The marathon, 26.2 miles… I don’t know how or when or why I first ever thought of running a marathon. I do know that even before I was a runner, while I was picking the position in sports that involved the LEAST amount of running possible, I had a dream of one day crossing the finish line of a marathon.
I had the chance to make that dream come true with my fellow Stroller Warriors back in 2010. Stephanie, Sarah, Jenna, Kit, and I decided we were going to travel from Camp Lejeune, NC, to run the MCM. I remember talking to my husband on the static-ridden, voice-delayed satellite phone. When I told him I was going to run the MCM he said, “I hope you know (very long pause) by signing up for one (another long pause), you’re actually signing up for TWO (lots of static). You can do a marathon without me, but you’ll have to do a marathon WITH me too.”
Yes, my husband was deployed and I was the sole caregiver for our daughter. Yes, my friends’ husbands were also deployed, but we didn’t care. We weren’t going to let our lives stop because our spouses were momentarily not physically there with us. We were going to bond together, find happiness in the little things, find fulfillment in reaching for goals, and work together to make that goal—that dream—a reality.
Marathon running can teach you a lot about yourself. It can teach you a lot about life. All of us are far more resilient than we give ourselves credit for. I learned a lot about myself during my first marathon. I hadn’t trained for any hills (there are some). I broke the rule of not trying anything new on race day (and ran without my water bottles). I got swept up in the day and forgot to follow my nutrition plan. I bonked early and I bonked hard. I remember when a good friend jumped onto the course to chat with me, I was in tears, asking why I was doing this. She replied, “Who are you and what did you do to my friend?!” In spite of everything that went wrong for me on race day, I knew in my heart of hearts that I was going to cross the finish line. If he could do eight months in austere front-line conditions, then I could do 26.2.
During that race, I had the pleasure of running with a friend, Kitt, a Marine Corps captain who had already taken on the MCM before and decided to run it again in support of her husband and his unit while they were also deployed. That year her goal wasn’t based on time. Her goal was to prove she could run a marathon in vibrams and hang out with me along the way. After I fell apart for several miles (while also attempting to refuel as best as possible), I decided that I just needed to get over myself and get the job done. Yes, there would be pain. Yes, it would be hard. But I could do it, especially with the help of my friends. It helped too that my husband and his command were miles and miles away watching all of their runners move as dots across the map on the wall as they tracked our progress along the racecourse. I crossed the finish line of my first marathon nine months to the day after I started to run.
We also are very good at what we call “positive peer pressure.” Usually it involves convincing friends to sign up for a new race, thereby forcing them to tackle their first 10k or half marathon—or even full marathon. It could be convincing a friend to “test fate” and sign up for the lottery for the MCM. (Why not let God decide?) Or it might be pushing fellow Warriors to QUICKLY sign up for the 1775 race before it sells out so that they can skip the lottery process and have a guaranteed entry into the MCM.
Whether it’s because of positive peer pressure or fulfilling a lifetime goal, for the past nine years the MCM has been the most popular marathon our club has bonded over together. This year is no exception. This year we have an estimated 161 Warriors running the 10k and marathon, representing 15 of our chapters.
For the past several years, we’ve offered a commemorative shirt to help our Warriors unite and bond as a worldwide team. The goal is to help members recognize each other while out on training runs or at the expo or even on race day. This year, a quote by running legend Deena Kastor inspired the idea behind our shirt. Deena said, “Some days the positive path is harder to find and we have to be relentless in its pursuit.” This quote rang true for many of us military spouses on the SWHQ team.
We have to be relentless in the pursuit of happiness—in the pursuit of a goal, whether it is a 5k, a 10k, a half marathon, a full marathon, or even an ultra. When you’re relentless in your pursuit of a goal, your mentality shifts. You focus in on the goal, and you get up early even when you don’t want to. You get your runs in. You do the best you can with what you have. You rehab from your injury. You continue to push and reach. And along the way you meet new people and make new friends, solidify old friendships, see new sights, tackle new mileage, and learn (or relearn) that you are far stronger than you ever gave yourself credit for.
This training cycle, I have been incredibly inspired by the Stroller Warriors around me. I’ve been running with Kaylee, who started out with a Stroller Warriors C25k program, then ran a 10k, then a half, and now is tackling her first marathon. She’ll run the MCM eight months from when she started C25k. I’ve run alongside Amy, who trained up for the Air Force Marathon that was cut short this year due to unsafe course conditions, and while she received a medal, she didn’t actually get to run 26.2. So she snagged a transfer bib, and in spite of a nagging injury, she will be joining in on the fun to run her first full marathon. I’ve been running with Lindsay, who trained last year all through a brutal summer, never missing a run, only to learn just days before the MCM that the pain in her chest wasn’t a pulled muscle; she had pneumonia and would be unable to race alongside her training partners. Too late to get a transfer, she swallowed this devastating blow and lost a good amount of money in the process. She has trained hard again this year and is ready for a comeback race. These are just a few of the stories of the Warriors who will be at the MCM. Everyone has a story, and all of them are motivational and inspirational.
Warriors, this weekend as you toe the line with your fellow Marine Corps Marathoners and 10k runners, I want you to be relentless in your pursuit. Push hard. You’ve trained for this moment and you’re ready. Our nation’s heroes will be standing at the ready to support you. How often in life do you get to have a real-life hero put a medal around your neck? A medal you’ve earned with sweat, tears, and maybe even a little bit of blood. Trust yourself. Trust your training. Stick to your hydration and nutrition plan to try to ward off the wall. But if you do run into the wall, put one foot in front of the other. Remember this mantra: “Relentless forward progress.” You are, after all, a Stroller WARRIOR, and you’ve got this!