This Sunday, 28 October, the Marine Corps Marathon will once again be closing down the streets of Washington, D.C. Since the MCM began in 1976 it has grown immensely, and over 43,000 runners are registered for the three main events of the weekend.
I’ve run it off-and-on since 1995, between deployments, PCSs, and the births of my children, and have seen it grow from a smaller, simpler race to the massive event that it is today. Without fail, it always feels amazing to be able to run the marathon in the heart of the beautiful city that D.C. can be, in the middle of fall, around all of the monuments, and surrounded by spectators and friends. Some things about the MCM have not changed over time: it is still inspiring, it is still entertaining (standing at the start in 2009 with three other current/former Marine Corps helicopter pilots made the Osprey fly-over incredibly fun), and it still possesses the ability to humble me.
The MCM has grown into a mini-reunion of sorts, as those I’ve served with and known over the years fly in town for the run, or sign up for it while stationed here. I’ve run it on warm, sunny days and on cold, rainy ones, and I’ve run it as a healthy 20-year-old who thought nothing of it and as a 36-year-old with three kids (who thought quite a bit). I have beaten Al Gore and Oprah Winfrey, and have been beaten by Kermit the Frog, Elvis, and a man with a pot-belly wearing a shirt that read “I hydrated with beer” on the back. Humorous but humbling.
Fittingly, one aspect of the MCM that has changed is the number and type of groups running for something. The striking difference about the runners of the MCM is how many are military and how many are running for other servicemembers, whether in memory of friends or family lost over the past decade or in honor of those wounded or currently serving. No other race I’ve run has that kind of presence. And the level of commitment, the depth of loss, and the amount of respect is far more humbling than anything I feel physically over the distance. While there are times that I feel as if most of this country has forgotten that we are and have been a nation at war for 11 years, at the MCM the opposite is true. From groups like USNA’s Run to Honor and the Travis Manion Foundation to the hundreds (thousands?) of people running with a friend’s name on their shirt, Washington, D.C. looks amazing every year on the last Sunday in October.
I will be running again this weekend as part of Team Beav, a group started by Katy Kerch in 2006 in honor of her brother and my squadron-mate, Major Gerald Bloomfield (“Beav”). We lost Beav and Major Michael Martino on November 2, 2005, when their Cobra was shot down in Iraq. Team Beav has grown over the years, and the list of names on the back of our shirts has grown as well. Katy is an indefatigable woman who has motivated runners and non-runners alike to run the MCM in memory of Beav, raising money for the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund along the way.
So if you’re in town and you are running the marathon, I hope you enjoy it. And if you are in the area but not running, come out to watch. Rain, shine, or tropical-storm-force winds, the crowds and the energy level will be high. If you feel as though you have lost faith in America and in her citizens, being part of the MCM on race morning can change that, if only for a few hours.
For those we have lost, I miss you, I remember you, and I will be thinking of you on Sunday morning. Semper Fi.