Running in Freedom

11 Nov

On Nov 11, 2008, I was heading out for my daily afternoon run.  I was building my base for training for the 2009 Boston Marathon. I ate my pre-run snack of whole wheat bread and peanut butter about 90 min before I left.  I laced up my Mizuno Wave Alchemy sneakers.  I turned on my Garmin.  It sounds like what I do before most long runs.  But that’s where the similarities end. 

 I was deployed to Baghdad, Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.  I was almost finished with my 12th month on a 15 month deployment. Although the end was in sight, it was an extremely hard time for me and most of the other soldiers of the 4th Infantry Division.  We were approaching the holidays – Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and what would be the 2nd holiday season in a row that we would be away from our family and loved ones. 

2008 Christmas dinner with Ed, Chad, Natalie, and Casey (L to R) – other officers from 4ID
Me, my husband, Paul, and friend, Luke after an 18 mile run

Three years ago, I didn’t get to pick out my running clothes – I had to wear the issued physical training (PT) shorts and shirt every day.  I couldn’t run with my IPOD.  I couldn’t zone out during my run (I often ran along the inner perimeter of the base and there was always a chance of an indirect fire attack). I couldn’t wear my hair in a ponytail (had to be in a bun). I couldn’t relax after runs – I had to shower and rush back to my desk where I was working 15+ hour days.  I didn’t have a day off for 15 months.  I couldn’t go back to my room at the end of the day and have complete privacy (I shared a 10×10 trailer with Becky, another female Captain – thankfully, she was awesome!!). 

Row of trailers where I lived for 15 months

I’m not writing this to gain sympathy or for readers to feel sorry for me.  I have never second-guessed my decision to attend West Point and serve in the US Army. It was a wonderful 10 years of my life.  But, I often lose sight of what’s occurring on the other side of the world and what thousands of Americans are going through right now – just so we can have complete freedom. 

And although my conditions may sound rough, I had it easy compared to what others are experiencing. I was able to shower every day.  I had air-conditioning and heat.  I ate my meals in a dining facility.  I was on the largest base in Iraq so there was plenty of space for me to run outside instead of being forced to run on a treadmill – or even worse – not be able to run at all because there is no gym. There are many who had (and still have) it MUCH WORSE.  

I often forget what it’s like to be deployed, to be away from my family, and to not have the freedom to do things that are often taken for granted. Today, I thank all those who have served – especially those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.  And a special thank you to those that continue to put their lives in danger.  

By your sacrifice each and every day, you are allowing me to RUN FREE!! (thank you to one of my favorite bloggers, Mile Posts, for this phrase!)

Some of the views on my long runs…


The best part about deploying…is the homecoming!!!

Meeting my niece, Natalie, for the 1st time

5 Responses to “Running in Freedom”

  1. Jessica November 11, 2011 at 10:26 am #

    What a beautiful post. I've been to that base (I'm a U.S. Marine, so I was based out west). It's all to easy to be home and forget what others are going through. Thank you for this wonderful reminder that we can RUN FREE because of the sacrifice of others.

  2. Nicole November 11, 2011 at 10:42 am #

    Crying…at work. I am eternally grateful for all that you and your fellow veterans have done for our beautiful country. But most of all, I am thankful to have my beautiful big sister home safe – for GOOD! (And right next door!) I love you, Paul, and your beautiful AJ who has the honor of having two amazing veterans for parents!

  3. RunBikeSurf November 11, 2011 at 11:22 am #

    Incredible post Michele! Thanks for sharing, and THANK YOU for serving! Love the quote from Mile Post!

  4. Erin November 11, 2011 at 11:44 am #

    Thank you for your service, Michele!

  5. Melissa November 14, 2011 at 6:40 pm #

    FLASHBACKS! Believe it or not, seeing you coming in from your long runs while I was starting my (much shorter) morning runs was inspiring during those never ending days. I always tell people how great that post was for running, I had all of my routes marked by distance – 3mi around Z-lake… etc. Plus, we had that great hill. Nothing compares to being back in the good ol' USA though! Take care!

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