The Comrades is an ultramarathon which takes place yearly in South Africa. This 56-mile race (two times that of the Boston Marathon) has a typical participation level of approximately 15,000 people. Having started in 1921, there is a fascinating history attached to it, steeped in apartheid. Today, the very existence of the Comrades is a symbol of triumph and victory, as it’s inclusive of all races, nationalities, and socioeconomic backgrounds.

There are the select few that participate with the ambition of winning. Others are in it to beat their own personal record. Thousands of others desire simply to complete the race. And it is for this last group that there are special arrangements in place to be sure that happens – because, you as you can imagine, running 56 miles all at once – regardless of your speed – is an absolute feat all in itself!

The Comrades includes a number of individuals known as the “pacers,” affectionately called the “bus drivers.” But by no means do these “bus drivers” actually drive busses. Rather, they are the individuals who carry flags, having committed to run at very precise paces throughout the race in order to finish in a predetermined amount of time.

The Comrades must be completed in a maximum of 12 hours. At that point, the race is over; the finish line is blocked, and you cannot pass.

Currently, there is a particular “bus driver” who has committed to run 13-minute miles. All. Day. Long. At this rate, she is guaranteed to cross the finish line just before 12 hours. Those that run alongside this “bus driver” are called her “bus.” They can be assured that if they simply keep pace with this particular “bus driver,” they will finish the race, albeit just in the nick of time. This “bus driver” starts with a handful of those who are part of the “bus” alongside of her. Midway through the race, she will have gained a small crowd of +/- 50 running with her. Towards the end of the race, there’s a tidal wave of runners keeping pace with this “bus driver,” hanging on just to finish the race.

What does all this have to do with Desert Waters?

It would be an apt analogy to say that we at Desert Waters are in a sense a “bus driver” for the field of corrections – and not only that, but we are training other “bus drivers” alongside of us.

How is that so?

There are multiple thousands of corrections staff members running very long and strenuous race as they move through their careers in corrections. It is often the case that the longer the race, the harder it gets. These men and women working behind bars might not have originally planned for this “ultramarathon,” but they do need to know someone is running alongside of them to help them keep the pace and finish the race.

I personally believe that, by God’s grace, we at Desert Waters “raise the flag” in a variety of ways – through the courses we teach, the curricula we develop, the conversations we have with those in the trenches, the publications we put out monthly through the Correctional Oasis, among other avenues. Many corrections staff members across the nation and world have taken note of that flag and have been encouraged to stay in the race, knowing someone is running by their side.

A large portion of what we do involves training instructors to teach our various curricula at their own facilities. We’ve done that twice this past February. Our Master Instructors facilitated a 5-day in-person FromCorrections Fatigue to Fulfillment™ (CF2F) Instructor Training class in Ohio for 12 participants, and also a 7-half-day CF2F online Instructor Training for 10 participants. In essence, we now have an additional 22 “bus drivers” who are nearly ready to be set loose. Following their additional two hours of one-on-one coaching, these 22 new Instructors will “set the pace” for those in their facilities who need to know someone is running alongside of them. They will teach CF2F to their colleagues, encouraging them with the knowledge that: (1) others are also struggling, (2) there’s hope, (3) we’re in this with you, and (4) we can all finish this race, if we stick together.

Here are a couple of comments from each of the two classes that took place this month:

“This course has left me with a sense of urgency to get this rolling in my facility and in my overall organization.”

“This instructor training really helped me learn how to be the best version of myself, and I can’t wait to share my knowledge and help my facility become better.”

These are some of Desert Waters’ “bus drivers.” These are the men and women who will raise the flags and set the pace such that corrections staff can finish the race. Thank you for rallying alongside of them (and us), and cheering from the sidelines.