The first two days of our Strive adventure with the full team were amazing to say the least. Not only did we enjoy getting to know each other, but we also got in a thunderstorm. Meeting the high schoolers in Phoenix, we drove in separate vans towards Flagstaff. However, we couldn’t drive to Northern Arizona without a necessary stop at In-N-Out Burger. Once again Alex thoroughly enjoyed the trip, eating two burgers. The other car headed to Sedona for an introductory hike through the beautiful red rocks.

The staff and interns picked up the high schoolers at the airport and loved getting to meet everyone as they arrived from their various homes. As we neared Flagstaff after the trip to In-N-Out, a massive rainstorm swept through the area. In minutes, roads were bearing considerable buildup of rain. Big sprays of water were kicked up as cars drove past deep puddles. Our first introduction to Flagstaff’s fickle, intense climate was a beautiful one — a highlight of the ride was seeing deep green trees set against the sky filled with dark, dense grey clouds. 

Thankfully, the group arrived at one of the two houses that are our lodging without incident. We settled down for orientation: the staff and interns ran through the rules for the trip, the importance of safety, and the rest of the essential knowledge. During an intermission, we took our first run! Some of the early excitement translated into a few too-quick first miles as the group flew over the gradual incline of the out-and-back on the road, but everyone made it back to the house with a few miles under their belt and a better grasp on the challenges of altitude running.

After the run, we ate a delicious dinner of chicken, avocado, and a bean salad, then finished our orientation. One of the activities we did during our orientation was a memorization game where we would go counter-clockwise in a circle and we would memorize everyone’s name that came before them in the circle. To make this challenging, we had to memorize a food that they would eat if they could only eat one food for the rest of their life. This proved to be a worthy challenge especially for those who happened to be last in the circle. Despite this undertaking being difficult, we had lots of fun memorizing everyone’s favorite foods. After orientation we went to bed awaiting a new day filled with running, service learning, and ping-pong. 

The group got up early for the Day Two run, hitting the roads at 7:30. Various distances were run, from three to eight miles, and we reconvened for some striders afterwards. After a replenishing breakfast, we dove into our first service learning session. Through interactive discussion, we covered the pitfalls of service learning, the responsibilities that come with good intentions, and the importance of preparation. The activity included breaking into small groups and recalling the ins and outs of previous service experiences — what went well, what went poorly, and how the service made us feel. 

A second thunderstorm ripped through Flagstaff while the group enjoyed a break, watching some of the Olympics and playing intense games of ping-pong. Service learning will soon resume, our first service project will be tomorrow, and future runs await. The group is getting ready!