For the last ten years of my life, I have run almost every day. There are large chunks of time lost to injury, sickness, days off, seasons off, etc. But for much of my life, the question has never been if I were going to run, but when. With that being said, I don't really like it very much. I fell into high school cross country because I was, how do you say, not good at anything else. For the next eight years, I spent countless hours training, traveling to meets, competing, and spending quality time with my teammates. On graduating undergrad, I knew I couldn't just let that go, so I started coaching at Archbishop Shaw and joined a run club for myself. So while it is very different, running has stayed a large part of my life.
Each year, ACE teachers from all over the country come together to do just that thing: run. The ACE marathon is a tradition that spurs on both community building within the program and support for local charities. During the summer, communities make bids to host the ACE marathon through one of the local road races, and this summer, ACE Baton Rouge and ACE New Orleans put in a joint bid to host at the Louisiana Marathon held in Baton Rouge. As a member of ACE New Orleans, I was ecstatic when we won the bid. As a runner, I enthusiastically over-promised personal training plans for everyone (sorry that did not fully pan out...I forgot that grading took time...) and set my eyes on running the half marathon myself.
As the race date drew closer, more preparations began to happen for the weekend. Outside of travel logistics, this involved selecting a charity to fundraise money for throughout the weeks leading up to the marathon weekend. This year's charity was Boys Hope Girls Hope of New Orleans; their mission is "To nurture and guide motivated young people in need to become well-educated, career-ready men and women for others." Lauren Connelly (ACE 29, Baton Rouge), the mastermind behind the weekend, helped select the charity and drive fundraising efforts - huge shoutout to Lauren for all her hard work the last few months.
Finally, the weekend of the marathon arrived. Airport runs were had, late night drives were made, and ACE teachers both past and present traveled down to Louisiana. Fr. Drew Clary, CSC celebrated Mass in Plaquemine to kick things off in the St. Clement of Rome Chapel. From there, we were treated to a jambalaya dinner, the ideal pre-race meal. I loved hearing the variety of hopes and goals people had for the weekend, ranging from breaking two hours in the half marathon to completing the full to being the best cheerleader they could be. A race time of 7 a.m. necessitated an early morning, and so, whether as a supporter or participant, we groggy-eyed teachers made our way to the base of the Baton Rouge capitol building. Finally, the race got off. As we finished, we were met with hundreds of spectators lining the finish, all of them looking for someone or other in particular. But without fail, each ACE runner was met with a roar of support from a pocket of ACE bystanders along the way. After the last member finished, we traveled to the Poché family's house, where a feast of gumbo, baked potatoes, banana pudding, and pecan pies was awaiting us.
Goals were accomplished, races were finished, and celebrations were had. All in all, it was a really good weekend. And in reflecting on what the weekend meant to me, I'm struck by the strong sense of community I felt during each part of this lead-up, despite the variety in motivations and aspirations among the group. We didn't all have the same time or finishing goals, and we didn't all even run. And yet, that sense of togetherness really did permeate everything. There are countless ACE blog posts musing on our community, many of them touching on its difficulty, and many of them talking about its beauty. I think a large part of its goodness is the fact that we are doing a hard thing, together. I tell my students often: you can do hard things. Running for years has served as evidence of that for me. And it was great seeing running serve as that for others this weekend! But whether you raced in the Louisiana Marathon or not, whether you were in Baton Rouge or not, there is a sense of community within this program that has existed and will continue to exist as long as we continue to labor, and continue to labor together. May our work never be wasted, and may it continue to bring us closer together.