I have already fully prepared myself for this blog post to sound like an acceptance speech for an academy award, and I’m quite alright with that. I can’t not be apart of a weekend with wear blue: run to remember and not be thankful! This past weekend was one I will never forget. Although most of you were not there with me, hopefully it’ll be like you were through my words and pictures! I hope you enjoy reading about my weekend, as much as I am going to enjoy bringing it to life through this post.
Friday, October 20th
I stated in previous posts, and Instagram, that I had a lot of anxiety about this race. Particularly I had a lot of anxiety about where I was going to stay. Prior to race weekend I had completely different plans than the ones that were put in to play, but God had a way of working everything out. So there’s absolutely no way that I can write about this weekend without first giving a shoutout to Candice Urban. I reached out on the wear blue Facebook page asking if anyone had room in their hotel for little ole me, and without hesitation Candice replied back to my post and said she did along with her sisters Theresa and Robyn. I am so unbelievably thankful for your willingness to let a total stranger enter into your life for the weekend. I will never be able to repay you for your kindness! D.C. literally would not have been possible without you!
My alarm went off at 4:30 AM. My bags were packed, I started my coffee, grabbed a banana and a protein bar and was out the door. Luckily OKC airport is small because by the time I had parked, chased the shuttle around the parking lot, checked my bag, and went through security my flight was already boarding. Take off time was at 6:00 and I arrived at my gate at 5:50. Not stressful at all… At 6:40 AM we landed in Dallas where I switched planes, then it was a 2 1/2 hour flight to D.C. Did I mention that I had anxiety? Yeah, the whole flight. I am not a calm person and all I could think about was the 26.2 miles that I had to run, and I didn’t even know the excitement that was still in store for me.
I landed in D.C. around 11:30 AM. Candice, Robyn, and Theresa landed at 12:05 so it worked out PERFECT! Once we all had our bags and were checked in to our room off to the expo we went. If you’ve never been to a marathon expo, you have got to go! So start looking at race calendars and get on that, would ya?? I promise you won’t regret it! There’s so much energy that fills the room that you can’t help but be ecstatic! Our first stop was the wear blue booth because obviously they’re our favorite non-profit. While I’m picking on myself and pointing out my flaws, let me go ahead and add to the list that I’m also oblivious to things at times. I picked up the post card that was laying on the table and flipped it over to see my picture and said “Hey, that’s me!” and in return the volunteer working the booth said “wait a minute, I’ve seen that picture somewhere else.” thinking to myself, yes probably on the wear blue page. And I’m not kidding a light bulb came on right above his head and he said “No, it’s right there!” I followed his finger to where he was pointing and I had a complete freak out! My picture from the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon was blown up and made in to a poster for the wear blue booth at the Marine Corps Marathon expo! Say what??? Someone pinch me! I immediately had to get everyone’s attention around me, because everyone needed to know that that was ME! Thanks, Lisa 😉 posed for a few pictures with my adorning fans, then off to wandering around we went.
After the expo was the Gold Star Dinner, which Krista Simpson Anderson with the Unquiet Professional put in to motion and it was beautiful! She always does such a wonderful job at making sure the Gold Star family members are flawlessly taken care of. At the dinner I was reunited with a few of my favorite people including a fellow Gold Star Athlete, Susan Cotti! I had the privilege of meeting Susan in San Diego when we were selected to be apart of the Gold Star Race Program. Such a treat, she is. At this point my heart was about to explode, but at the same time I felt so much peace. Do you have those moments in your life? Where you literally cannot complain about a single thing, you’re completely content with the people you’re around, and the setting in which you’re in? Well that’s where I was, and that’s where I stay when I am with wear blue. I cannot speak enough good words about this organization. To be a Gold Star Family member is not easy, but when we see our loved ones being remembered in such a beautiful way, you know that their sacrifice will never be forgotten. When you’re apart of a community that runs to remember the service and sacrifice of America’s fallen it makes those hard days just a little bit easier, because you know that even on your worst day that you have people ready to take those purposeful steps with you and see you through. Lisa Hallett, I’m sure I speak for more than myself when I say thank you for bringing wear blue: run to remember to life. Without the sacrifice of your beloved John and your efforts for wanting to keep his memory alive wear blue wouldn’t have been possible. You have touched the lives of thousands. You have saved the lives of thousands. You have given hope to the lives of thousands. You inspire me to be a better person and to never wear any other athletic brand than Lululemon. Unfortunately my bank account isn’t as thankful for you as I am, but who needs money anyways?
Saturday, September 21st
Can I just start out by saying that I hate the metro? I am so not cut out for big city livin’. This small town girl from Oklahoma will stick to the little cities, not major cities like D.C. Thank you to the random strangers that made sure I got on the correct color train so that I wouldn’t end up in China. Goodness. Note to self: Stick to Uber. Always. Anyways.. enough about that.
9:00 AM was the shake-out run. It’s not everyday that you get to start out your run at the Lincoln Memorial, but on this day we did. *Insert hair flip* a wear blue volunteer came up to me, Cindi, and said “are you the girl that’s on the poster at the expo?” why yes, yes indeed I am. Y’all, not kidding, celebrity status. Okay, maybe I am kidding. She was only trying to figure out my name because Kandi wanted us to lead a group of runners for the shake-out run to ensure no one would get lost. (Brad and Kandi, if you’re reading this I have dirt on both of you so just hush!) We indeed did not get lost and all made it back in one piece. Once the sun came out we were all able to feel our fingers again and it was an awesome run down and around the Washington Monument and back to the Lincoln Memorial.
While we were in the area we visited the Vietnam Memorial. It was during this time that I met my boyfriend, a WWII vet. Cutest guy I’ve ever seen. I didn’t want to do much else after our few visits so after a quick trip to Lululemon with Nikki it was nap time for me.
Nikki was one of the Gold Star Athletes chosen for the Marine Corps Marathon. She lost her brother in 2003. It is always nice to meet other gold star siblings because we are usually the forgotten ones of the family. In the end, Nikki completed MCM and she crushed it! Way to go!
Other than the shake-out run, my favorite part of Saturday was that Chelsea and Dusty Jenkins came in to town. After I found out my mom wasn’t going to be able to make the trip I reached out to Chelsea to ask her to hold Bret’s flag at the blue mile. Along with Susan, and 5 other runners, I also met Chelsea and Dusty in San Diego. They are two of the coolest people you will ever meet, so when Chelsea agreed to hold Bret’s flag you better believe I was happy as could be. Once they arrived in D.C. we met up with Brad and Kandi for dinner. Pasta of course, because tomorrow we run. After many laughs and great conversation it was off to bed for all of us because 4:45 comes super early.
Race Day! Sunday, October 22nd
I sat my alarm with plenty of time to wake up, get around, and make it to the circle of remembrance by 7:15. Or so I thought… Sorry, Brad, but you’re going straight under the bus. We had plans to meet in the hotel lobby at 6:45 to catch the shuttle and head to the start line. What we didn’t plan for was the line that would be wrapped through the lobby. While I am waiting in line I get a text from Brad that says “have to run back to the hotel. Be there in a min” Wasn’t too concerned because like I said, line was wrapped through the lobby. At this point though I am checking my watch every two seconds getting a little antsy because time is ticking away. The buses were taking forever, and the line was not moving. Once Brad arrived at the Hyatt, with a freshly brewed cup of coffee, we decided it would be best to go back to his hotel because there wasn’t a wait. Why didn’t I just do this in the first place you ask? Well, because directions are hard and I would have indeed gotten lost on my way over. We finally made it to where the buses were loading to be taken to the start line. The wear blue circle of remembrance had already started once we got on the bus, so yeah missed that. Thankfully I was apart of 3 on Saturday, so I didn’t feel as terrible. And as luck would have it, the bus we were suppose to be loaded on broke down. Yup, that’s how my marathon morning started.
FINALLY we arrive at the runner drop location only to realize we have to still walk a mile to the start line. As if running 26.2 miles isn’t already enough. Thank you, Marine Corps! Dropped our bags at the UPS trucks then made a mad dash for the start line. The Marines pride themselves on getting 30,000 people across the finish line in record time, but for this type-a personality that chaos did not work for me. It was so crowded which sat the tone for the rest of the marathon. So let’s break it down, shall we?
When you are starting a race at the exact same time as everyone else, a PR is next to impossible. I already had a rough training season, my longest run only being 16 miles, so I had already put a PR in the back of my mind. If I beat my best time, great, if not, that’s great too because regardless I was going to finish.
I ran smart, I didn’t run hard. My goal was to run the first half, and then begin intervals for the second half. The race did not begin until 7:55 AM which meant we would be running in the heat of the day. At this point I knew that hydration was key and that cramps were going to be a factor. But praise the good Lord I did not cramp!
As previously stated I wanted to run the first half, and I did just that. I reached the blue mile, mile 12, a little after the 2 hour mark. I made sure to take in every face that was on the faces of the fallen posters, and when I arrived at Bret I knelt down, kissed his cheek, then took off again. This blue mile was different compared to the one in San Diego. I had a lot of joy. I wasn’t overcome with sadness, but with pride. I was proud to be Bret’s sister, and I was proud to be apart of wear blue. I found Dusty and Chelsea, gave them both a big hug, waved at other volunteers I knew, then sat in to intervals because I still had 13.1 miles to go.
The last half of the race was magical. I never felt tired, but I did get hot. We passed so many monuments that I had only ever read about in history books, so to be on the same streets as former Presidents and public figures was really neat.
Mile 20 came and it was time to “Beat the Bridge” I totally understand why this bridge has that title, because you are literally out on a bridge for two miles with no shade and no water. It sounds as miserable as it was. Thankfully it was flat! When you’re running with thousands of other runners you never expect to run in to someone you know, little own run in to someone running in memory of your brother, but that is exactly what happened to me halfway across the bridge at mile 21. While I was doing my thing, putting one foot in front of the other and thinking about the Dr. Pepper I was going to drink when I was finished, I saw a wear blue bib. Each time I see a bib I make sure to look at the name listed on it. I had to read this bib numerous times before realizing “that lady is running in memory of Bret!” Another total freak out moment. A complete stranger with a heart for our fallen, running in memory of Bret. In total Krysten fashion I ran up to her, tapped her on the shoulder, and started shouting “that’s my brother!” as I’m awkwardly running sideways so that she can see the back of my shirt. Y’all I can’t even describe that moment. To say I got my second wind is an understatement. Bret is remembered by his family and friends, but he is also remembered by those who never even had the chance to meet him. Thank you, Meghann, for giving Brenda Bret’s bib and preparing her for the Krysten freak out moment because it totally did happen!
Next up, the last 5 miles. That was it, a handful of miles. At this point I was ready for the marathon to be over because the shade was limited and quite frankly I was hot, tired, and hungry. It seemed like it didn’t matter the amount of water or Gatorade I took, I could not get rid of my thirst. I knew dehydration was happening because I was sweating out the liquid as fast as I was putting it into my body.
I finally made it back to the start, so I knew that all I had left was to make my way up the hill to Arlington to finish. Since my mom couldn’t be there with me, I turned off my music and called her on FaceTime. Big moments in your life just aren’t the same without your mom there, so having the ability to FaceTime her was really special. She was cheering louder than the amazing spectators that were lined all along the course. And of course she was crying because that’s just what my mom does. After 4 hours and 42 minutes I made it to the finish where I was greeted by a marine to salute me, say “well done”, and put a medal around my neck. After 16 weeks of training… Mission Accomplished.
This race was for more than just Bret. I also ran for the fighting. My cousin Cole just joined the Marines and will leave for San Diego in the coming months, and my friend, SGT Josh Clark, is currently serving and is stationed in Spring, Texas. To all veterans, past and present, thank you for your service! To our fallen, thank you for your selfless sacrifice for our country. You will never be forgotten.
If you stuck through this post with me until the end, followed my journey from the beginning, and cheered my on through all my ups and downs I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your love and support means more to me than you will ever know.
Here’s to whatever is in store for me next.
Photos by: Krysten Isenhower, wear blue: run to remember, Chelsea Jenkins, and Cindi Gersch