Monday, October 21, 2013

The Army Ten-Miler: A run for your life.

Feel it comin' in the air
And the screams from everywhere
I'm addicted to the thrill
It's a dangerous love affair
Can't be scared when it goes down
Got a problem, tell me now
Only thing that's on my mind
Is who's gonna run this town tonight?

~ from Jay Z feat. Rihanna "Run This Town"


A letter to Deanna:

Dear Sissy,

Remember that day that we were sitting at my kitchen table and I told you that I wanted to be a runner? And then I started laughing and you said, "Why are you laughing? You can totally be a runner, Kimberly!"

Do you remember that?

Well, I do.

I do because on that same day I told you that I hoped to one day run the Peachtree Roadrace and also how it was sort of on my pie-in-the-sky bucket list to someday run The Army Ten-Miler. And I laughed hard at myself again for even daring to utter those words "ten-miler" because we both knew that while I have always exercised, running always seemed to elude me.

"Crystal H. runs a bunch. Let me reach out to her to see what she says." That's what you said to me and then, of course, like you always do, you made sure that we got in contact with one another. And by "we" I mean "she" (who is just as much of a follow-througher as you) texted and emailed me promptly with all sorts of permutations of running groups and gatherings.

Sure did.

I can't say that really did the trick but I am thankful to you for that. And Crystal, too, for trying back then. Yeah. So even though I publicly professed my desire to be a runner girl, I guess I never had anything to nudge me hard enough to get over the hump of . . . well. . . running. 

Mmm hmmm.

Well. When you left? Man. It was literally the darkest time of my life. But what's crazy is--because you were always so full of light--even at the times where things felt pitch black, I could always see your light shining in the midst. And the crazy thing is that instead of shining out of you in the living, it started shining out of all kinds of other people. Including me.


So guess what, Sissy? You'd be so, so proud of what I'm going to tell you. That's what did it. Remembering you saying to me that I could and wanting to focus my energy and pain into something meaningful. So yes. I actually started running. Like, for real, Sissy. Can you even believe it? I know, I know. You're going to say, "I knew you could do it, Pookie!" But see I didn't. I really didn't know for sure that I could. But knowing that you always believed I could do anything I put my mind to doing motivated me. It did.

So I ran the Peachtree Road Race. Sure did! On the 4th of July with Frieda. Yes, I know it's hard to get in that race. And no, I didn't have my act together enough to get a number, but our favorite brother Will let me have his. Woot! So, yep, I ran that race with a big ol' sign that said "WILLIAM" across my waist. Which was actually sort of cool, right?

And guess what else? Crystal and I ran a race on your birthday weekend. Lisa was there and so was Sonya from our chapter. And Sonya and Crystal were all Delta-tastic in their Delta gear which you totally would have loved. Totally. That AKA girl Lisa, of course, came in head-to-toe pink--including a little skirt.  

Mmm hmmm.

We still love her though. Pink get up and all. Hee hee!

But what I really want to tell you about is what I did yesterday morning. . . . .

Yes, Sissy. I made a plan to do the 2013 Army Ten-Miler. Just like you told me I could.

Man. I can't even tell you how amazed I am that I actually went through with it.

So how was it? Well. In a word: Awesome. 

Guess who met me in D.C. to run the race, too?

C.J.'s mommy Davina!  Please tell him that his mommy was getting after it. She sure was.

We both stayed with Shannon and Michelle on the eve of the race--and you know since Shannon has run the ATM a zillion times, he had to start coaching us on all the things we needed to do for race day. He whipped up some kind of electrolyte concoction that Davina and I affectionately referred to as "go-go juice" that we sipped like cocktails all evening long. He made us have another bottle of it that morning, too.

Coach Shannon dropped us off at the corrals and since we had our go-go juice on board, we were ready to rock and roll.

It was kind of cold that morning, but since both of us had our favorite angels on our minds, our warm hearts kept us going. And guess what? Even though Davina came all AKA pink-and-greened up, you'd be proud to know that I was all Delta-tastic since you were my inspiration for making this dream a reality.

People kept saying, "Go Delta girls!" to us and Davina would promptly throw up her little dainty AKA pinky and squeal that squeaky little sound that those girls in that pink-and-green sorority make.

*eye roll*

Hee hee. Juuuust kidding, Davina.

But seriously, though, Davina definitely repped for the AKA girls and, Dee, I want you to know I held it down for us Delta girls. I sure did. Davina is actually Lt. Colonel Davina and her hubby Ced is Lt. Colonel Ced -- so you know they are automatically bad ass runners in that ol' military house of theirs. Yeah, so I couldn't even really hit her with any jokes about being too prissy to run because she's NO JOKE.

(Although now that I'm looking at these photos I'm noticing that she ran with pearl earrings on. Really Lt. Colonel Davina? Hee hee.)

And I think you may remember, but I'm not sure--you know that Davina and our Lisa pledged AKA together at Hampton in 1990? Isn't it crazy how God orchestrates peoples' lives? Who'd have ever thought that my best friend's linesister would marry one of my husband's best friends. . . .and then become like a sister to me in so many ways?

I love those girls. Wrong sorority choice and all. Maybe I can make an exception for the ones who pledged the Gamma Theta chapter at Hampton. Uuuuh. . .okay.

Tee hee hee.

Well the race. It was so great. I felt challenged but definitely good. Just as you suggested, Crystal came through and TOTALLY helped me get ready. She has been my major guru with all sorts of tips and encouragement and such. The go-go juice plus the preparation was a mighty combo. And my Delta-tastic shirt was a super hit. (Purchased after a tip from Crystal, too--go figure.) Dee, people on the streets and behind me kept shouting out:


The Delta girls I saw on the streets saw that shirt and started oo-ooping SUPER loud Delta calls my way and pumping their fists in the air cheering. Which really hyped me up. Mostly because I knew it would have really hyped YOU up.

And man, on like mile seven this one woman pointed in my face while running next to me and said in this SUPER BOOMING drill sergeant voice:


 And when she said that, I immediately started crying but I kept on running and she just gave me two big thumbs up that somehow felt exactly like a big hug. And man, I didn't know that lady from anybody but damn, did I appreciate that. Damn, I did.

I saved her voice to my mental iPod to play back to myself later. I did.

And then this other woman ran up behind me and said, "You went to Tuskegee! You're Deanna's Sister! You're Deanna Draper's sister!!!" And you know what? She didn't even know you personally, but she knew OF you and your legacy from some mutual friends. And she hugged my neck real quick and said she was a proud Tuskegee alum just like us. And that part was cool, too.

Super cool.

I even ran into her at the finish line and we took this picture as proof that Tuskegee was in the house! Running strong. And yet another opportunity for photographic proof of me being Delta-tastic in my shirt.


Guess what? I finished with a personal record. Or a "P.R." as all the runny babbits call it. Ha. Look at me using all the lingo of the runny babbit people. Ha ha ha. That's 'cause I'm a runner now.

Mmmm hmmm.

So the P.R., you ask? My shmancy Garmin watch (bought second hand from one of our sorority sisters that Crystal hooked me up with) said I did 10.27 miles in 1:43 minutes. But my official time on the Army Ten-Miler website reported me at like 1:48 minutes. Either way, it's roughly a 10 and 1/2 minute mile average which, for me, is AW-SHUMMMMMM!

So yeah, they gave us these really cool medal-coin-thingies. And just now while writing this to you, I realized that it's in the shape of the Pentagon. Which is kind of rad, right?

So really the Army Ten-Miler weekend was all around rad. It was. Being with Davina. Talking about you and C.J. Reminiscing. Me and Davina crashing a party the night before with Shannon and Michelle. Laughing out loud. Drinking Shannon's go-go juice concoction instead of adult beverages. Seeing Colin and Paige (Shannon and Michelle's kids.) Meeting Davina's sister Toya. Catching up. Cracking Delta/AKA jokes nonstop. Man. All of it. All of it was so, so awesome.


The BHE as an Army officer

It might sound corny, but let me just say that running along side America's heroes was surreal. It was. And yes, I meant to say "America's heroes" because it was made very, very clear to me yesterday that this is exactly who our military families are. I read peoples' shirts and saw up close and personal the countless human sacrifices that families just like ours make to protect us. And the strength, sis. It was unreal. And eye-opening for sure. One man had a shirt on with his son's picture. Underneath it said something like:

"Because you can't be here. I run for your life."

And then it had the day he lost his life in combat. Because people -- real effing people -- a whole, whole lot of them, actually, have either lost their lives or gotten seriously injured during these wars. And just like I'm loving you and missing you, there are people feeling the same way about their loved ones or the pre-injury lives they used to have, you know?


There were scores of "wounded warriors" out there running strong. Heads up and shoulders back feeding me their DUST, do you hear me?  Wow, Sis. It inspired me in ways I can hardly explain.


On the way out of the race, Davina and I were walking the two mile convoluted trek back to where Michelle was planning to pick us up. So we're just walking and talking and all of a sudden Davina looks like she just saw a ghost. She gasped. "Oh. My. Goodness." She froze in her tracks. She saw an old friend--a soldier from her husband Cedric's batallion during his last deployment to Afghanistan. A youngish brother who could be any of our friends, husbands or brothers. He was being pushed in a wheelchair by a soldier friend as his wife walked beside him holding his prosthetic running blades.


All of the color washed out of Davina's face. This was someone who'd fought right beside Ced. Dang. And seeing him now amputated affected her deeply, I could tell. And the resolve in his face. . .it was just. . . man. All I could say about that moment was this:

Damn. Shit just got real.

Man, it did. Davina wasn't the only one affected. I was, too. I couldn't help but think that this man literally lost his legs protecting me and my family. I swear I wanted to run and hug him and every single man or woman who has ever put themselves in harm's way for people they don't even know.

I refrained from saying something awkward like, "Thank you for . . .uhh. . your service." Instead I just shook his hand hard and told him how nice it was to meet him. Because it was nice and I meant that. I shook his lovely wife's hand, too, and told her the same. And when she switched one of those prostheses out of her arm to the other just to reach for my hand, shit got real all over again. I did my best to act regular about that chance encounter but it was hard because honestly I didn't feel regular. I felt conflicted. . . and. . . I don't know. . .just indebted, man.

For real.

You know what, Deanna? Now I know. This race was about way more than me and my personal goal or my pie-in-the-sky bucket list. Way more. It was a celebration of human life. And human sacrifice. And love. And safety. And security. Which is really apropos since I associate all of those things with you, too.

Harry Skyping with Shannon during his YEAR AWAY FROM HIS FAMILY in Baghdad.


On a lighter note--how cute is this? When I got home, Isaiah and Zachary ran and gave me HUGE hugs. Isaiah said, "Mommy, I'm soooo proud of you!" Then he asked to see my medal. And Zachary saw it and immediately asked me if I won. And you know what I told him?

"Yes. Mommy DID win." Because I did.

And that made him and Isaiah just hug me even tighter. Which felt even better than getting that medal.

So yes, Sissy. I did it. I ran strong with you on my mind the whole time -- and I plan to keep on doing just that. And I promise to always dedicate mile three--and the final mile--to you. You bet I will.

Thanks for flying beside me yesterday and always. Guess now I need to revise my Vision Board and dream bigger, right?

Alright, Sis. I promise to write you again after the next race milestone--whatever it may be. (Counting on you to join me for that one, too.)

I love and miss you terribly every single day. We all do.

Hug Grandma and C.J. for us, okay? And hug yourself while you're at it.

In Delta and sisterly love always,


P.S. I'm now plotting to get JoLai to run with me in 2014. I've already scouted out the cool races in cool places we'll go to . . . . can you say wine country? Hee hee.

Now playing on my mental iPod. . .this video clip of Amber Riley from GLEE covering The Pretender's "I'll Stand By You" -- the song that unexpectedly broke me down in Kroger that day. JoLai saw this and immediately sent it my way since this song makes me think of you. This version broke me ALL THE WAY down all over again. . .but mostly it made me think of you in the most loving, perfect way. And seeing this beautiful, full-figured brown girl singing it with all of her heart to me touches me all the more. Thanks for sending this to me, JoLai.

And this was playing on my mental iPod during the race. . . . . . we RAN that town, baby!


  1. I tear up at a lot of your posts, but this one made me well up with tears so much. Encouraged by you. -a

  2. You know what? I didn't want to work out this morning, but after reading this, I did. Thank you for this.

  3. Love this. LOVE this. You don't have to be a soldier to be a hero!

  4. Like Mama D said, you don't have to be a soldier to be a hero. I wish that I had known you were coming up for the Army Ten Miler. The Northern Virginia Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta would have shown up and showed out for you. Congrats, my sister. Keep making us all proud! Love you mucho!!

    Angela Fairwell

  5. I almost got all the way through this without tearing up. But then you started talking about the veterans and their sacrafice, even showing a picture of some of the. And I cried. It's hard on the soldiers to be away from their families and fighting for their lives and our freedoms. But it's hard on the families at home and mostly we think that nobody understands. It was hard to hear my grandson's soft mournful voice say "my Daddy's gone away." It's hard. But you are right. They are so very strong and so very dedicated. I walked the 2006 3Day with a man who lost a leg in Iraq just the year before. He was so encouraging and it kept me from complaining too much. I know that the next month is going to be hard for you and your family. I will be praying for you all month. Congratulations on an awesome run.

  6. Thank you. Thank you for your motivation. Thank you for your encouragement. I just ran the Air Force half marathon. Not with a time I'm proud of but it's only up from here. It was my first and definitely won't be my last! I recently moved to a Texas after living in Germany and it's inspiring how grateful these folks are towards us military. It tears me up almost every time I get a thank you. I truly don't need it because I love what I do! Thank you again!

  7. This turned into a full ugly cry for me. I want to be a runner too but feel like I can't. I resolve to do it too. I lost a cousin/brother to military combat. I would love to run this race in his honor. One day...
    - Bridgette


"Tell me something good. . . tell me that you like it, yeah." ~ Chaka Khan

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