Running across America for veterans awareness

By JANESSA MAXILOM | Alamogordo Daily News, N.M. | Published: April 24, 2014

The United States is her canvas as Anna Judd runs across America for veterans.

Judd, 29, an artist and long distance runner from Southern California is currently running across the nation to promote awareness and raise money for veterans.

She began her journey on March 22 in Venice Beach, Calif., and is headed to New York City, N.Y.

After a month on the road, Judd made a pit stop in Alamogordo on Monday and Cloudcroft on Tuesday.

"This trip has inspired me in a thousand different ways and it's awakened a new sense of patriotism that I've never had," Judd said. "I feel so connected with the land that I'm running through and with the people that live in this country. I feel very proud to be an American. And I feel a deep sense of responsibility towards both the land and the people."

Judd explained that she wasn't always patriotic that she also didn't always support or concern herself with the needs of veterans.

"I guess my whole life I've kind of wanted to divorce my country, in a way," she said. "Because I didn't agree with things that they were doing and thought there was a lot of corruption in politics. But I've kind of looked past that and seen that to be an American is to be a part of this gorgeous landscape and this gorgeous population of people who are hardworking and compassionate."

When asked why she originally didn't connect with veterans or support their cause she confessed it was due to her lack of knowledge about veterans.

"Honestly, maybe it was just ignorance," she admitted. "You know, we form these identities around ourselves and we put ourselves into boxes. I was an artist and a hippie and so where all my friends and those were the people that I surrounded myself with. So, I never really exposed myself to that demographic. It's not that I avoided it but just by chance of my environment and where I grew up— it wasn't a common thing."

Judd said at one time she judged veterans without fully understanding them.

"In my heart I knew this kind of judgment on others was wrong," she said. "So, I decided consciously to expand my scope of compassion to those who are different than me and not just those I have something in common with."

Since opening up her heart, Judd said she has found that veterans possess many qualities she respects.

She said she noticed veterans have a great sense of discipline and camaraderie.

She added that she genuinely admired the altruistic personalities of veterans and current service members.

After discovering a sense of appreciation for veterans, her decision to run for them was easy. Judd said she decided she would do her best to run and raise money for veterans.

"I'm using Charity Miles to raise money," Judd said. "Charity Miles is an application on your phone. It allows anybody in the world who has a smart phone to earn money for charities by walking running or biking. So, I'm carrying two phones on me while I run. I'm raising money for the Wounded Warrior Project on one phone and Team Red, White and Blue on the other phone."

Judd is attempting to run 40 miles a day to raise money for both organizations. Though she is running more than a standard marathon, 26 miles, a day she also decided to take her jog to another level by carrying rocks in a backpack to represent fallen service members and veterans.

"It was really important to me to understand the challenges veterans are facing," she said. "While running I will be carrying a backpack. Every five days, I will be adding a rock that is painted with the portrait of a veteran who has committed suicide or member of the military who has lost their lives in the service of this country."

In an extra effort to get to know veterans better, Judd has also been meeting and interviewing veterans along the way. Judd has been posting her interviews with veterans online to share their stories with people who are following her cross-country trek.

"I'm interviewing veterans along the route so people who feel like I used to feel will see one of these videos and in the face of a veteran they will see themselves and experience the same transformation that I did," she said.

Though Judd's run is focused on creating harmony between veterans and people who don't fully understand them, she is also finding her own personal sense of peace on the road.

For Judd, every step she takes is a personal work of art as she continuously finds reserves of strength and determination within herself that she didn't know she had.

"I have to push my body to an extent that I never knew was possible," she said. "Really when I started it I didn't know if I could do it. It's kind of like living on a prayer. Every single day is a challenge. Every single day I wake up in some amount of pain and I'm tired all the time. I'm learning to be gentle with myself and to listen to my body. But I know it's just important to keep moving forward."

In order to focuses and keep her self motivated, Judd uses prayer beads and meditates while running.

"I use my Buddhist necklace when I'm running and when I'm in a whole lot of pain. I just meditate," she said. "I just get into the zone and I meditate on my own power as a person and I mediate on the cause I'm running for and specific individuals and the importance of what I'm doing. I also meditate on hippie stuff like love and generosity and kindness. I try to cultivate that in my heart while I run.

"On each bead I say, 'I can. I will. I am.' over and over and over again until I get so lost in that and suddenly ten miles has gone by," she said.

Judd said she knows the trip has helped her grow to become a better version of herself.

"I've learned a lot," she said. "I've had to overcome a lot of immaturity that I didn't even know was there."

Judd expressed that she doesn't consider herself an athlete. Instead she views herself as an artist who is using her body to perform art.

" I'm not a great runner," she said. "There are people out there that can run faster than me. And there are a lot of people who can run farther than me. For me, it's my way of taking a stand.

"I'm creating a spectacle to draw attention to a problem that needs to be addressed," she said. "People have done this for centuries. Just the power of a spectacle is huge. I'm using my body and my abilities as a tool to do that. And being able to mold my mind and use my body and the landscape, as a canvas is probably the most challenging and most rewarding project I've ever done."


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