Sunday, November 1, 2009

Marine Corps Marathon 2009

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4

On Sunday, 30 Oct 1988, I ran the Marine Corps Marathon with 10,000 starters and this past Sunday, 21 years later, I ran it for a second time with just over 30,000 people. If you would have asked the question above, “why do you race?” to the starting field, you would have received 30,000 different answers. A lot of the answers where worn on runners shirts. They were supporting breast cancer research, Leukemia Foundations, in memory of a mother, father, brother, or sister, Wounded Warriors, Injured Marines, and many more worthy reasons.
This race last Sunday was surprisingly emotional for me. Running the Marine Corps Marathon as a young college senior in 1988, I did not have the life experience to process all of the micro stories that were developing around me during the race. I ran on ego and got upset when I hit the wall on Haines Point (mile 21 in 1988) cramped up and got passed by many runners that I thought should not be passing a soon to be US Marine at the pinnacle of physical fitness. This time it was easy for me to see and understand the motivations of runners. I was able to put my ego behind me and be supportive of those runners that moved faster, challenging themselves to pursue their individual goals. They tell you at the beginning of the race to remember the climb up the last hill, to the finish line at the base of the US Marine Corps War Memorial, that you are running on “Sacred Ground”. Well, after serving this great country for 20 years as a member of the world’s finest fighting force, truer words could not have been spoken.
Here are a couple of observations from the race. 30,000 runners are too many folks for me. I managed to work my way up to the 3:40 expected finishing time corral and it still took about four minutes to get to the starting line after the gun fired. After crossing the start line I spent the next 3 miles working in and out of traffic and finally was able to get into a running rhythm as we started running down Sprout Run. I was amazed by the number of spectators that lined the course for almost the entire 26 miles. There support and enthusiasm were very motivating throughout the day. Haines Point came at about mile 12 in this years race, what a difference that made. Haines Point is a 3 mile loop with limited access for supporters, so you lose the fan support that was driving you through the Mall area. When I ran this in 1988 the Haines Point loop came at a terrible time (mile 21) and it almost ended my race. Having this loop in the middle of the race is much better physically and psychologically. The stand out supporter of the day was the guy dressed up as the grim reaper standing alone on the 14th street bridge (mile 21ish) with the sign reading “the end is near”.

As I said in my last race report, no matter what the distance of the race is, the last 10% always hurts and this race was no different. Over the last 4 miles my times were starting to slip and my legs were feeling the pain of 3+ hours of pavement pounding. As I approached the finish, running past Arlington National Cemetery, the crowd got bigger and louder. I made the left turn up to the War Memorial, saw my family on the side of the road cheering me on and was instantly overwhelmed by a flood of emotions. Twenty one years ago I ran up this hill as a hard charging young man looking forward to college graduation, a commission in the Marine Corps and getting married to a beautiful woman. Well, there stood my (still beautiful) wife and our four incredible children, 20 years of service to this great country, and a prayer that the next 21 years be as exciting as the 21 previous.

The last 200 feet brought tears to my eyes as I really thought about the question, ”Why do I race?” The verse from the Book of James at the top of the post is a very accurate description of why I race. I consider it a great joy and honor to be able to support the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund and it was awesome to meet some of these inspiring men and women after the race. I enjoy the physical and mental challenges that surround the events that I compete in. Challenging myself physically provides me the opportunity to get outside my comfort zone and in those situations to step out in faith, faith that I have been saved by the grace of God. Testing my faith continues to grow and mature me as a man, husband, father, and disciple with the final hope that my actions will be able to speak louder than my words, that’s why I race! Run Strong

Semper Fi and God Bless,

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