Why are Stroller Warriors drawn to this race? As military spouses and a club founded at a Marine Corps base, this race encompasses the very threads of who we are and resonates with us on a deep level. This race is intended for every type of runner, the ordinary runner. Stroller Warriors welcomes runners of all ability levels, male or female, with or without children. We may be different in some ways but we also have some unbreakable bonds that supercedes all else. We work together to reach our own goals, which are also shared goals, which is even better! We run the race course together and we also walk the path of life together.
Well, I really liked Kelly but I thought she was flipping NUTS. (Oh and I literally knicknamed her that.) I had done a few halfs at that point and I felt that 13 miles was legit enough. You want me to double that? WHAT?! I also wondered how she could pull off the training. Her husband was deploying and she had a baby daughter. My husband was deploying too. All I could think was HOW?! She wouldn't back down. She wanted this to be my goal too. I kept hedging. I made excuses. But no matter my excuse, she'd respond very simply, positively, and matter-of-factly, "We'll do it together!"
In those moments, Kelly was teaching me what Stroller Warriors was destined to be, even before I knew. Together, we can build each other up and achieve great things.
In true Stroller Warriors fashion, I finally caved to her encouragement and motivation. I signed up for that dang race. 26.2 miles. In moments of feeling overwhelmed, I kept Kelly's words at the forefront and relied on my village. I set to work doing my part. I located a babysitter willing to watch the boys at 5am on Saturdays. I logged more miles than I had my entire life. I learned about the sport of running and it was actually humbling. Here I am, founding a running club, and I don't know the first thing about running a full marathon!
There were so many things about that marathon that improved my quality of life at that time that I never could have predicted. The Marine Corps Marathon helped teach me what Stroller Warriors was capable of. Kelly was so right. We did help each other, we did it together, and we were all better because of it. I evolved as a runner and as a person. I had always been so wrapped up in my pace and finish placing in the past, but now I saw that the journey and the connections meant even more. The Stroller Warriors blessed me beyond measure. I hope you have felt that too.
Unfortunately, when marathon week finally arrived, I was presented with an unexpected tragedy. My cousin and classmate Jeremiah passed away. He had an undiagnosed health issue and our tight-knit family was devastated. He was only 29, 3 months younger than me. My focus shifted and I set to work making travel arrangements to Iowa. I deliberated on skipping the race. I was emotionally distraught and my family needed me as much as I needed them. However, my family and the amazing Stroller Warriors were not going to allow me to struggle. Through their encouragement and support I was able to attend the funeral and also attend the race. This was a fitting outcome for the MARINE CORPS Marathon. Our United States service members are asked to serve unconditionally no matter what comes their way. My own husband was in Afghanistan at that time doing hard things every single day. I found my own courage and decided to follow their example. I knew that I was honoring our service members, my team mates, and Jeremiah's life by overcoming odds and still reaching for the goal.
Now many years later, the Marine Corps Marathon still stands as one of my all-time favorite race experiences. I had such a terrific time with all my Stroller Warriors friends and made some new ones along the way. I will never forget racing past all the monuments and then that final gut punch climb up the hill to Iwo Jima. (Only the Marines would think that's a good idea, ha!) It was incredible having all those Marines cheer for us, meanwhile knowing my own Marine was doing the same from afar. I kept thinking how lucky I was to be a military spouse, an American, and a part of this awesome community. I think it has continued to guide me as a metaphor for how to live life even today.
Don't forget to have fun too! I wore an Energizer Bunny costume to my MCM because, well, I'm me and it's Halloween and I love a good costume. (Sidenote...those stupid ears lightly slapped the back of my head for 26.2 miles. But totally worth it. "Keep going," bunny.) I digress. Take photos. High-five Marines and volunteers and tell them thank you. Wear your Stroller Warriors gear and sharpied SWs and hug Stroller Warriors you've never met. Smile. Laugh. Even when it hurts, just keep going (like the bunny!) You're stronger than you think you are because you are a WARRIOR.
Last but not least, good luck and God bless you, Stroller Warriors. You will soon call yourself not just a marathoner/10ker but a MARINE CORPS MARATHONER/10Ker. There truly is something special about Marine Corps and I can't wait for you all to experience it yourselves as our 8th generation of finishers. Run with purpose, finish with pride.
Your Founder and CEO,