Wounded Warriors and Marathons: Semper Fi

I’ve been running five or six times a week now in the early a.m. for about 30 years. I do it for both the exercise and for the mental relaxation it gives me. Yet I’ll admit it. There are days — especially as the cold starts to grip NE Ohio — that I’m tempted to say the hell with it and just do what I’m told normal people do at 5 or 5:30 a.m.

Then I saw this story in WaPo, “Two wounded warriors practice true ‘Semper Fi’ in Marine Corps Marathon“:

They met for the first time in the cold and the dark on Sunday morning with 26.2 miles to go.

Carlos Evans was nervous. He’d never done a marathon before. Jimmy King, competing in his seventh Marine Corps Marathon, told him he’d be all right. He said he’d watch out for him.

Between them, they had one leg and three full arms.

The men, part of a team supported by the Achilles Freedom Team of Wounded Veterans, a nonprofit organization, were among dozens of wounded warriors competing. About 130 racers, including Evans and King, used handcycles. Others crossed the finish line on prosthetic legs, where a growing throng cheered.

Evans wanted his family — his wife and two daughters, 1 and 5 years old — to see him finish the race. After all the pain and suffering, he wanted them to see him in a moment of triumph.

But the first few miles were much harder than he had anticipated. The cold caused his shoulder muscles to cramp. The early hills sapped more energy than he thought they should. His prosthetic arm kept slipping out of place. Doubts started creeping in.

“Don’t give up,” King implored. “Keep going.”

The story then examines the injuries they suffered and what motivated them to participate in the marathon. Here’s the conclusion:

In mile 22, Evans hit the wall. He shoulders felt leaden; his abs ached. King encouraged him, making small talk: “Anything to keep his mind off the race.”

They trekked past National Airport, then doubled back past the Pentagon and Arlington National Cemetery toward the finish line at the Iwo Jima Memorial. When Evans slowed, King slowed. They had started off as strangers but were now buddies joined in a long, hard slog. “We’re Marines; that’s enough,” King said.

Three hours and 41 minutes after they began, they crossed the finish line together. Volunteers draped medals over their heads. Applause surrounded them. They bumped fists and steered their way through the crowd.

At one point they came to a curb and Evans hesitated, unsure he could negotiate his handcycle safely over it.

“You need a hand?” King said.

King popped up out of his handcycle, hopped over on his leg and helped guide Evans down.

“Got it?”

“Yeah,” Evans said. “Thanks.”

Then they went off to find their families. Evans had a new medal he wanted to show his daughters.

What a great story about personal accomplishment — and about valor, heroism and commitment.

I’ll complain a lot less tomorrow and in the days ahead when I’m up and tying the laces on my running shoes.

And I know this country has plenty of big problems, but with people like Carlos Evans and Jimmy King and thousands of others like them, something tells me things will turn out just fine.

 

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