Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Red, White, and Blue for 26.2

(photo courtesy of Bobby Gill)

There was a certain superhero that made an appearance at the 34th Marine Corps Marathon. Each year, thousands of active duty US Marines come out to volunteer at the People's marathon. In order to show his gratitude for the service that these brave men and women have made to their country, he ran the entire 26.2 mile course with a flag in hand. On his front he wore a sign that simply read "Thank you Marines". Just a small thanks to our brave military. The Flash is a fictional superhero, but the men and women of the US military are real heros.

The Marathon:

The Marine Corps Marathon is attended by thousands of US Marines, and also many other active/former military. I knew carrying the American Flag meant alot of responsibility. I feared wearing the costume might seem like I was mocking the flag, so I made sure it was properly flying at all times. In the nation's capitol, anyone who dares carry the flag, better do so with respect. I had laid down some rules for running with it.

1. Stars must fly in the upper left corner.
2. Unless at a water stop, I will NOT be seen walking with the flag
3. Run at all times and show no sign of fatigue
4. Never let the flag touch the ground
5. Allow servicemen/women to salute the flag
6. Allow any military person to carry the flag if they ask
7. Keep the flag raised as high as possible, especially through crowded streets. It must be clearly visible at all times
8. Acknlowledge the fact that the run is about the Flag and troops, not the costume
9. If I cannot keep rules 1-8 intact, I should give the flag up to someone who can

At 8am the cannon blast roared, and I pushed through the crowded city streets. I had no intention of running fast. The first five miles were at 9:30 pace. Within the first hour several things became very obvious. It was going to be a very grueling run in the costume. It was much hotter than the '08 milkshake costume because my legs, head, and arms were covered. Temperatures exceeded the forcasted 58 degree high and climbed to 65 degrees. The second clear fact was that the flag, although only a few lbs, would be harder to carry than I thought. The final fact was that the flag was inspiring alot of people.

The reaction from the crowds was the same from Georgetown to the Iwo Jima memorial. Already lively folks would cheer upon seeing the costume, and cheer louder when I pointed to the flag. Runners came up beside me to get their photo taken with the Flash. On other occasions military runners requested to run a few moments with the flag, or beside it. It was an honor having these true heroes running with me. When seeing the flag, the Marines volunteering would stop, put their feet together and give a salute. Gripping and inspiring.

While it was easy to get caught up with all the attention, I wanted to be perfectly clear that I wanted the attention on the American flag and the Marines.

The rest of the marathon went on with the same enthusiasm. I'd gave a high five to the Georgetown bull dog, and shout outs to the high school bands. Although it became increasingly difficult throughout the marathon, I kept a smile on my face, and the flag held high. I was particularly touched around mile 11. I stopped to tie my shoe laces, so I asked a bystander to hold the American flag for me. Without hesitation he grabbed the flag and held it as high as he could. He held it with pride and dignity. I realized what an honor it was for him to have that one moment. I realized what an honor I had to carry the red, white, and blue for 26.2 miles.

By mile 23 I was starting to feel the effects of major deydration. I had been drinking 3-5 cups of water and poweraid at each stop. I ate sport beans and orange slices when possible, but still I was losing water weight at a rapid pace. The last two miles were a struggle, but I was determined to show no sign of fatigue. Afterall, would the real Flash get tired? The American flag must stay in strong hands. Up the final hill I pushed through to the finish.

Although time was not a consideration in this run, I did manage to finish in 3:58:55. It was considerably slower than the 3:29:45 I ran the previous year in the milkshake costume. My biceps and shoulders are sore from carrying the flag for almost four hours. A slight discomfort, and well worth it.

Thank you Marines. Semper Fidelis "Always Faithful"