Updates from the New Year
Before I began this latest ultra-adventure I'd been dreaming about crossing the finish line of the last race. And while you might think that a proud sense of accomplishment would be what I was looking forward too but in all actuality I was more preoccupied with spending a week with my feet up on the couch, running the last thing on my mind.
During those desperate moments in the heart of a race I used these thoughts as motivation, picturing late nights of greasy pizzas and pitchers of beer. I couldn't wait to be done...And as I chugged up n down the grueling 40 miles of rugged terrain in Pine Mountain Georgia that anticipation grew. I could picture relaxing; movies, Ben n Jerry's, more beer!!! NO MORE RUNNING.
But as I emerged from the woods, desperately fatigued, I approached the finish line. I saw the smiling faces of the wonderful Summers family; letting out a victorious cry of "Rangers Lead The Way" I crossed the finish-line; reaching my goal. I expected to collapse, to experience relief, to be satisfied. I took a look around me I realised how important it is that I, correction: that WE continue to find new ways to inspire and contribute to our Wounded Warriors. the first and only thought on my mind was; whens the next race, wheres the next starting line?
I am now completely re energized. Having seen the amazing support of my friends and family I am looking for the next challenge. It is my hope that you feel the same way...committed.
It is the job of our nation and its citizens to issue its unwavering support for military service men and women. Politics aside, we as soldiers have faced an unprecedented 12 years of war; on two fronts. Think about the amazing events of the past twelve years; two economic bubbles, natural disasters, the historic victories of president Obama, 7 Boston sports teams World Championships. Every single night and day for these twelve years we have been fighting, our nations young men in a constant state of danger. And as our military withdraws from its conflicts, and congress accordingly withdraws military funding, the need for programs like WWP is greater than ever.
So when it comes time for my next physical challenge I will ask for your donations again, but until then I ask for you to continue to support our military in any way you can. The WWP has endless ways for you to contribute. You can lead a group of Wounded Warriors on a Saturday bike ride, or help a Warrior edit their professional resume. Or just thank a soldier for their service. I cant tell you how good it feels when someone says this to me.
As for my personal efforts I have only one race scheduled, a ten mile swim in Vermont. But I am looking for new challenges. Me and my friends at WWP are looking to build Team RAW into an organized group of dedicated adventurers. If you want to climb mountains, to venture into the outer reaches of endurance, to inspire; than Team RAW is for you.
FINISHED!!! But not done
With the Pine Mtn 40 miler behind me I accomplished what I set out to do. 3 ultras-4 weeks, 140 miles and a whole chunk of change for my good friends at Wounded Warrior Project.
I started off my race adventure by making the 7 hour drive down to Pine Mtn, Ga. I was graciously welcomed into the home of my longtime friend/mentor/legendary badass Will Summers. Will, his wife Dawn, and their 8 kids are unrivaled for title of "Most Amazingly Awesome Super Family Ever." Really its pretty hard to describe how impressive they are. I was spoiled with a big soft bed (a huge privilege in a house of ten!) and treated with farm raised steaks, home made breads, and lots of back massages from the kids. I spent a day hangin with Team Summers doing some light work on the farm and buying some supplies for homemade beer. A final diner and some race prep before an early nights sleep prepped me for a 3:30 am wake up!
The race itself was a blast. The steep rocky terrain so closely resembles the trails of Vermont and my legs found great comfort slugging up the steeps and pounding downhill. I found my pace with a small crew of runners. For about 35 miles we stuck together telling stories and issuing encouragement. You can read more about it here at Holly's blog. What a stud she is!
With a month or so of hard stress on my legs my finish time was disappointing. I just couldn't give it that last hard push towards the finish-line that I normally can.
But I was rewarded at the finish line with all of Team Summers. Will gave me a huge hug and high fives all around from the kids. It was such an uplifting feeling. That night was filled with more steak, homemade IPA, and some great convo from Will and Dawn. A truely memorable weekend.
Update for team RAW - check out thisstory in the Waitsfield Valley Reporter about Matt and the ultras... one more to go this weekend
JFK 50 Miler - 50th anniversary
This past weekend I made the ten hour drive to Music City, Nashville, Tennesse to race in the first of my ultramarathons. By my side were two fellow Army officers. Rahul Singh, a longtime friend from Ranger School and Laura Jonikaitis, two immensely impressive athletes who enthusiastically answered my call for support of the Wounded Warrior Project and Team RAW.
At 5 am, in the stiff autumn cold, we took our first steps from the start and towards the finish. As the sun crossed the sky turning from dawn to dusk we criss-crossed the Greenway Park. The hours passed and landscape turned from pastured fields to industrial warehouses. As we each arrived at the finish, Rahul and Laura well before me, we couldn't help but pose for pictures and celebrate a small triumph (pictures here). Yet this was just the start of my month long challenge. And in so many ways it is reflective of the struggles that our wounded warriors are facing.
With each small step towards recovery they make, a small victory is won, but a much longer fight faces them. In less than two weeks I am driving to D.C. to complete the JFK 50 miler. With the strong wind at my back that your support is giving me I will once again cross the finish line. Thank you for your belief in me, for your belief in us; it inspires us to believe in ourselves.
Welcome to Team RAW: Runners And Warriors.
If you're here it means you care about the thousands of troops who are coming home injured and want to do your part to support them, you've heard that Wounded Warriors does awesome work for soldiers and families, and you know my commitment to help my fellow soldiers recover from the injuries they sustained at war.
A bit of background: My name is Matthew Lewis Jackson and I just returned from an active combat tour in Afghanistan. I had the privilege to lead a skillful and dedicated group of soldiers as a 2LT Platoon Leader in the 82nd Airborne Infantry stationed in Ghazni Province. During my deployment I led over 100 combat patrols. Many involved engagement with the enemy as well as making in-roads with locals and facilitating communication, transportation and basic services for Afghans. I was fortunate to come home in good health on September 11, 2012 alongside the rest of the men in my platoon. Many soldiers were not as fortunate and returned with major injuries that leave them wondering if they can regain the lives they left behind to support our country.
Knowing the challenges they face, when I arrived on US soil I thought, what can I do to show my commitment to these brave Americans? Now that I no longer stand side beside them in the field, how can I support them as they fight to recover?
And I knew - I will run ultra-marathons in their honor. I will run the way my buddies served: with determination, tenacity and purpose. One brave soldier and friend comes to mind, a training partner from Ranger School who is toughing it out as a double amputee at Walter Reed. I am also running to support the family and memory of a soldier killed in the line of duty.
That's where you come in: I'm asking for your financial support as I run three ultra-marathons over four weeks in November and December. I put in the miles, you contribute the funds, they continue working hard to recover, and we all get better as a result.
Please pledge today - there's an easy sign up below. Pledges are in the form of a lump sum tax deductible contribution, and Wounded Warrior will provide you with all of the documents you need after you sign up. By supporting this endeavor you will send a strong signal to our Wounded Warriors that others care about their futures, and you will motivate me to run fast, long and hard for all 140 miles of my journey.
I am setting an ambitious goal of raising $50,000 over the next few weeks thanks to a head start by some very generous supporters who immediately connected to this worthy cause. A few pictures of me and fellow Rangers are here. Additionally I plan to set up an email distribution list to share photographs, stories and thoughts over the course of my journey. Please send an email to email@example.com if you would like to be added to the list.
Let's stand behind the people who keep our nation strong. Know that as I grind out the miles along the hills of Tennessee, the canals of Washington DC, and the steep terrain of the Appalachian Mountains, your dollars are making a difference. WE are making a difference! GO TEAM RAW!
Rangers Lead The Way,
Matthew Lewis Jackson
82nd Airborne Division, US Army