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My Marine Corps Marathon

November 2, 2009

On October 25th, the United States Marine Corps hosted their annual marathon in the nation’s capital. This 26.2 mile journey through the streets and past the historical sites and monuments was a thrill. The 4:45 am wake-up call was not.

Earlier this year, I had submitted an application to FedEx to run on behalf of Safe Kids Worldwide. My story focused on the recent death of my brother, Philip, and on the need to protect of our most precious assets, our children. I mentioned that running 26.2 miles was a good start.

That morning, we started with a bus ride from the hotel to the Metro. Standing under the tent listening to the rock band at 6 am was next on the agenda. The walk to the starting line at 7:30 placed us to the left of Arlington National Cemetery. We got the pep talk from California Congressman Duncan Hunter who had served his country in the U.S. Marines with tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. John Lloyd Young of the Jersey Boys sang the national anthem and then the gun sounded.

The temperature was 52 degrees as we maneuvered our way through the early hills. The pace for the first two miles was pretty slow as we shuffled side by side. The fans were out in full force to support the runners and the first water stop was a great relief. I began to wonder who I might see in today’s crowds: Thomas or George or Abraham or Franklin?

This was my first time running in Washington, D.C. Most of my previous marathons were in Boston where I was more familiar with the course, including the screaming women of Wellesley College and the raucous contingency at Boston College on Heartbreak Hill. Today, though, music played a huge role in boosting morale. “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor at mile 6, Pearl Jam at 8, Star Wars at 10, the Goo-Goo Dolls at 12, and Madonna at 16. The best, though, came at miles 9 and 25 – “Brown-Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison.

It was a thrill to run along the Potomac River and come around the bend at mile 16 to see “Honest Abe” watching over us. I find it significant that the 16th President of the United States has the best view of the race, since he is the one that brought the races together. I gave him a ‘thumbs up’ as I ran by.

Throughout the race, I saw many of my new friends from Safe Kids. Kevin from Rochester, MN, at mile 23 and Julie from North Dakota at mile 24. It was inspiring to be running on behalf of a great cause with runners from around the nation.

As I approached the finish line, I remembered Coach Hayes ‘Golden Rule’ of marathons: “Nobody passes you in the last 100 yards of any race.” That seemed to be a realistic goal, until a runner I was passing got his feet tangled up and brought us both to the pavement. We were both up in seconds, shook hands, and then wished each other well – crossing the finish line moments later.

The aluminum shield wrap from the Marine was good. The medal around my neck was better. The photo in front of the wall at Iwo Jima was the best. The sun was at my back as I stepped down from the photograph and headed for the Safe Kids tent at Charity Row. I now had the chance to thank the great folks who gave me a chance to run this marathon for a great cause. Because of their excellent work, the world is safer for children.

Same time next year!

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