There are some morning when you wake up and I have no idea what the day is going to bring. There are possibilities of making new friends. Possibilities of making a difference. Possibilities of carrying a symbol of your country for a short while as it makes its way on a 4,216 mile journey that is the Old Glory Relay.
Just getting on the road, I feel the wind in my face and the sun starting to warm the morning air. I feel alive. It’s like I could go all day.
The banter makes the time pass quickly. We run the first leg together, knowing that we still have another 45 miles to go before we’re done today. One step at a time. It’s how we’ve always gotten through things.
The first leg ends and 38 miles of solo segments start. Things hum along. Al’s got the plan laid out for us, taking a lot of the stress off the group. We just need to keep the flag going.
Angela covered the 16 mile bike leg, giving us a good buffer to get to the finish point in downtown San Francisco by 3:30 pm. She had actually done a bike leg the day before to bring the flag into Santa Rosa. There were a lot of people who were taking multiple days off to make this chain complete. It’s that important.
I took the third leg. I thought about a lot of things along the way. I wasn’t born a US citizen, but became one when my father brought us to this country. He had $400 in his pocket and five weeks to find a job. Nearly 50 years later, I proudly carry my country’s flag for five miles down neighborhoods and frontage roads along highway 101.
I pass to Keith next. He passes to Tom, who passes to Jonathan. Jonathan’s leg ends at the ferry terminal in Sausalito, but for the last mile, he’s joined by Fiona. This July, Fiona became a US citizen. She did this so that she could vote in the upcoming election. One more voice in the melting pot of America.
Thanks to the smooth hand-offs, we’re a bit ahead of schedule, giving us time to take in a fairly glorious day.
Michelle took the next leg up the hills to the Vista Point lookout. The Sacramento chapter met up with the San Francisco Chapter and the larger group took Old Glory across the Golden Gate Bridge and down into the Marina Green. It was a beautiful 5 mile stretch that I’ve done many times with other groups. For some reason, this one was different.
I think a lot of people didn’t know what to make of a group of runners in red shirts, but we had dozens of people honk at us, rolling down their windows to cheer. The event isn’t well publicized, but at Friday afternoon in 3:30 traffic, it’s hard to miss the colors going by.
The relay would go on for another 45 days, but our time in the event was almost over. I’d lost track of how many miles I actually ran by this point. It didn’t seem like a lot for some reason.
We rested for about 15 minutes at the Marina Green. One of our sponsors from Salesforce.com arranged to have a police escort to clear the roads for us to the downtown office, knowing that the traffic could slow us to a crawl otherwise. We were grateful for their thoughtful planning.
The last leg was a little over 5K. By now the group had grown to nearly 30, a mix of veterans, active duty and civilians.
At the end of the route, Al remembered to thank the men who cleared the way for us. Thanks to them we were safe.
Inside at the reception, before the flag was retired for the night, Al was asked to say a few words as the day’s team captain. I’d know that he was well spoken, but I’d never heard him talk about his military service. He told me that a lot of people don’t like to talk about their experiences, but with this crowd, it meant something to recognize how it feels.
Team RWB’s mission is to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity. The Old Glory Relay is scheduled to finish in Tampa on November 11th. There is still a chance to sign up to participate, or to donate to Team RWB (or our team specifically here).
Thank you to my friends, Julia and Anu and my wife Susan for their generous donations.