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2008 Marine Corps Marathon (Article Reference)

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Written by Pat Curran

Posted on 17 January 2018

Last Updated 17 January 2018


Dear All,

Thank you for the opportunity, privilege, and honor to represent you as a member of the Fisher House Team during the 33rd Marine Corps Marathon!

Well, we did it, but it was not easy.  The Fisher House Team raised approximately $374,000 so far and will keep the fundraising site open for a short time longer (see bottom of email donation link).  I managed to get across the finish line 5 hours and 35 minutes.  For those at Pfizer, the tortoise featured in many of our Chantix commercials may now have some competition from a slightly better looking colleague. J

Originally I was planning to make this a short email, but I had such an incredible experience that I thought it worth sharing.  In total, there were about 35,000 race participants.  Many of them represented individual charities or causes similar to the Fisher House.  Others represented individual loved ones who are currently deployed overseas or who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in service to our nation.  Still others were “profiles in courage” who sought to defy the odds and complete the 26.2 mile race even though they were missing limbs.

On October 26th, I start the day by getting up at 5:00am to do some morning preparations.  My goal is to get out the door by 6:15am in order to meet up with racing buddy, Mark Taylor, at the Roslyn metro stop at 7:00am.  Being new to this marathon location, I get to the metro stop approximately 20 minutes early because I did not want to get lost.  When I get to the metro stop I see it is flooded by runners.  In addition, I hear over the loud speaker that there are several delays on many of the metro lines.

It’s now 7:25am.  No sign of Mark.  I still have to check-in my race bag of dry clothes and somehow get to the start line before 8:00am.  There’s no way it can be done as originally planned.  I make the decision to abandon the original plan and sprint up the escalator (which is very steep) to make my way back to the hotel.  As I get to the top of the stairs, I realize I made a huge mistake running up the steep escalator.  Both of my hamstring muscles are significantly fatigued.  In addition, I have to run back to the hotel, drop off my bag, and run to the start line.  In total this is approximately 2 miles to cover before the race begins.

On my way from the hotel and to the start line I hear a loud howitzer blast (cannon firing blank rounds):  BOOM!!! I look at my watch while running.  Is my watch slow?  Did I miss the beginning of the race?  Then suddenly I see something in the distance.  There are dozens of what look to be go-charts coming in my direction.  Men and women missing legs are sitting at the base of these specially made wheelchairs with their arms in front of them cranking a gear that looks similar to what a bike rider would step on with their legs.  Only the gear is front of their chests.  Nearly all of them have American flags flapping in the wind on the rear of the “vehicle.”  In the back I see a woman pushing a stroller with a child who seemed to be at least 10 years old.  It must have been a Mom running for autism awareness.  I make it to the start line just as the announcer states, “OK Marathoners…  We have 30 seconds until we begin the 33rd Marine Corps Marathon!”  The crowd roars.  At this point, I blend into the crowd and just go with the flow.

I finish the first 11 miles and am now dealing with 3 major challenges that I did not expect.  First my hamstrings are getting much worse.  The tightness turned into a slight limp in my left leg.  This typically does not happen until Miles 17 thru 22.  I think to myself, “The good news is that I am mentally trained to handle this.”  To think about how to get through the remaining 15.2 miles is too big of a task.  I must follow my principle of “keeping it simple” by attacking the rest of the race 1 mile at a time.”  The second challenge is that it is hotter than I expect.  The water points are spread out too far for me to make it through the remaining distance.  I have to “find a way to adapt and overcome.” My new plan is to stop at every public rest room and/or concession stand in addition to the existing water stations along the rest of the course.  This also means I will have to walk at times to give my body the opportunity to absorb fluids, so achieving my goal of running the race under 4 hours is now out.

The third challenge, however, was the most difficult of all:  Emotionally I am getting drained.  During the previous 11 miles, I became so choked up from seeing others around me carrying American flags, struggling with their wheelchairs, and trying to continue running with prosthetic limbs.  I literally was crying and running at the same time during parts of the race.  Sure there were things that I kind of expected, but every 10 minutes or so I would see someone whose actions were so moving that even now it’s hard to for me to write about it.  Mom’s and Dad’s running for their children who have cancer, autism, and many other disabilities.  Grieving loved ones who lost their husbands, their wives, and other family members on 9/11.  Countless others wearing “In Memory of … T-shirts” or cards on their backs honoring those who were killed fighting the War on Terror.  Still standing near the Mile 11 marker, I spend some time contemplating this.  After a few minutes I tell myself you’re gonna have to deal with it.  Don’t ignore it, and don’t attempt to shield your heavy heart.  As much as it hurts, love requires you to remain open in spite of it all.  I think to myself, “These are the moments that strengthen your resolve and character as a leader.  Now get back into the fight!”

I am now on my way again.  Mile by mile I continue but know I am running out of steam.  Approaching Mile 17, I have very little focus, energy, and hope left.  I have pain on both sides of my mid-to-lower back and can’t decide if it’s muscle cramps or the beginning of kidney stones.  Suddenly, I come up to a huge surprise.  I see my brother-in-law and his girlfriend near a water station.  He screams out my name, and I am fortunate enough to hear him.  Immediately using his cell phone, he calls Gina (my wife) who is down the road approximately 200 meters.  Greg and Cynthia escort me forward.

I see Gina, her parents, and my two little girls (Elizabeth and Lauren) holding up signs, encouraging to not give up.  I am so incredibly happy to see them.  The signs that they made say, “Go, Pat, Go!  Super Daddy!!!”  It’s inside joke Gina is playing on me because she knows my favorite superhero is Superman (Truth, Justice, and the American Way…), and I occasionally wear a Superman T-Shirt when I go to workout.  As I get to where they all are, Gina’s parents say to me in a concerned, nervous tone, “You look good.  You look good…”  I know they are lying through their teeth.  It reminded me of those times when I’ve gone to a funeral and hear people say nervously after looking at the deceased, “He looks good.  He looks good…”

Being with my family for about 10 minutes and drinking water helps me gain back some of my strength.  Things are now starting to go my way.  We are able to contact my running partner, Mark, on Gina’s cell phone.  We agree to link up at Mile 18 to run the rest of the race together.  Also, my other close friend from college, Buzz, is also able to meet up with us along with his wife Kim.  As I get to Mile 18, I receive a warm welcome from everyone.

Finishing the remaining 8.2 miles is not easy but it does become easier.  On Mile 22, I see another friend of mine, Kryzs Laski.  He, Mark, and I served in the 10th Mountain Division together from 1998 – 2002.  Being totally excited to see him, I ask, “What in the world are you doing here?”  Kryzs responds, “Are you kidding?  I’m here for the same reason you’re here.  I’ve been reading your Fisher House Charity Updates.”  We talk for a couple of miles about the “good old days” in the 41st Engineer Battalion and then decide to separate so we can finish the race at our own pace.

Mark and I spend the last two miles doing a combination of walking and running.  Little by little we push through.  On the last 0.2 miles we continue at a slow trot up a hill to the finish line.  The crowd at the finish line is enormous.  The announcer is calling the race with the same level of enthusiasm as when we began.  Mark and I cross the finish line simultaneously and proceed to the Iwo Jima Memorial Monument to get our medals.  Many of my friends and family tell me how proud they are of me.  When I tell them that I finished 90 minutes later than I thought, they just laugh at me and tell me that they are glad that I am OK.

So, what’s the point of the story?  Being shaped over the past 16 years by the West Point Experience and the Jesuit Traditions of Fordham University, I can’t help to try to find meaning in it all.  I believe that God provided me this experience so I would have an ounce of appreciation for what the Fisher House does.  Similar to my race story, a servicemen or servicewoman supported by Fisher House typically has something far more drastic happen to them that is totally out of their control.  Now disabled and in the early phases of recovery, they are in shock/possible denial of their condition.  Then it becomes undeniable.  A choice is made between wondering why this happened or accepting the current reality and finding a way to adapt.  Even with this acceptance and desire to adapt, it is nearly impossible to heal fully when alone.  This is why the role of Fisher House is so important.  Fisher House helps severely wounded servicemen and servicewoman stay close to their families by covering all of their lodging costs during long recovery/rehabilitation periods.  Through their continued love, encouragement, and support, families are able to help these wounded heroes find their way to their own “finish line” or that place where one can let go of the past and embrace a new, more meaningful future.

To close, this will be my final Fisher House Update for 2008.  I again want to thank you for all of your encouragement and support over the past several months.  For those interested in giving or just seeing our list of generous contributors just click on http://www.active.com/donate/FisherHouse2008MCM/1PCurran .  For those at Pfizer who have given but need help with filling out form for 100% matching funds, please let me know.  I will attempt to do my paperwork over the next couple of days and will gladly assist others, if needed.

Hope you enjoyed the journey with me.  This has truly been an inspiring experience…