When I read about Flock member Jackie Greundel's recap of her race weekend at Tunnel 2 Towers, tears came to my eyes. What an incredible race to be a part of - one that remembers those who made the ultimate sacrifice to their neighbors. Through her recap of the event, I was drawn to her humanity, to her respect for family and to her gratefulness for community and belonging to a team.
Guest blog by Oiselle Flock runner, Jackie Gruendel
I am a new Bird to the Flock. I mean who wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to be a member of a team led by Fast K8? The support and encouragement that has come with becoming a part of the Flock has far exceeded my expectations. While you may not have someone to run with on a daily basis, I know that there are hundreds of amazing women with me every step I take!
I had my first opportunity to represent the Flock at the recent Tunnel to Towers 5k in New York. A race I will never forget. The race is a tribute to FDNY Firefighter, Stephen Siller, who made the ultimate sacrifice on September 11, 2001. He was a father of 5, on his way to meet his brothers from his late shift with Squad One in Brooklyn when the call for the World Trade Center went out. He began the drive to the city but the Battery Tunnel was already closed. Determined to help, he strapped 60 lbs. of gear on his back and ran through the tunnel back to the World Trade Center. He never came home.
The race for me started like any other, but it ended like nothing I could have ever imagined. The miles through the tunnel were lonely, much like I imagine they were for FF Siller that fateful day. As I emerged from the tunnel, the emotions I experienced were overwhelming. To see all of those firefighters standing there holding a flag with a picture and name of each of the 343 FDNY firefighters who gave their life on that tragic day was incredibly emotional. There were even children holding the flags of their deceased fathers. I had a choice of two paths to continue on the course. For me the decision was easy, having been a professional firefighter.
When Sept 11th occurred, my husband had been a professional firefighter for the past 23 years and was running with a friend who works for FDNY. My husband's friend had spent countless hours at the World Trade Center during that time. I took the route where I could high five and acknowledge all 343 of those firefighters. To my surprise, I was met at the finish line by Virginia Flock Leader, Stephanie Granlund’s Sister-in-law, who congratulated me. What a small world. This is what the Flock is all about. I placed 2nd overall for women, but today’s race wasn’t about PR’s or places. It was about remembering and honoring. My husband and kids competed also, so after finishing I rushed back to meet them as they came up the hill from the tunnel. They were surrounded by thousands, some in uniform, some singing and chanting, all heading towards Freedom Tower. We have already decided to return next year, but instead of trying to lead the pack, I will be running with it, singing and chanting. Today heads up and wings out took on a whole new meaning to me.
So what’s next? I am looking forward to the Flock meet up at the Richmond Marathon and connecting with all those women in person who I already feel so connected to. After Richmond other races ahead for me include the Nearly Naked Mile; I always love a good road mile, The Chris Yung Memorial 5K Turkey Trot, and USA Club Cross County Championships. After those, I am excited and a bit nervous to be joining the Master's division in late December. You know what they say: Faster as a Masters! Go Fast and Take Chances.