The longest marathon…
The months of planning and preparation has finally come to a close as I found myself running the last 1/10th of a mile to the finish line. The very last runner of the 2d Annual Army Marathon has crossed the finish line with a time of 6:33! This day proved to be my most challenging day without ever toeing the line. When I began this journey in July of 2013… I had no idea what was in store for me! My journey started when I reached out to Ed Bandas, the Army Marathon race director, to make Team RWB one of the charities for the next marathon. From our very first meeting, Ed was amazingly supportive of Team RWB and quickly welcomed us into the Army Marathon and within hours of our first meeting, the Team RWB logo was on the Army Marathon site! I was THRILLED! With the amazing support Ed had given Team RWB, I was going to do my best to “earn my keep” with the planners and volunteer my time to help make the Army Marathon a success. If there was something that was needed, I tried to step up. Since I was going to be running the marathon again this year, I had volunteered to do everything I could for the expo and pre-Marathon planning and execution. The week prior to the Marathon my family and I were in El Paso… The day we came home is when I hit an unclimbable wall… Somehow or another I had picked up an E.Coli strain that triggered a kidney, bladder, and urinary tract infection; all at the same time. While the doctors combatted the issues with antibiotics… A good friend of mine, the doctor, and my wife all told me the risks in running. Given my condition, I made the best decision possible; I dropped out of a run. Little did I know that there was something significantly harder and more rewarding in my path! The moment that the decision was made not to run, I contacted Ed Bandas and Johnye and told them that I was at their disposal! I was already planning on working the Expo, but now I was opening myself up to soooo much more! Ed and Johnye quickly brought me up to speed on everything and welcomed me to a much greater role! In addition to working the planning, setup, and execution of the Expo with Dinty Moore, I was also going to be the site commander at the finish line with Joey English and we were getting radios! Those that KNOW me understand how excited I was about this!!! I was going to get a radio! WOOOOOO! That just means I’m going to be pretty faaaancy! 😀 The day before the Expo we had one final volunteer meeting, walk through the expo diagrams, and get a good night rest. The Expo, in my opinion, went off great! All of the vendors, charities, and sponsors were all amazingly supportive and cooperative and it led to a GREAT event! At last year’s Army Marathon I was one of the first people through the door to pick up my packet. In doing so, the vendors, sponsors, and charities had not fully setup… It never had that “Expo” atmosphere one would expect. This year, that was FAR from the case. When you walked into the banquet hall at the hotel, you could TELL you were at an expo! Huge running vendor, misc running merchandise, sponsor and charity booths adorned with banners, tents, and flags, as well as runner “stuff” at all of the tables! In addition to getting ready for the expo, that also meant making sure we had enough Team RWB members supporting OUR booth. They were going to be there to represent Team RWB and talk to those that are interested in our organization! The first day of the expo, we had 10 other volunteers for the EXPO not show up or cancel. Several members of Team RWB reacted the best way they know how! Team RWB pickup up all of the volunteer positions that needed support. We had members, who would be running, come in and support the Packet Pick-up and fill the void! The first day of the expo was a success! Our RWB members manned the packet pick-up while I focused on the Team RWB Booth! When I was first asking for volunteers, one of our members said they didn’t want to stand because they would be running and needed fresh legs. At the time, I didn’t understand. As my wife and I drove home after just the first night, I looked at her and said “I know exactly what she means now… I am tired…”. I had volunteered in the past at other races, but I was not prepared for what 36 hours on your feet would do to you… In short; she is far smarter than I! Running a marathon after being on my feet for 3 days would have been very challenging! What I didn’t know was just how challenging it could have been. I have, after this, a far greater appreciation for each and every person that volunteers! In my opinion, it is often easier to run!! The rest of the expo went off great!!! The day of the marathon arrived…this is where things started to take a turn! I arrived at the start line before 5am to make sure we had everything in place and help Liz with the info desk, volunteer checking, and get our hand cyclists and their escorts ready for their race. There was a cold front expected to come in, but not until early afternoon. When I arrived, it was 68 degrees and I was walking around with jeans and an Army Marathon polo shirt. The weather was GREAT for a marathon. All of the runners of the full marathon were beginning to arrive. We were ready to have a race. That all changed around 6:15 (or so)… Out of nowhere we had a single gust of wind…what came next is what will have people talking about the Ar,y Marathon II for years to come. The cold front arrived and within a matter of seconds the temperate had dropped into the 30s…if the cold front had arrived, that meant the wind and rain would soon follow….and that is exactly what happened! None of the runners had planned for this and only those that lived within a few miles do the start could adjust. Trash bags were handed out to be used as a make-shift jacket to help as much as possible. Around 6:25…the remainder of the front had arrived. We now had rain. wind, and temps in the 30s. Toss in the wind chill and we were in the teens. At 6:55 the hand cycles began their race, led by cyclists from Team RWB, Team Army, and Team Roadkill Cycling! Promptly at 7am the remainder of the field started their hardest marathon…a marathon that actually had colder temps than the Hypothermia Half!! Much like the runners, I didn’t have the clothes for this temperature. Little did I know how cold it was going to get… As soon as the race started, I headed to Temple to begin helping with the finish line. We already had Team RWB handing out medals to all finishers so I was going to be there with Joey to make sure things went smoothly. To summarize the remainder of the day… Several of us stood at the finish line until 2 pm that day welcoming each and every runner across the line. Whether you ran or volunteered, my hat is off to each and every person that endured the elements that day. They encountered wind, rain, sleet, freezing rain, temps in the teens, and hail! Texas threw everything at the runners and volunteers that day, and everyone reacted remarkably!!! It was an honor to be a part of such an amazing event and serve side-by-side with such dedicated people! My most memorable event of that day is when I had to help a woman get to the medics. She could barely talk or walk and was suffering from hypothermia. While we were going to the medics she began crying and said to me “I don’t care how I feel right now. I finally qualified for Boston”. At the MMU, they began treating her…she had no feeling inner fingers or legs, was barely able to speak, but that day will be her most memorable day ever!
2 weeks had passed since The Army Marathon… I had my bib and my shirt from registration…. It was time to earn it! Team RWB had just partnered with Nike and also was a charity with Charity Miles. That said, it was time to set out on a run along the Marathon course to raise awareness for Team RWB and keep the flag moving to the finish line! This wasn’t going to be a solo adventure, Joey English, the owner of Endurance Outfitters was joining me. Simply put. Joey is an amazing friend!! We also has his wife Tiffany and my wife Elizabeth (who were both sick) as well as Ed Bandas, the Army Marathon Race Director providing support along the entire route with water, Tailwind, fruit, and road guards! (This was the funniest part of the day!!!) The amazing support that came from the community was great. I would say that almost every other car that passed us honked and waved as we travelled along the Marathon course with the American flag… Ed was positioned along the road at every mile or intersection to make sure we were ok and if we needed anything. Later in the run we did! He had Cuties In his car that were PERFECT!!!! Liz and Tiffany also met us at all of our pre-determined water points. We linked up with them every 6-7 miles to refill the Tailwind! This worked perfect!!!!
The best and worst part of the run came at mile 20 when we arrived at the Belton Dam. When I was refilling my handheld with Tailwind I found a chocolate milk that looked soooo good! Well it was good…until I swallowed a big gulp of it and it hit my stomach. Needless to say…stomachs don’t like chocolate milk the middle of a Marathon :(. The remainder of the run (only 6mi) turned into a run/walk exercise. I wasn’t trying to get sick on the side of the run, so when the stomach yelled at me…we walked. No worries… No chocolate milk in the future! Jenny, yes I know… All I needed was Tailwind…:) as usual, you are right!! We left our last water point at mile 20 and immediately crossed the Belton Dam….which had a BUNCH of traffic…. We made it worst! By this point we had acquired a caravan of RWB members who had come out to support. We had 2 vehicles in front of us with their hazards and about 6 behind us. By the time we crossed the dam (which is about a 1/2 mi, we had about 100 cars behind us!!! Joey and I were both afraid to turn around and look! The funny thing is….even though we held up traffic for 5min…almost all of the cars honked at us and waved as they drove passed us!!! Now for the fun part. While the most painful because of my stomach, Team RWB made or GREAT!!! From the time we started, the more we ran, the more Eagles started to show up on the route with us. After we crossed the dam, Team RWB Ft Hood was at EVERY intersection. They would yell and cheer us on with AWESOME marathon signs and as soon as we passed, they would rush to the next intersection to do it again….they did this all the way to the finish! As we approached the finish, we could see the line of cars waiting for us on the top of the hill… There were about 15 people standing in the middle of the (OPEN) street cheering and yelling is on! As we approached the “finish line”, Johnye and Kristin were there throwing ice in the air to give us a touch of the elements from the original marathon! The support that I had from my wife and friends meant the world to me and I will never forget this day! After we finished, Ed Bandas gave us our medals. I was so very surprised and actually a bit broken up by it. I took it off and tried giving it back to him but he would not take it and told me to keep it. While we ran the course, I don’t think I ran the “marathon”. This medal will hang on my wall not as a finisher of the marathon, but a reminder of the amazing family and friends that I have that all came together today to support Joey and I as we supported Team RWB!