Published: November 6th 2011October 30th 2011
Today was the 36th annual Marine Corps Marathon and my sixth and final marathon of the year. With D.C. being at sea level one would think running this race would be a piece of cake after running four of my marathons this summer between 4,500 and 10,000 foot elevation.
Nothing could be further from the truth. It was a tough race with temperatures at the start near freezing. Though dry, it was bitter cold and the wind was brutal. The large group I was running with huddled together for warmth and we were all grateful when the sun came up and the race finally started. This year I ran with a group called America 4R Marines (I'll tell you more about them later). This was their first year as an official charity at the Marine Corps Marathon.
There were over 110 of us who ran for this organization and 6 of us who ran as a special team to honor Sgt. Eddie Ryan. Sgt. Ryan was to be at the marathon again this year and this time was going to be pushed by the commanding officer that took over his unit just after he was injured in Iraq in
Army Sgt. 1st Class Dana Bowman
I believe he is an amputee with a prosthetic leg.
2005. Shortly before I boarded the plane for Washington D.C., I received word that Sgt. Ryan was not able to get out of New York due to a massive snow storm that was headed their way and we would be running without him. The six of us that were to run with Sgt. Ryan were enormously disappointed though undaunted as we all ran together anyway in honor of Sgt. Ryan. At least for the first few miles.
Colonel D., who is the leader of our little running group, has a much faster pace than most of us and we all kept up with him for a few miles. Keeping his pace for the remainder of the race, however, would have meant a DNF for me. I've run a lot of races this year and my legs were already tired by the time I got to the starting line. I had been banking on the Colonel pushing a 250 pound chair, which would have slowed his pace by at least a minute per mile. At any rate, my friend Ed (a Navy Corpsman) and I let them go on ahead and ran the rest of the race together at a
more manageable pace. This was Ed's first marathon and our pace match fairly well for most of the race.
It was good we had each other to lean on...I had a meltdown at mile 20 with severe cramping in both hamstrings and my right calf that forced me to the ground (in front of hundreds of spectators...how humiliating!) but with a bit of massage Ed was able to get me back on my feet again.
Ed was in his own version of hell as well and the last few miles I caught him limping when we stopped to walk. (He had been in a car accident years earlier that messed up one of his legs.) He wouldn't complain though and every time I did he would tell me to "Suck it up, Buttercup!" or a similar version of "Shut the hell up! Everyone else is in pain, too!" which made me laugh because he went total boot-camp on me the last few miles and though I hated it, I actually loved it. I don't know if anybody will understand that. It's similar to how I feel about the Marine Corps Marathon. I love it so much, but it's
Double amputee Marine Lance Cpl. Michael Boucher.
Marine Lance Corporal Michael Boucher was injured in an IED blast in June in Afghanistan. He was part of a 3-person team headed toward the start of the MCM where he was placed into his hand-cycle shortly before the race began. Had our team been in place with the other hand-cyclists, all three of them would have landed right in front of us.
usually quite painful and I've never been able to get through an entire Marine Corps Marathon without breaking down in tears somewhere around the 18-20 mile mark. It's at this point I usually call MaryAnne, who always knows the right thing to say to keep me on my feet and headed toward the finish line, but this year MaryAnne is in Afghanistan and that just made me cry even more.
Fortunately, I had Ed, who wouldn't leave me, even though at one or two points I begged him to...he told me "It's a Corpsman thing...we never leave anyone behind." I was very happy he stayed with me and we crossed the finish line together. It was my fastest marathon of the year.
By the time Ed and I finished, more than half of the other runners on our team had finished, too. Our Colonel's son, Michael, ran with us this year. Michael is only 15 years old and had never run a distance further than 12 miles. He was quite nervous before the race and hit the wall around the 18 mile mark but with some encouragement from his dad he was able to finish. He crossed the
The A4RM Runners
Jake, Ed, Mark, Mike, Col. D, Debbie and a random runner we added for fun.
finish line with his dad 36 minutes ahead of me and Ed. Not bad for a 15 year old who hadn't even trained!
The team members this year were Jake, a former Marine, Evan, an active duty Marine, Roger, a Navy Corpsman, Ed, a Navy Corpsman, the Colonel, an active duty Marine, Sgt. Ryan (who was unable to attend), a former Marine and myself, a flight attendant. Seeing the list, written out like this, makes me want to start singing the Sesame Street song with the words "One of these things is not like the others...."
As you can see, the Sgt. Eddie Ryan team this year was made up entirely of military members, except me. I knew I was the only civilian, but it's not something I think about until I hear people address the Colonel as "Sir." Regardless, they accept me as a part of the team and we're making plans to run each one of the Marine Corps series races in 2012 as Team America4RMarines, with the Colonel as our fearless leader. I'm hoping to recruit our Colonel's wife to run with us and as she is not a runner these races would be perfect
for her as they are all manageable distances up to the marathon. The first race is on March 17th and is the Irish Sprint. I've already run the Irish Sprint and wasn't planning on making the trip out to Quantico for this race again, but...I guess I'll be flying another 2,500 miles so I can run 6 again.
America 4R Marines is an awesome little organization that is run entirely by volunteers. The President and founder is Patty Lewis, a Marine mom who devotes her time to making sure our Marines have what they need. This year's Marine Corps Marathon fund drive raised over $58,000 and though that is far short of the funds needed to accommodate the Christmas shipment, it's enough to get started. My trip to DC was the first time I had met Patty Lewis, though we had spoken on the phone many times and I'm looking forward to working with them on future projects.
There are more photos below