This sinister-looking image is the elevation profile for the Grindstone 100 mile trail race, which takes place each year in early October in the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia. The race twists through what is sometimes called the "Rollercoaster," a rugged, relentlessly up-and-down course with a cumulative altitude gain of over 23000 feet and a total mileage of 101.85 miles.
A year older, but apparently no wiser, in a bit over a month, I'll be returning to Grindstone for the second time. On Friday evening of October 4, I'll set off with slightly fewer than 200 runners for a full night of running. We'll run all the next day. For most of us, when the sun goes down a second time on October 5, we'll still be running.
The cause for which I am running
This year, I'm running on behalf of The Soldiers Project, an innovative and award-winning non-profit that provides free counseling and support to military service members who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan, as well as to family members, who also struggle with the trauma of war.
The organization relies on the services of licensed mental health professionals who volunteer their time. As a private, non-profit organization not affiliated with any governmental organization, it also relies on the generosity of donors.
For most Americans, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are "over." Wars do not end so easily. While advances in military technology and medicine have meant that many more soldiers survive and are able to return home than in past conflicts, that physical survival can come with a terrible cost to veterans and their families.
Traumatic injuries of all kinds, including mental trauma, depression, suicide, and host of related effects are at record levels among members of the military and their families.
A personal commitment
As an administrator and English professor at University of Maryland University College, a university with a long relationship with the U.S. Military, I have come to see first hand the incredible dedication and resiliancy of military students and military spouses who pursue their education in face of disruptions, uncertainties, and pressures that would derail most of us.
You haven't taught Shakespeare until you've had students reading Henry IV on a base in Iraq. Such students are a constant source of inspiration and sense of purpose for those of us who work at UMUC.
Over the years, I have also seen the other side of the coin--the constant pressures of deployment and the traumas that come with protracted wars can derail lives. Members of the military and their families always deserve the support of their fellow citizens. This is more important than ever at a time our government, seemingly unable to govern, has failed to adequately support military veterans and their families.
It's up to the rest of us to do the right thing.
How to contribute:
Very simple. Follow the link to my fundraiser on crowdrise for the Soldier's Project Crowdrise site, then click Donate.
Suggested donations: .01, .10, .25, .50, or $ 1.00 per mile. You do the math. Feel free to round down to 100 miles!
Every little bit helps. Thank you!
The next is that I need hold up my end of the bargain, get in those long runs and hill sessions, keep mind and body together, and show up ready to go on October 4.
Whatever happens, you can be sure I'll share a complete report with you.
Some more links
The Soldier's Project
My report on last year's Grindstone 100
Race information site for Grindstone 100
Last Tuesday, 2 days ago, we learned that the race was suspended. Although the George Washington National Forest is open (a Forest is not a Park, you see), as a specially permitted event, the race needs to be supervised by USPS personnel--who, like most of the other 800000 furloughed federal workers, are not allowed to so much as to answer a work-related email while the government is shuttered.
As of today, the 2013 Grindstone is postponed to next week (pending the re-opening of government).
However, I have decided to withdraw my entry and am refocusing my training on the Mountain Masochist Trail Run 50 Miler (MMTR 50), which takes place on November 2. For those of you who have donated to the Soldier's Project, I thank you again, and hope you are ok with my transferring my fundraising event from Grindstone to MMTR. While it's "only" 50 miles, the trail is no less rocky and steep, with 9200 feet of elevation gain, the worst of it coming at you in the latter in the half of the race.