Editor’s note: All this month leading up to the Marine Corps Marathon, WTOP’s Jamie Forzato is bringing you stories of runners who have endured loss, preserved through personal struggles, and found hope.
WASHINGTON — Jim Anderson, a Reston, Virginia, native, dug through some boxes in his basement and found the old yearbook photo of his 1986 South Lakes High School cross country team. A moment captured nearly 30 years ago to the day.
There he is — top row, third from the left, in his blue running uniform.
“It was wonderful,” he said, “running in rainstorms through muddy areas. We would be running on a very hot day, 100 degrees — I’m sure our coach would be mad if he knew about this — but we would rip off our shirts and shoes and hop in the local lake and swim around to cool down. Best memories from high school.”
But this story isn’t all about Jim. It’s also about his friend David Williams — middle row, second from the left, gray shorts.
“He was kind of a goof-off at times, but when it came to academics, he was dead serious,” Anderson said.
“After graduation, we kind of lost touch with one another, but he went to VMI [Virginia Military Institute] and had a very successful career in the Navy. A lieutenant commander.”
Anderson found his own success. In the 1990s, he attended graduate school and built a career in environmental consulting. He married and started raising a family.
“I just got busy, like so many people. It was after 9/11 that I decided I was going to change,” he said.
That day, Lt. Commander David Williams was killed at the Pentagon.
“His wife was on one of the local television news stations, and I just remember her saying that her husband was missing. When she said his name, it was like a lightning bolt hit you. You had this horrible sinking feeling,” he said.
So, in Williams’ honor, Anderson returned to the activity they shared together decades before.
“I decided in 2004 to start doing the Marine Corps Marathon. I even remember talking to Dave about that when we were in cross country back in the ‘80s,” he said.
This year’s Marine Corps Marathon will be his 12th. The event is scheduled for Oct. 30.
“As we go through the final miles in the marathon, you go right past Arlington National Cemetery. You can see right where he died in the Pentagon and where he is buried,” he said.
“I want to support our armed services. I’m very honored by the hard work and sacrifices that so many families are doing for our country.”
Every time he finishes the People’s Marathon and the medal is placed around his neck, he thanks the Marines for their service.
“I’m just Jim Anderson, but I think I represent the story of a lot of people who are doing it for a lot of personal reasons.”