I wasn't much of a runner before September 11. I had just moved back to the United States after living in Saudi Arabia for three years with my husband and daughter. Before the attacks of 9/11, I would only go on the occasional jog, just to get out of the house for a while. There was never any real purpose to my runs.
But September 11 changed all that. I so wanted to do something to help my fellow Americans after we were so brutally attacked, but I didn't know what it would be. After a couple of weeks, I hit upon an idea: I decided to join the Army. Yes, the Army—even though I was 34 and the mother of a 10-year-old. When I told my husband, his one-word reply was "No." I shot back, "Watch me."
The secret to lasting motivation is burning inside you. You just have to stoke it—as these runners have—to be on your way to a lifetime of running
Within weeks, I was in basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina (and my husband was on his way to becoming my ex). I was also running—a lot. Every other day, along with other enlisted soldiers, I went for at least a two-mile run to get in shape. Soon, running became part of my everyday life, and I started to like it. I also got pretty good at it. My two-mile time went from 20 minutes down to nearly 16.
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Since those days in basic training, I have been commissioned as an officer and am now a captain. In 2009, I was deployed with the 82nd Airborne in Bagram, Afghanistan, where I manned a battle station—and continued to run. During my six months there, I did several 5-K and 10-K races to honor fallen comrades. Such events have become an important part of my running life. This past March, back stateside in Alpharetta, Georgia, I ran a 10-K in honor of the Fallen Heroes of Georgia. (Search: What's the next memorial race in my city?) Along the route the names of the deceased were posted. Family members of those whose names were on the placards gathered and waved as we passed by. It was an emotional and memorable run, made even more so because I ran with my sister, Air Force Lt. Col. Christine Weaver, for the first time. She had recently returned from Kabul. The span of our consecutive deployments was the longest stretch my sister and I had ever been separated, and it strained those we love back in the States. For close to two years, whenever family members learned of an attack near Kabul or Bagram, they became anxious and were soon glued to the television or to the telephone waiting for news about us.
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The world is, obviously, much different than it was in the fall of 2001, and so am I. I needed to join the Army to become more confident in myself, and to experience what it felt like to be part of something bigger than myself. Running was vital throughout this transformation. It has helped me become a strong woman, both physically and mentally. But I cannot rest yet. Our job as military is not done, and protecting this nation and her people remains our number-one priority.
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