On Sunday, October 28th, I had the privilege of running in the Marine Corps marathon for Team Red Cross. This was my third time running in this prestigious event and the weather conditions were the best I ever experienced in any past marathon event.
Standing at the start line right before the race began, I just stared down at my running shoes and reflected back to this time frame 14 years ago when I was relearning how to walk again after leaving the ICU.
Back then it was a monumental achievement just trying to slide my feet a few inches at a time while I carefully balancing my body weight with a walking cane in each hand. Each therapy session began with that first triumphant step with a smile on my face, followed by the next step. Three steps in and the smile was gone. My hands began clenching the sides of the walker by step four, legs almost beginning to buckle. My breathing became heavier as sweat began to form on my forehead as the frustration set in. By the fifth step my lower back would tighten and cause my head and neck to droop forward causing gravity to add even more difficulty to the moment.
Back then the goal was just to walk five steps for my physical therapy session, and those five steps were not always reached unfortunately. Last Sunday, the goal was to run 26.2 miles, or about 55,300 steps to complete.
In every one of the five dozen endurance events that I’ve competed in over the past 11 years, I reflect on this memory each time as my motivation. The human spirit is truly an amazing thing.
As the marathon began, I looked around at the thousands of runners that were around me in all directions and I thought about what moment in their life inspired them to pursue this goal. I waved at all the dedicated Marines that lined the course to help support this event and studied the various military backgrounds and patriotic symbols that I saw on the backs of the runners in front of me.
I also thought about my grandfather, William Boyle, a Marine who served in the Pacific in World War II and how he was the youngest person to enlist in the war from his small town of Irwin, Pennsylvania. I thought about my grandfather, Joe Lineberger, who received the Bronze Star in Vietnam and spanned a career serving our country for over 64 years. My mind raced back to all the stories that my grandfathers shared with me, the U.S. history classes I took, all the textbooks, patriotic images and history projects I worked on in school. I stared at the historic landmarks and memorials as I ran by and truly felt the history of our great nation.
As I glanced down at my Team Red Cross shirt that I was given to wear for this race, I felt a sense of pride being a part of this great team. On my race bib I wrote down the names of all the generous people who supported my race campaign by either making a financial donation or pledging to donate blood at a future blood drive. I’m very grateful to these people because with their help, I was able to raise $1,125 that would go to support the Red Cross mission across all lines of service. I was also able to encourage 27 people to pledge to donate blood for my SleevesUp virtual blood drive. As a blood recipient and proud supporter of the Red Cross, it meant so much having their support for this event.
As I approached the finish line, I reflected on the journey, not just in the past 26 miles, but also the journey of life itself. I thought about the months of training that led up to this race, and the encouragement from family and friends as well as everyone who supported my Team Red Cross campaign.
As I made my way to the finish line, I slowed the pace down and took in the moment. I smiled as a I crossed the line, grateful for each step that it took to accomplish the goal.