Start line at National Cemetery in San Bruno California

2.4 miles.  Like everything in life, that distance is relative.  Sometimes in life, we all experience events so powerful that words stand no chance to sufficiently convey the emotions of the moment.   Despite this noted disadvantage, the following paragraphs will be my best effort to do just that: tell the story of 2.4 miles, miles 50 to 52.4 of the Captain John Hallett Memorial Ultra-marathon.

Runners at the start of the John Hallett Memorial Ultramarathon.

At 11:30 pm on July 30, a group of approximately 30 gathered at San Francisco’s National Cemetery.   The illuminated American flag flew high above the white tombstones, blowing in the typically strong breeze of the City by the Bay.  We gathered and remembered all the men and women who have laid down their lives for our country, but especially the men of 5th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.  They took on the most difficult mission in Afghanistan during “the surge,” the volatile and strategically important Kandahar province.  They arrived in the height of fighting season in 2009 and lost 41 soldiers to Taliban ambushes, mortars and IEDs.   In a circle, holding American flags, members of the group “wear blue: run to remember” called out the name of every soldier from the unit lost during the 12 month deployment.  It was a stark reminder that we were about to run in their honor.   Any concerns over running 52 miles were quickly replaced by the realization that we were here and able to run, but these 41 men weren’t.

10 hours later, approaching 28 hours since our last sleep, the end was in sight.  We had paralleled the Pacific Ocean, crossed the Golden Gate Bridge, covered the Presidio’s hilly terrain, navigated Golden Gate Park and ran through Haight-Ashbury.  But it was on a lonesome stretch of city streets, with little fan fare, that our group of runners rallied at mile 24 of the marathon—mile 50 of the John Hallett Memorial.

After being part of our support crew through the night, John’s brother Chris, joined our pack.   Running barefoot, he assumed command of the American flag.  I turned to Lisa Hallett and before I could say anything, she knew.  She knew that running 52.4 miles in honor of her late husband was an amazing tribute—but she knew that we MUST finish strong.  She also knew that if she set an aggressive pace over those final few miles, everyone else in the group would follow suit.  So that’s where the real story begins.

We tore down that quiet street and headed for the Bay.  Braking left, AT&T Park was now in front of us.  We were infused with the spirit of John and over 6,000 other Americans who answered our nation’s call to service and gave their lives.  If you saw how the group came together in those last 20 minutes, you would know why I am so confident in saying that.  Our pace quickened; there were tears, chills, words of encouragement—but just a few.  Mostly, there was focus on finishing together and finishing strong.  I took Old Glory from Chris about a mile from home and we pushed harder.  Waving the American flag, we rounded AT&T Park and headed for the daunting Bay Bridge.  Typically packed with traffic, it sat quiet as we passed under it.

Heading into the finisher’s chute, I handed Old Glory to Lisa and Chris grabbed his brother’s American flag from Mr. & Mrs. Hallett.  Together, amid the screaming fans and the PA announcer welcoming our group, we charged for the finish line.  10 hours and 3 minutes after we had set out from The National Cemetery, we crossed that arbitrary point in the road and completed our mission.  We ran to honor John and the other Americans who have fallen in Iraq & Afghanistan, but we also ran to connect with them.  And we ran to re-affirm our commitment to the men and women who have been wounded in these missions—to support their reintegration in the new communities that they live in.

In this spirit, Team RWB is encouraging all Americans—no matter where you’re going to be—to please join us in making a ‘moving tribute’ on Sunday, September 11th.  By committing to walk, run, bike, hike, or workout in some other form on this day, we are pledging to carve out time to honor the 2,977 taken from their families and our country on 9/11/01.   We are also paying tribute to the servicemen & women who have made the ultimate sacrifice or have been wounded since that day 10 years ago.  Where possible, we are encouraging participants to meet at 8:30 am and to hold a moment of silence at 8:46 am, when the North Tower of the World Trade Center was first attacked.  And most importantly, we are encouraging all participants to use this time to reflect upon the tremendous sacrifice so many Americans have made in the past decade.
From Alaska to Afghanistan, and everywhere in between, please join us on September 11th and honor those who lost their lives on 9/11—and re-affirm our commitment to support the men, women and families who have sacrificed so much over the past decade.  Let’s make this day one of remembrance, camaraderie, patriotism, service, and action….where we reflect and where we look forward to living lives worthy of the sacrifices made on our behalf since September 11th, 2001.

It’s Our Turn!

Mike Erwin
Team RWB, Founder & Director

Old Glory.  The Star Spangled Banner.  Stars and Stripes.  The American Flag.  Call it what you will, to most Americans, it’s the most meaningful 3′ x 5′ piece of cloth in the world.  And that’s exactly why Team RWB encourages our athletes to carry that 3′ x 5′ piece of red, white and blue cloth when they run.   In just the past month, Joe Molina and Team RWB’s San Diego chapter fired up the crowd at the Rock ‘n Roll Marathon. Staff Sergeant Marc Dibernardo transported it, folded up, while running 26.2 miles in the Hawaii heat in a gas mask.  Team RWB athletes brought it across the finish line in the Dexter to Ann Arbor Half-marathon.  Pro triathlete Tim O’Donnell seized it after covering 140.5 miles in 8 hours and 8 minutes—-and when he thought he had nothing left in the tank, electrified the crowd at Ironman Texas with a dead sprint to the finish line.  Sam Linn and Team RWB runners were the only ones on the Worcester Half-marathon course carrying Old Glory.  And double amputee, Dan Cnossen inspired thousands in Washington, DC, as he carried that red, white and blue flag the last 400 meters of a 200 mile relay.
Whether you’ve run 1 mile in the past 5 years or you’ve run 100 miles in the past week, I’m confident that these images evoke feelings of patriotism and inspiration.  If you haven’t run a 5K in your life, now is the time to commit to it.  Just take 1 minute and sign up here to join the movement Team RWB is creating:  If you’re a more seasoned runner, please make sure you’ve got your Team RWB shirt (you can get one here and consider carrying Old Glory on your next run.  When you run in a group and take turns carrying the American flag, it’s something you have to experience to understand.
So here’s to you, Team RWB athletes….pushing your limits and proudly representing our country’s wounded veterans on streets and trails all over the country.  Keep spreading the word to others about why it’s important to get involved and how easy it is. Sign up, get a shirt, fundraise if you want—talk to people about Team RWB’s vision and encourage them to follow in your footsteps.

It’s Our Turn!
Mike Erwin

Check this out!  Team RWB was featured on Making Creative Matter.  The company behind Making Creative Matter is Rule 29 who has helped us create our brand from scratch.  Their insight and creativity have made a huge impact in our success.  We can’t thank them enough for all they have done!  Want a little insight behind our logo and design?  Check out their post and begin following their blog.

Nothing great in this world has ever been accomplished without passion. ~ Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
What is your passion?  And how can you use it to help others?
Check out what our community of supporters have made to help our cause.
How amazing is this painting by Syracuse artist Chrissy Quijano?  She has donated several of her pieces for various auctions to benefit Team RWB.  Check out more of her work on Facebook.
Team RWB athlete and craftsman, Tommy Woroszylo, made this cedar chest for a Team RWB auction also!  Gorgeous!
Team RWB athlete and musician, Eddie Regner, composed this anthem for Team RWB.  Not to brag, but he also wrote a piece dedicated to my son!  Check out more of his work on YouTube.
We get emails here all the time from people begging to get involved, but many of them aren’t runners, or they live in an area where our advocate programs are unavailable.  I’m sure there are people out there that are a little nervous about becoming an advocate, but they still believe in our cause and want to help in some way.  Do you bake?  Make cookies for an area veteran.  Do you teach? Offer tutoring for a veteran’s child.  Are you a lawyer or accountant?  Volunteer to provide tax support or legal assistance.  Any graphic designers out there?  If you have a cool idea for some fun Team RWB shirts, make a design and send it our way!
If you have a talent or a passion for something, Team RWB wants to put that talent to use.  Contact our Community Outreach Director at [email protected] if you want to get involved.

At Team RWB, we use running events, triathlons, golf tournaments, and other athletic events to build awareness for our cause, but it also builds a passion in our athletes.  I am a runner, and have been for about the last 20 years, since about fifth grade track.  I know the ups and downs of a runner’s motivation.  But running for a cause, especially Team RWB, builds morale in more than one way.

On April 29-30, Team RWB had 16 teams compete in the American Odyssey Relay Run Adventure.  Each team was made up of 12 runners, 2 vans, and 200 miles from Gettysburg to Washington DC.  We started running Friday morning and didn’t stop until Saturday afternoon.  And believe me, the runner’s motivation had it’s ups (running through the monuments at Gettysburg, the Battle of Antietam, and the monuments of Washington DC) and it’s downs (missing a sign and running 8 miles in the wrong direction, through the woods, at 2 in the morning)!  But when a runner would doubt why on earth they decided this would be fun, they look around at the 11 sweaty, crusty teammates in their van and laugh!  And if that didn’t turn their sorrows around, thinking about the wounded veterans their run was dedicated to, definitely did.

One of our runner’s, Shawn, wrote the following about his experience at American Odyssey Relay:

The American Odyssey Relay Race (AOR) was such a unique experience that it’s hard to encompass writing about it even a little over 24 hours after it ended.  In fact, it’s hard to say it ended, because of the connections made through the race and Team Red, White, and Blue.  For me personally, this was my first race of this kind and I’m grateful I took time during my leave (I am Active Duty Army) to experience this event.  When I began, I only knew 2 people on my 12 person relay team.  When it was over, I had made 10 new friends, and then some.  Spending about 27 and a half hours in the same van with a group of sweaty, tired people builds bonds that wouldn’t form otherwise.  While the expected would be for stresses to form and tempers to flare, the exact opposite happened; bonds were strengthened and encouragement was given to each other.  The AOR is unique in its logistics and time period where there are 36 individual legs (which includes driving to each of those transition points and figuring out when runners will finish) and over 27-30 hours where only 2 of those may go to sleep for any individual runner.  While AOR made it unique, running for Team Red, White, and Blue made it all worthwhile.  Several times on my runs, sucking wind going uphill, I remembered that a lot of my friends aren’t so lucky to be able to do the same, and I found myself humbled yet energized.  I was lucky enough to see a wounded war vet run with 2 legs that were artificial yet with inspiration that couldn’t be more genuine; it was even more humbling and rewarding than I expected.  Knowing that I was running with a team dedicated to the same goal was just awesome.  Being able to run through our nation’s capital was not only great sightseeing, but symbolized and crystalized what it was all for, yet words can’t explain the feeling of running, seeing the monuments of freedom, and then knowing it’s for a good cause.  I am grateful to have been part of such an experience and look forward to the next Team Red, White, and Blue event.

Team Run 2 DC made this video documenting their experience running for Team Red, White, and Blue.

2011 American Odyssey Relay – Team Run2DC

Team  RWB has been selected as an official charity for the 2012 American Odyssey Relay Run Adventure.   This year we had 16 teams compete, and we’re hoping to pass 20 in 2012!  If you are interested in forming a team, check out the American Odyssey Relay Run Adventure!

And if you are interested in running in any other race for Team RWB, check out the races page of our website for a calendar of events!