Monday, April 1, 2013

The First Step

Hi. My name is Anna.

In the spring of 2014, I'm going on a 100-day run across the United States, in an effort to raise money and awareness for veterans of the United States military. 

When I tell someone that I'm training to run across the entire United States, the first thing that they usually ask  is, "Why!?" 

It took a while for it to dawn on me that not everyone thinks this hare-brained idea is unequivocally awesome. If you want the succinct answer to "Why?!" here it is: to inspire, to enlighten, to bring hope, to become stronger, to grow, to expand, and to learn.

Most people secretly believe that I got the idea from Forrest
I plead the fifth.

But, honestly, these answers aren't good enough. If I don't carefully monitor myself, running across the United States will do nothing but feed my ravenous ego. Despite popular belief, this is not my modus operendi. My head is already big enough as it is, and I know in my heart that this journey should not be simply for my own enjoyment. It cannot be an end in itself, but must be for a greater purpose. It's not just another item to be checked off my bucket list, although it's been there for longer than I can remember. 

Mahatma Gandhi once said, "The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others." So, my reasons for running must be:  to inspire others, to bring hope to others, to help others become stronger, to expand my own sense of generosity, and to learn from others as much as I possibly can. Seeing the country on foot will be incredible, but America as we know it wouldn't be as beautiful without the people who inhabit it.

Once I decided that I had to run for a charitable cause, I was faced with a whole new set of problems. As a person who is generally passionate about everything, from a new book by the Dalai Lama to fresh-baked bread to those hideously beautiful goldfish with the big bug-eyes, it was a Herculean task trying to decide what cause needed my help the most. I'm sure this is a problem that philanthropists are faced with every day. There are so many things that need fixing, and so many people who desperately  need assistance, that it feels impossible to choose just one cause. Maybe it's just my overdeveloped sense of guilt, but every time I would settle on a certain charitable plight in my mind, I would feel like I was rejecting the other four billion people in the world who need my help just as badly.

Then, one day I was on a long night run, and *it* hit me. Some people might call *it* an idea, others call *it* imagination. Some people might even venture to call *it* divine inspiration. I don't know what to call it, but every so often when I am running, or painting, or working on my pottery wheel, I will get an idea or thought that is so overwhelming and completely absorbing that time seems to slow down, and I have to take a moment to catch my breath and choke back tears of gratitude. I'm not a religious person in the traditional sense, but I feel close to God when I am on a run, and the sun is shining, and the smell of fresh-cut grass is heavy in the air, and the sky opens up in front of me like a world of possibility that is waiting for my arrival. 

And just like that, I knew I had to run for veterans. (For about twenty-two million reasons.)

I won't tell you about the places that my over-active imagination went to on that run, because I want to tell you about it when it actually happens about year from now. Call me superstitious or whimsical, but I want to see my dream become reality. That, and I have a tendency to ramble and I know that blog posts are supposed to be short and easily digestible. I lose myself in the details of something and forget to make the point that inspired me to write in the first place. In fact, I'm pretty sure my Mom is the only one reading this still. Hi, Mom. 

To summarize, in this blog, I plan to track my training, diet, planning, scheming, sorrows, trials, joys, and accomplishments of daily life while I am preparing for this run. Luckily, I am fortunate enough to have the help and support of some really incredible people, who inspire me in ways I didn't think was even possible.

Lisa Smith-Batchen
I'm being coached by Lisa Smith-Batchen, who is one of the most amazing women I've ever even heard of. If you don't know who she is, let me put it this way. Finding out that she was willing to work with me was like if you were trying to make the varsity basketball team, and you found out that Michael Jordan wanted to help you do it. 

Also, I've met people in the last few years who have believed in me simply because of the abundance of generosity in their heart, and have helped me to believe in myself as a result. 

I am filled to the brim with gratitude and love, and I know the only way I can pay all the people I love back for their encouragement and support is to give everything I've got. 

If this suspiciously sounds like an acceptance speech, it's because it is. I am accepting the challenge and I am dedicated to giving 100% of my effort, 100% of the time. 

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