“Feeling the Love And Support Of Those Eagles Was All That Mattered” Meet Jolynn Young

Since joining RWB in November 2011, I’ve run a few 5Ks—always finishing last or close to it, and always feeling pretty bad about it afterward.  After a particularly bad 5K in the fall of 2013, I actually cried and vowed to quit trying and to quit RWB.  At that moment, Kirk Williams, RWB veteran, crossfitter, and great guy approached me, and in passing offered, “Just remember, you did more this morning than some people will do all day.”  Those words stick with me to this day and have carried me more miles than I thought possible.

October 18, 2014, I ran my first half-marathon wearing The Eagle representing Team RWB.  Why?  I am not inspirational or special in any way.  I am a middle-aged mother of four.  I have never been athletically talented—even when I was younger and physically fit.  When I picture inspirational people, I envision the men and women of Team RWB, who despite physical and psychological injuries are doing amazing things like crossfitting, trail running, ultra-running, and competing in triathlons.

So in what can only be described as a temporary loss of all reason, I decided in May of 2014 to run the Buffalo Creek Half-Marathon as a “gift” for my husband, Jason, for our 20th anniversary.  With the backing of our children and with the support and guidance of my chapter captain, Kate Bielak, I embarked on a secret mission—preparing for a half-marathon.  Slowly, a few other Eagles became part of my secret—Jeremiah Fountain, U. S. Army veteran, became my virtual training partner as he was training for the same race for his first half-marathon as well; and Sean MacMillen, U. S. Army veteran and chapter captain of Team RWB Lock Haven-Williamsport quickly provided encouragement and moral support from half-way across the state.

Two months away from the race, I e-mailed Kate to tell her I wanted to donate my half-marathon bib to a veteran.  Despite her encouragement and rebuttal, I had my mind set.  Before I knew it, I was Facebook messaging with Jeremiah who listened to my fears, shared my doubts, and reminded me that, “run, walk, or crawl” we were finishing that race. I knew Kate deployed the troops to rescue me, and I was grateful.

One month from the race, I was running a quarter of a mile with COL (ret.) James Nemec who let me know he had every intention of showing up to that half-marathon to make sure I finished the race, but family commitments conflicted; however, he knew I could do it.  To address my concern about being “swept” off the trail for being too slow, I was told to just turn in my bib and tell them, “I’m just another person out for a run.”  In running that short distance with “The Colonel,” I became more determined to finish.  If The Colonel believed in me, I must be able to do it.  For the first time since I started this journey, I believed I could do all 13.1 miles.  I knew they wouldn’t be fast, I knew they wouldn’t be pretty, but they were going to be ours—mine and everyone else’s who stood in my corner!

For the first 7 miles, the bike sweepers rode just beyond my peripheral vision, but I could hear their wheels crunching, I could hear their conversations, and I felt like I was keeping them back.  Sometimes they’d stop to let me get ahead, but they’d end up riding in the same place.  Just as I was ready to tell them to pass me, the one asked if I had a ride back to get my car and would I be OK by myself.  When I said I did and I would, they passed me and a HUGE burden was lifted.  I was on my own—running for myself, for my support team, for Team Red, White, and Blue.

Suddenly the adventure was all about the personal challenge and the people who helped get me to this place in the woods.  There was no doubt I was going to be last and wasn’t going to make the finish time, but for the first time in my life, I didn’t care about being last.  I enjoyed every minute of last.  I ran because Kirk Williams was in my head; I ran because The Colonel believed I could do it; I ran because Kate taught me it wasn’t about speed; I ran because Jeremiah Fountain believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself.

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When I saw my personal finish line, I cried the rest of the way in.  The being last didn’t matter.  The getting lost didn’t matter.  The finishing 15 minutes later than I anticipated, didn’t matter either. Feeling the love and support of those Eagles was all that mattered.  Finishing something so beyond what I ever thought possible would never have happened without the backing of Team RWB—and that’s all that mattered.