If you have ever been on a photo workshop then you can relate to how excited I was about the learning and inspiration I would receive from Joel Grimes at Joshua Tree National Park. Little did I know the learning and inspiration would begin before I got to Joshua Tree. I was attending this workshop as a participant but I also serve as a volunteer with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops, so I caught a ride with volunteers Rick and Amy and we chatted incessantly about photography tips and workshops for the four-hour desert drive. But in our last 10 miles to our destination, we were surprised to see a large black RV with a bare-chested man enthusiastically waving an American flag on top of the RV. Not sure if he was needing help, our driver Amy stopped to see what was going on.
Sean Litzenberger, a retired Navy veteran from San Diego with a charming personality shared with us why he was waving a flag on top of an RV. Sean is part of a three person team called “Anna Runs America.” To raise awareness about American Veteran issues, Anna is running from Venice to New York City. When we came across their vehicle it was day six of 100 days. Anna was a ½ mile away and approaching us carrying an American flag. We chatted with Sean about their journey while we waited for Anna to approach learning about their sponsors and how this journey began. After attending Burning Man, Anna Judd was inspired to make a difference: a difference for veterans. We were informed that an average of 22 Veterans a day commit suicide. We understood why Anna wanted to raise awareness.
When Anna caught up to us, she was walking in place of running, since her 40 miles a day for the past 5 days gave her very swollen feet: so swollen that her shoes wouldn’t fit. Sean, her trainer, explained that Anna has been training four years to run 40 miles a day and thankfully, her seventh day on this journey would be her day of rest. When we first saw Anna, she was only wearing socks, carrying her shoes and had a big smile on her face. She was so happy to see that we had stopped and were interested in her cause. In the past five days other supporters have been running along with her but today was mostly quiet on this desert road with only the company of her teammates. Her third teammate, professional photographer named Robot intends to ride a bike along Anna when the bike tires are repaired. Anna spoke to us about her passion for change and that she was looking forward to propping her feet the next day to recuperate. Anna is not from a military family but has recognized how she can make a difference, by raising awareness. Anna is running across America in 100 days and is currently running across Arizona with plans to arrive in New York City on July 1.
Our workshop had not even begun and yet we found inspiration. Inspired by talking to a few strangers on a desolate desert road. Rick, Amy and I were thankful we had the time to stop and visit with Anna and her team, “Anna Runs America.” If you want to join Anna in running, make a contribution, would like more information or to watch her progress, go to annarunsamerica.com.