WASHINGTON – I made it. It is now official. I have completed my first marathon, and I have the medal to prove it.
But like everything else in life, running a marathon has ups and downs. In my case, literally.
About seven miles in, I fell on a slick patch of Reservoir Road. No sprains. No broken bones. Just a slightly wobbly ankle and a lot of blood on one cut hand.
And so I ended up walking to the first aid tent by Key Bridge where a Navy medic cleaned and swathed my hand in gauze, checked out some scrapes on my knees, and patted me on the back when I said I was returning to the race. “M’am, you are awesome!” he smiled.
Now why, you may ask, did I keep on going instead of heading home (or to the nearest bar)?
True story. It was because of Mike the Marine.
Now, I don’t know Mike personally, but I was classmates with his mom and dad. Recently, Mike was severely injured in Afghanistan and he is now taking the first steps in a marathon of healing.
And for some reason when I got back on the marathon course, I could almost feel Mike pushing me on and saying to me (and this is the God’s honest truth), “We Marines don’t quit, and neither should you.”
I just kept going, a little slower than usual, thanks to that ankle, and I never did manage to make up for all that lost time at the first aid tent.
But when I cleared the finish line, there was this Marine with a big smile, who put a finisher’s medal around my neck, and didn’t seem to mind when a runner responded with a big hug. It didn’t matter to him if I finished first, last, or in the middle.
“Congratulations, and thank you,” were the words I kept hearing from Marines who formed a sort of honor guard for the newly-decorated marathoners.
And you know, that is what makes this local marathon so different, so uniquely Washington, and so very special.
This is the day the civilian runners share with the Marines. Some of us run to honor fallen brothers, sisters, parents or friends. Some of us get inspired by guys like Mike. And all of us thank these men and women not just for what they do marathon day, but everyday.
I know the medic said “M’am you’re awesome!” But you know who is truly awesome? They are.