Tomorrow morning, at 7:55, I’ll be running in the 39th Marine Corps Marathon. It’s my 2nd MCM, and 3rd Marathon….although it’s been a while since the last one. I ran my first marathon in 1989. I got into NYC, and woefully undertrained for it. On top of that, I made the mistake of starting near the FRONT of the Men’s Open race. I had originally planned for a 4-hour target time…with a 9:00 or so pace.
When the gun went off, we funneled on to the Verazzano-Narrows Bridge….with the net result of having to run the first mile a LOT faster than I’d planned. I think mile #1 clicked by in 6:00 and change. The first 3 miles, in fact, were under 6:30. By mile #4, I’d (finally!) settled down to my target pace, but by that point, the damage was done. When we came off the Queensboro bridge and up 1st Avenue @ mile #17, my quads were telling me I was done. From there on out, it was walk/jog/cramp/walk/jog/cramp until I staggered in at 4:44:52 (wishing I’d pushed to go 8 seconds faster).
5 years later, in 1994, I ran the Marine Corps Marathon. It was the year Oprah Winfrey ran it, and the Marines cheered us on by yelling “OPRAH’S RIGHT BEHIND YOU!”……..Oprah was TWENTY MINUTES behind us…but whatever motivates, right? I did better that year, coming in at just over 4:12.
Ten years later, in 2004, I had a motorcycle accident, fracturing my L2, and sidelining me for over a year….and almost permanently. Doc told me that I might not walk again, and for a long time, I thought he might be right. With a great surgeon, a fantastic rehab team, a lot of hard work and a little luck I was able to learn to stand and walk again.
I re-learned how to ride a bike, and I used that as my primary form of cardio fitness – over time though, I wondered if I could run again. I asked the doc about it, and he said,’Sure, if somebody’s chasing you’. A couple years back, I decided to try. The first time out, I ran (jogged, actually) all of 60 yards. SLOWLY, I built up my distance, to a 1/4 mile, a mile, a 5K, a 10K……and up to a 1/2 marathon in 2013.
2014 was the 10-year ‘anniversary’ of my accident. It also happened to be the 20 year anniversary of my previous Marine Corps Marathon, and 25th of my first marathon. I started off the year with a rowing competition, then ran up the Empire State Building. In May, I did my first sprint triathlon, and the following month, my second one. I also rode in the Assault on Mt. Mitchell, completing the ride…..as the last official finisher.
Which brings us to the Marine Corps Marathon. My comeback has literally been 10 years in the making. Earlier in the year, I sent in my story to the MCM organizers…..and got a call from Tammy Faran, PR coordinator. She asked me if I’d be willing to talk on camera. I figured, sure, why not? If my story can inspire someone else to get off the couch and get moving, so much the better.After the interview aired, I got to attend the MCM press conference, and met some amazing people. I met Matt Jaffee, one of the 4 remaining ‘Groundpounders’. Matt and 3 friends have ran in EVERY MCM since its inception. (that’s 38 if you’re counting, and this year will be 39.)
I met Jim and Lindsay Stanek, from A&E’s ‘Dogs of War’. Jim and Lindsay have a unique and very personal mission of pairing veterans with PTSD with shelter dogs to help them in their journey back to health.
I met Amanda Sullivan and Todd Love, who shared their story of hope and inspiration – Todd was injured by an IED, and Amanda in two separate automobile accidents – despite their challenges, both have used their experiences and stories to push themselves to do more, as well as inspire others. I met Marine Cpl Kyle Carpenter, who received the Medal of Honor for his actions saving the life of his fellow Marine. Kyle will be doing a tandem skydive to the race start, then running the full 26 miles.
I was also lucky enough to meet Sean Astin, of ‘Goonies’, ‘Rudy’ and ‘Lord of the Rings’ fame. Sean is the official celebrity starter of this year’s MCM, and he’s supporting Run3rd, which he uses to dedicate his running to support other people, whatever their cause is. This year, he’s carrying dedications from over 500 other runners.
There are over 30,000 runners in this year’s race – every one has an individual story of why they’re running it. Some are running to get a new personal best, some are running to challenge themselves, some are running for charities, and some are running to inspire others. Every runner is a part of something bigger than themselves, and this race will push all of us to our limits.
I’d like to challenge you to become part of something bigger than yourself. It doesn’t have to be a marathon – it can be as simple as reaching out to someone who needs your help. You may find, by becoming part of something bigger…..that your own horizons start expanding, too.