A team run across the continental United States wouldn’t likely be advisable even under normal circumstances, let alone during a worldwide pandemic outbreak.
That’s exactly why Sailors and civilians at Branch Health Clinic (BHC) Everett, a detachment of Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Command Bremerton, didn’t do that.
“I love running, but no, I don’t think I’d ever actually run across the country,” said Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Abrahim Nair, a radiologic technologist assigned to BHC Everett. “But running for cumulative miles against teams of people I work with I figured we could definitely do.”
Over the course of 16 weeks – from June to October 2020 – nearly 30 Sailors and civilians assigned the clinic participated in a virtual ‘Run across America.’
The local competition was coordinated by the clinic’s Recreational Activities Committee (RAC) in an effort to maintain physical fitness and esprit de corps despite the social-distance mandates in place due to COVID-19.
One of those participants was Lt. Courtney Rafferty, clinic optometrist, who shared that by participating and logging hundreds of miles allowed her to accomplish some serious goals along the way.
I was able to put in nearly 600 miles over the past four months,” said Rafferty. “I pushed my old tennis shoes to their manufacturer limits. If you know me, you know I do not typically do cardio. I prefer powerlifting. Initially my goal was to push myself while cutting weight for a powerlifting meet, which sadly got cancelled due to COVID. I was able to cut 20 pounds over four months just by walking every day and going on local hikes on the weekends.
According to Rafferty, there was a method to the slow-going madness.
“I wanted to set an example that no crazy workouts or endless jogging are required to lose weight and maintain a healthy lifestyle. That even a slow-walking tortoise like myself could win a race,” she said.
Nair, who is also the president of the RAC, said the idea was formed at the height of the pandemic at a time when much of the now-standard safety procedures and practices like masks and social distancing were in their infancy.
“For our ‘Run across America’ event, we chose a route that equated to approximately 2,900 miles, from Everett to New York City,” said Nair. “At the time, the hospital ship [USNS] Comfort was there, so we thought we’d run over to go help them. It was our way of trying to be a little closer to our fellow corpsmen, nurses and providers.
“We split up the participants into four teams,” Nair continued. “The team leader’s role was to gather and verify each member’s progress. Every week, we sent out status updates to all participants. We even had a map at the clinic with color-coded push pins to visibly track progress.”
Participation wasn’t just limited to running. Hiking, walking and biking were also encouraged.
“We knew from the beginning we didn’t want to limit participants,” said Nair. “At the height of the pandemic, we saw an obvious need to improve the comradery and esprit de corps. We think this went a long way in doing so.”
Rafferty agreed. She explained the challenge did more than just help her achieve personal goals, it genuinely helped her connect with coworkers during a time when such connection was most important.
“At a time when morale was low from the stress and uncertainty of the ongoing pandemic, our ‘Run across America’ challenge allowed us to creatively find a way to still come together as a team in spite of social distancing,” said Rafferty. “I learned more about staff members at the clinic by sharing local hike recommendations and photos of the hikes. It kept us focused and motivated on the competition with RAC members releasing weekly status updates.
“As a naval officer and a leader, I know that I am only as good as my team,” added Rafferty. “You can’t hold others to higher standards than yourself, and that includes physical readiness. I hope by promoting opportunities to exercise in spite of gym closures and restrictions, staff members know their physical well-being and mental health are valued.”
Rafferty said that as a participant, the hardest part is a feeling many can sympathize with.
“The hardest part was waking up early in the morning to go start walking with my dog,” she said. “I knew that I could sleep in later if I would just jog the miles since it would be faster. But I ended up really enjoying the peace and calm of early morning walks with my dog, who by the way was also very excited about supporting the competition as an unofficial team member. It was so valuable for my mental health in a year that has been stressful for every single person and helped me clear my mind and get focused for the day ahead.”
The clinic is currently conducting its second challenge, 1,338 miles from New York to the Florida Keys, and has expanded the cardio option even further to elicit more participation.
“We are currently in our second phase of the program, which has expanded opportunities to earn miles with cardio options like swimming and rowing,” said Rafferty. “One of our corpsmen here has a rower at home and is able to watch over his newborn baby while still competing and earning miles. I’m impressed at the lengths our staff members have gone to. It keeps me motivated to stay on track with my physical readiness instead of coming home to the path of least resistance like stress-eating and binge watching television.”
Rafferty offered a bit of encouragement to anyone thinking of taking on a challenge similar to this one.
“Don’t lose sight of what’s important in such a tumultuous year,” she said. “Take care of yourself, and take care of those around you.”
|Date Posted:||10.30.2020 16:08|
|Location:||EVERETT, WA, US|
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