I am going to talk about something that I don’t talk about often. It’s pretty raw. I hope you’re OK with that.
It’s my why.
Back in 2009 I wasn’t an outdoor-type person, I liked the idea of fitness because I liked the idea of not being overweight. I was not a runner. I was not particularly adventurous. I didn’t love doing hard things just because I could.
And then Capt. John Hallett was killed in Afghanistan, and everything changed. John wasn’t the first person killed during that deployment in my husband’s unit, the 1-17 infantry battalion, 5th brigade, 2nd infantry division. Nor was he someone I knew particularly well. But his death combined with those that preceded it and the almost 20 from our unit that followed it has changed literally everything about my life.
Had John not died, I would not live in Alaska.
Had John not died, I never would’ve needed to head outside to help my family find healing from war.
And had John not died I would never have started running.
It’s the running I want to talk about today, and even if you’re not a runner I need you to hang with me here, because I have something really important for you to do. I promise you won’t have to run. Pinky swear.
Because John died, his widow, Lisa, looked to her favorite form of therapy to move through her grief — running. And because John and others died, the other wives in the unit, including me, were trying to figure out what to do and say to those left behind. Lisa gave us an option: you don’t have to DO or SAY anything. You can just show up, remember, and run.
So that’s what we started doing. With the help of a few other wives from the unit, Lisa co-founded wear blue: run to remember. And all of the sudden I was running a little, because I had a reason to do so. I needed to move through the burdens of war. I needed that release.
Wear blue: run to remember has been celebrating it’s 10 year anniversary — 11 years since John’s death, 10 years since the organization’s founding. Since then it has honored hundreds of fallen service members, their families and the still fighting through the dedicated steps of thousands of runners and walkers. Any purposeful movement can be movement in remembrance of someone who answered the call of this country and died in that service.
There’s something so powerful about that — about moving for a reason. There’s something powerful about saying the name of the person you’ve dedicated your time to OUT LOUD. It gives what you’re doing meaning for you. And it’s so powerful for the friends and family of that person who is gone to know that you are out there thinking of them — that the loss was not for nothing, that it was not forgotten.
But there’s something else in this, too, that I didn’t expect. When I run dedicated to someone else, to someone whose life was taken because he or she volunteers, I literally cannot quit. I can’t. It’s not that it’s not allowed. It’s that I actually physically CAN NOT do it.
And that’s what happened this week while I was running. My adventure this week was chasing a big goal — running 80 miles in 6 days, a personal record by 20 miles, a huge time commitment and not always that fun. I wanted to do it to see if I could. I wore my wear blue shirts on every run. But there was this moment during my run Thursday that I wanted to quit so, so, so badly. But as I struggled up this hill into the wind I told myself — Amy. The families of the fallen never get to quit. The folks deployed do not quit. You are not going to quit. Do this for them.
And that resolve and that purpose literally carried me. It was a gift, in a way. They sacrificed — and I am inspired to not quit.
So why am I telling you this today?
Memorial Day is coming up and we have a chance to do something big for the families of the fallen with wear blue: run to remember. No matter where you are, we are invited to join with the wear blue community and dedicate your Memorial Day, May 25, steps to remember a fallen service member. If you don’t know one, you can have one assigned to you. Go to wearblueruntoremember.org/memorial-day and sign up.
Walk or run a mile or 20 — any distance is enough. It’s the remembering that matters, friends. Be surprised, lifted and pushed forward by how meaningful this is. I promise you won’t regret it.
We don’t have an outdoor hero this week — just an ask that you support wear blue with your steps. The fallen heroes that we are honoring by doing so are more than enough.
You can see more pictures of me running in blue than you probably need by following Humans Outside on Instagram. And I want to see your daily outdoor time, too. Post it with the hashtag #humansoutside365.
Until next time, we’ll see you out there.