Marshall Ullrich the 4 time Badwater winner, the guy who ran the Leadville 100 and Pikes Peak Marathon on the same weekend, the same guy who has climbed the 7 highest summits in the world and the same one who ran across America among other feats of human endurance. Speaking to Marshall was like speaking to your neighbor down the street. It was so refreshing to find a person who has accomplished so much in the field of ultras and endurance was so down to earth.  I felt I was able to open myself up to him and share some of the reasons I run. So I did.  I listened and watched as he related to many of the Veterans and others Saturday. He was a great asset to the camp and I am sure he connected with the Veterans on this weekend at Camp Eagle. I regret the fact that I was only able to attend the Camp for one day. Liza and Joe's work at this Camp was a success and I hope this becomes a yearly event.

Sunday the San Antonio Rock and Roll Marathon was held and I ran there from nearby to support my good friend and Co-worker Daniel at his first Marathon. Daniel began running less than a year ago and fell in love with it. He has endured the familiar comments and concerns from family and friends. You're too skinny, all you do is run, isn't it bad for your knees? are you eating well? etc.
As I waited for Daniel to reach my spectators perch at San Pedro Park I saw many friends I have made throughout my twenty plus years of running. Cheering them on as I called out their names and hearing them calling out mine when I hadn't seen them yet was so much fun. I recalled many of the times we have run together as they passed.

I was able to run with Daniel and encourage him for a couple of miles midway through the Marathon as he cruised to a 4:14 finish. Awesome time for a first Marathon and so little running experience. But at 28 years old he's just a kid. And just getting started. As I left Daniel I became emotional and almost came to tears recalling my first Marathon finish when my friend Sal was there to encourage me. And maybe because I was happy that Daniel may experience all or more of what running has done for me. Hopefully John and the Veterans we met Saturday will too.  I stayed on the Marathon course a couple more hours cheering on runners before I happily ran the 6 miles back to my truck.

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