Run 2 Somewhere
After running the Country Music Half Marathon with the Wounded Warrior Project, we sat at Dave and Busters to discuss the run in the rain and future events. The hosts of the event were the Wounded Warrior Projects physical health and wellness coordinators, Chris (Kuntry) and Johnna. It was at this lunch that the first thoughts of a bigger event were talked about.
This is the 10th year since the Wounded Warrior Project was started. Its basic mission is to Honor and Empower Wounded Warriors. With over 41,000 Warriors and 5,000 plus family members the WWP is taking care of many veterans as they come home. Here is a blurb from their site: (http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org/mission/who-we-serve.aspx)
Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) serves veterans and service members who incurred a physical or mental injury, illness, or wound, co-incident to their military service on or after September 11, 2001 and their families. On that date, America watched in horror as approximately 3,000 people died including hundreds of firefighters and rescue workers. Many warriors note a sense of duty to volunteer for the military following these tragic events.
Sept. 11 also served as a stimulus for Operations Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom, and New Dawn. Operation Iraqi Freedom refers to military operations in Iraq that began March 19, 2003 and officially ended August 31, 2010. Operation Enduring Freedom refers to combat operations in Afghanistan and other regions in support of the Global War on Terror. Operation New Dawn refers to the conclusion of operations in Iraq beginning September 1, 2010 and ending December 15, 2011.
For WWP, there is a distinct difference between members and alumni; the term alumni indicates a mutual shared experience and denotes your place in an organization was earned. There are no dues here - those were paid by wearing the uniform and on the battlefield.
I was wounded on June 18th 2012 in Afghanistan. When I came to after surgery I had a Wounded Warrior package with shorts, T-Shirt, Hat and Hygiene items. This sustained me for the next days while I awaited my flight back to my gear. When I got to a computer I wrote the WWP and thanked them. I also registered as an Alumni. Since that day they have pointed me in the right directions in order to take care of the total Soldier in me.
Being a runner I was worried more about my next race then treatment when I got hit. I looked for a comeback half-marathon which would be feasible and not cause more injuries. I selected the Run the Bluegrass Half in Lexington, Ky. (http://www.runthebluegrass.org/) This was a challenging course with rolling hills and was the perfect one to hit for a comeback race. I was not fully satisfied that I was back, so when Kuntry and Johnna came up with the next program I jumped at the opportunity. The Run To Somewhere program was started as an idea at Dave and Busters and came to fruition sometime in May. I was taking part in another WWP physical health activity (SCUBA Lessons) when I was asked to run in the Marathon in Savannah. That was it, exactly what I needed I said yes and the journey started.
In June while vacationing in the mountains of North Carolina my wife and running partner accepted my challenge to run the Marathon as well. After that vacation training picked up. I was in Maryland while my family was in Tennessee. So we trained together via the phone most days. Encouragement via skype pushed us both through the long days. The final piece of the puzzle came together in September. My mini-me who after 10 plus years of playing Soccer decided to switch to Cross-Country. She got the bug and we signed her up for her first Half-Marathon in Savannah. So not only had the WWP helped the Warrior but it got the entire family involved.
As the dreaded taper week arrived I was confident in my abilities and the training I had completed. The entire way Kuntry and Johnna wrote to all the Warriors taking part to encourage them as well as check on us. This boosted me to push myself harder and I am sure it pushed my fellow warriors to accomplish this great event and finish the program strong.
As November 9th approached excitement was rising. I can see the finish line ahead of us. We arrived in Savannah on the 7th got settled in and had some pasta for dinner. That is right 2 nights prior not the night before. On the 8th I met with my fellow warriors and Kuntry at the hotel. We discussed the things that brought us together and how we were planning to run the next day. We were given an awesome sweatshirt, and running shirt and hat for completing the journey. From there I went to the expo with my family.
What has become our pre-run meal chicken and rice burritos was up for dinner. Everyone ate and relaxed awaiting the morning before us. As most runners know the night before the race is not expected to be full of good sleep and of course this was the case here. We got going and drove the ride into the city for the race. We walked up through the storied squares of Savannah to the start line. The next customary event was the great line for the Porta Potties. We then jumped into our corral and did the crawl up to the start line.
We were off Garmin started and taking the first miles to warm up. At about mile 2 I ran into the first two WWP team mates. I gave them encouragement and we rolled on. The first water stop was very congested, I nearly ran over someone. Out of the chaos there we were on our way. Cruising the streets of downtown Savannah. Nearly 20 years since we first met in this same city we were now running a Marathon together through it. At about mile 6.5 I got startled by a hand on my back. When I turned around it was Kuntry checking up on me. Great motivation there. The next 4 plus miles we fought a crazy pain in my wife’s side. I say we but she fought it and coached herself through it. Nearly at mile 12 we left the Half-Marathon runners and got on the expressway. It was here we saw the winner pass us going the opposite direction. He did not even look tired very impressive.
We hit mile 15 and entered Savannah State, the campus was alive with students cheering for the runners again I was pumped up. I saw three of my Team Mates here and we all encouraged each other. Everyone was looking good at this point. Prior to leaving campus we did a lap around their track through three groups of cheering students, it was awesome.
We got a text that Lexie finished her Half. I could not stop smiling.
We drove on and hit the expressway again about three miles to go. The weather was great not too crazy hot and for a change we ran without a rain storm. I was full of energy still and we were pushing each other. There was even an LSU fan who at two points shouted encouragement to us. The fans all through the course were very motivational.
This day was important for me for another reason. It was the six year anniversary of my friend SSG Jonathon L. Martin being wounded in Iraq which ultimately led to him being taken from us 13 days later.
We passed the mile 26 marker and for some reason I was fresh like we were at mile 8. We turned into the finisher shoot and were side by side. I looked up and saw Lexie on the right side so I sprinted at her then back to finish together. It was an awesome feeling crossing the finish to the Marathon with my best friend.
We got our medals some snacks and chocolate milk. I then saw the WWP banner and we went over to them. Mission Accomplished.
Thanks Wounded Warrior Project for all you do!!!!!!!!!!!!!