Sedona is a beautiful place. Surrounded by red rocks, there are ample opportunities for runs and hikes that result in incredible views. Be careful not to wander off the trails — as intern Owen Lewis can attest, once you get lost, a lot of areas look “kinda like a trail,” and can lead to learning new skills about navigation and problem solving! Sedona is at about 4500 feet above sea level. The thinner air makes running more difficult. The first couple efforts have been on trails, some of which lead up mountains. Training on hills while at altitude is tough: once fatigue sets in, it’s much harder to shake than it is at sea level.

Late in the night on the first day of our journey, intern Alex joined the group. Nic, one of the program’s staff members, took him to In-N-Out for dinner that night. Upon his first bite Alex fell in love with this burger chain. Ever since then he’s brought up In-N-Out pretty much whenever he’s had the chance. Also on the first full day of the trip we enjoyed our first run in Flagstaff, which is at about 7000 feet above sea level. Running at altitude was difficult for many of us on the trip. Due to the altitude and the hilly terrain at Flagstaff interns Kai and Owen and staff members Rob and Nic turned around early. The rest of the group ran 8 miles. In the evening we enjoyed a trip to Safeway that was greeted with immense enthusiasm from the interns. We picked up the necessary nourishment for the days to come, as well as more than enough snacks. This trip to Safeway led to many conversations about food, leaving us all the more hungry for dinner.

The run this morning was seven miles up, down, and around a winding dirt trail. For Owen, the workout started to hurt fairly early on, and it was difficult to recover even when the trail went downhill. Still, the views of the striped red mountains looming majestically in the distance made the run enjoyable. People have been crushing the runs — many on the trip have cruised up long hills as if not bothered by the altitude at all.

The group has fallen into a nice routine in the first few days. Though getting up early is a struggle for Alex — as are his skills at negotiating with Nic for more sleep — the early runs have gone well so far. Staff members Nic, Jordana, Rob, and Calvin have led a few service learning sessions. It’s crucial to know what one is doing before inserting themselves into a community, and these sessions did a great job of teaching that. Among the most important lessons were the necessity of doing research and asking a community how or if help could benefit them. The interns will help teach the high schoolers these same points when they arrive, driving home not just how to serve, but how to approach service, before the task itself.

Though the days are busy, there’s free time as well. The interns spent some of theirs yesterday watching the pilot of Lucifer, a Netflix show that Owen swears by and has seen more times than is probably appropriate. Luckily for him, Kai and Alex liked the episode.

One of the best parts of the first few days has been eating with the group. Dinners have been delicious and full of jokes — upon discovering Rob was a calculus teacher, the interns joked relentlessly about math being too complicated to comprehend. Rob attempted to teach the basics by quizzing the interns on what a derivative is. Unfortunately for Rob, the result of this math test was more than just disappointing, it was abysmal. The disdain on Rob’s face as they failed his calculus test was immeasurable, and the likelihood that he recommends retaking calculus seems strong.

Those taking part in Strive so far seem to share some important characteristics — the desire to help the community and each other plus the willingness to exchange jokes frequently. The experiences have already been great, from starting to acclimate to the easy humor in the house. We’re thrilled that the majority of the trip is still in front of us, and can’t wait for what’s to come.