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"2010 Marine Corps Marathon: Love Me When I'm Gone"

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Written by Pat Curran

Posted on 17 January 2018

Last Updated 17 January 2018

 

 

 

Dear Freedom’s Light Supporters,

Before going away for the holidays, I wanted to say “thank you” for a great 2010 and first year for the Freedom’s Light Program! It was the most successful fundraising year I’ve had with a total of $5,505 going to severely wounded military, first responders, and 9/11 victims. This total includes your donations and the generous support of Pfizer who provided employee matching funds as well as a $1500 award to Tuesday's Children as part of their global volunteers challenge. For those outside of Pfizer reading this, employees had a chance to vote for charities that most inspired them. Freedom’s Light finished 9th out of 610 submissions world-wide. To all of my Pfizer colleagues, thank you for voting.

Plans are already in motion for expanding the program in 2011 by improving the reader experience and engaging businesses to donate to the charities directly through the site. In exchange, I will post their logo on the website and within newsletters, so readers are aware of their generosity. More information about this will come out in later months.

Below is my last journal entry for 2010. In short, I think it marks a transition point for me. I am going into 2011 stronger physically, mentally, and spiritually. My hope is that it translates into being better able to help others around me.

 

Thank you for a wonderful 3 years in doing this great charity work and supporting the launch of the Freedom’s Light Charity Program in 2010.

 

Happy Holidays Everyone and God bless…

 

Respectfully,

--Pat

www.freedomslight.org

 

Marine Corps Marathon 2010 – “Love Me When I am Gone…”

During the last 2 years, I’ve typically written about my experience during the Marine Corps Marathon. It is one of the most patriotic and inspiring events one could ever be a part of. For those who know very little about the experience, I strongly encourage you to read about it in the Pat's Journal Section on the website. Look for “2009 Marine Corps Marathon.”

This year, I want to instead write more about the experience I had before the race and some lessons learned from the year. To summarize, setting an ambitious goal of launching a charity website, participating in a 3 endurance races, and taking time to write down what I learned for my girls has helped me calm my spirit and become a more anchored as a leader. I’ve made some mistakes though.

 

"There's another world inside of me that you may never see.

There secrets in this life that I can’t hide.

Somewhere in this darkness there’s a light that I can’t find.

Maybe it’s too far away… Or maybe I’m just blind…

So hold me when I'm here, right me when I'm wrong.

Hold me when I’m scared, and love me when I’m gone.

Everything I am is everything in me,

Wants to be the one you wanted me to be.

I’ll never let you done, even if I could.

I’d give up everything, if only for your good.

So hold me when I’m here, right me when I’m wrong.

You can hold me when I’m scared, you won’t always be there.

So love me when I’m gone.”

 

From “When I’m Gone” By 3-Doors Down: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pFq1eT9tMJ4

30 October 2010: Before the Race

It’s Saturday morning around 8:00am. Both of my kids are awake at the breakfast table and my wife is in the kitchen. Over the past few weeks as a family we discussed how we were changing the plan from all of us going to the Marine Corps Marathon this weekend in DC to only having me go due to local Halloween activities. It all just seemed to make sense. Even the night before the girls were happy, showing me their costumes where Elizabeth was a “Candy-Corn Witch” and Lauren was “Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz.”

As I grabbed my duffle bag of gear and head to the door, Lauren leaps from the breakfast table and screams, “Daddy, Daddy, I don’t want you to go!” I turn around and hug her as she darts toward me. Next, I calmly explain to her what we talked about over the past few weeks and last night; however, it doesn’t matter. Leaving is clearly an emotional event and cannot be explained with logic or reason. Lauren continues, “Why Daddy? Why? Why would they have a marathon on Halloween?”

Just then, I open up my bag. About a week ago, I purchased a “Superman Magnet” for good luck. I’m running injured so it’s always good to add a little comic relief to get your mind off being nervous. I take out the magnet and ask Lauren for a favor. I whisper, “Lauren… Here’s my Superman Magnet. Put it on the fridge, so you know I’ll be thinking of you for the next 2 days. I’ll call you from the car when I get a chance. Now, promise me something. Will you love me when I’m gone?”

Wiping away some tears, she nods her head and gives me a tight hug. At this point Gina and I both look at each other. We did not predict this. I have to move fast in order to avoid another meltdown. As I drive away, I call Lauren. She still does not understand why I have to go and run the race.

After the phone call, I think to myself, “Hey, she needs to suck it up… There are lots of kids who don’t see their Dads or Moms for 12-15 months when they are deployed overseas in combat!! She needs to deal with me being gone for 2 days.” Being distracted, I miss a turn going into NYC and add some time / stress for getting myself to Penn Station.

Now on the train, I think to myself, “Love me when I’m gone…” That phrase has so many meanings to me now. When the song first came out in 2002, the context was around seeing many people deploy overseas after the events of 9/11. Then as the months and years went by, it also signified loss of friends who were killed in combat. Finally, on a personal note, it had a third meaning. It represented moments like the one earlier in the day where my thoughts become so focused on a “mission” that I become emotionally unattached to everything around me. As a result, I drift away from even the ones who love me.

I was wrong to think what I thought earlier during the car ride. It’s one thing to leave your family because you’re going off to combat. It’s a totally different thing to misjudge the impact of missing Halloween. I would be a fool to not learn from this mistake and ensure that it did not happen again. The irony of it all is that I think I knew at some level that I was entering that dark place when trying to explain to Lauren why I had to leave. I asked her to promise me to “love me when I’m gone” for a reason. Although I did not know it at the time, it was because I was already “gone,” and I was asking her to hang in there until I could find my way back. I needed to explain this to Lauren, but how? At her age she could not fully understand. I spend much of the remaining train ride thinking about what I could tell her when I got back home on Monday and what more to write in a journal entry to read later.

At about 2pm, I arrive at the train station in DC where I see Mark pushing his young son, Carter in a stroller. It’s great to see him. We were roommates at West Point and managed to stay in touch through the years.

“Great to see you, Pat... So, how’s the knee? Are you ready for tomorrow?” Mark asks. I respond by letting him know that I am thinking about keeping the strategy simple. We’ll take it one mile at a time, adapt, and overcome. Mark smiles and agrees. That’s how we were taught to lead through uncertainty at West Point. We do it with a bias toward careful but deliberate action. We simplify what is complex, learn as we go, and find a way to succeed.

As we walk towards the Metro, I explain the events from earlier in the day. “This may be my last race in DC for awhile,” I explain. As always, Mark is supportive. “Dude, I totally understand. If you’re not there for your family, who will be?” From there, the conversation gets lighter. We have a good time passing people coming from the “Keep Fear Alive” rally hosted by John Stewart and Steven Colbert located on the Mall. Some of the signs, pins, and T-Shirts people had where pretty wacky. The people were nice.

We now arrive at the MCM Expo to pick up our race packets. As we reached the front of the booth a young Marine began yelling instructions at us. Sounds crazy, but it is part of the experience. Tomorrow’s race has about 35,000 people. Once complete, we head back to Mark’s house where I see Deirdre, Mark’s wife. I give her a gift to Carter from my wife Gina. “Glad to see you, Pat… How’s the knee?” Deirdre asks. I just smile. We go into the house to catch up, have a great meal, and drink lots of water before going to bed.

Race Day:

It’s now 4:45am. I am out of bed stretching, drinking Gatorade, and making final preparations to my gear. Mark and I leave the house around 6:30, to get a bite to eat and walk to the metro stop. Trains are a little slow and we make it to the starting line with about 30 seconds to spare.

BOOM! The cannon sounds. The Marine Corps Marathon has begun. The herd of people slowly moves forward. The disabled runners are 10 minutes ahead of us, occupying the point position, leading us to “victory.” As in past years there are countless T-Shirts representing charities and memorializing family members and friends who were taken by illness, victims in 9/11 or killed in combat. I look to Mark and say, “OK, let’s keep the pace no faster than 9:30 min/mile and see what happens. He says, “No problem, you set pace.” I think to myself, it’s nice to run with someone who’s in better shape than you. To Mark, it’s a just a long jog and an opportunity to catch since last year. I could not ask for a better running buddy to keep me out of trouble.

We do pretty well keeping pace for the first 12 miles. One of the mile markers was off, but overall we seemed to be on target. By the time we hit mile 15, I pulled us back to 10 min / mile pace. Something was wrong. My right knee was starting to become stiff right where I strained it a week ago. “Mark, let’s walk at the next water station. I have to figure something out.” We stop over to the side after grabbing some water. I stretch, assess the situation, and come up with a plan.

“Looks like the ambitious plan of coming in at 4 hours and 30 minutes like last year is out. If I run to a clock, and push too hard, I may not finish. Let’s feel our way through rest of the race.” Mark reminds me to not do anything stupid. We want to continue being able to do this for years to come. I agree.

The next 10 miles became a combination of walking and running. It was an exercise of total intuition except for the last 0.4 miles. On the left is Arlington Cemetery where each tombstone is a monument to bravery and sacrifice on behalf of the nation. We both know that walking is not the way to honor them. We decide to pick up the pace.

The last 0.2 miles of the course is the hardest. We go uphill toward the Iwo Jima Monument. What helps is that the crowd screaming for you with the announcer calling each of our names as if we were the first place finisher. People missing legs, arms, in race wheel chairs are all around grinding it out then giving each other high-fives when they finish.

Time: 4 hours 58 minutes. Not bad, I think. Too bad I feel like I am going to faint. As usual, Mark is there to pull me by the nose and kick me in the @$$ to make sure I don’t do anything stupid like die. J After the moment passes, I think to myself, “Something is different this year. I feel as if I am no longer heavy hearted. It’s as if I paid my dues and am more at peace.”

During the night (while taking breaks studying for a corporate finance midterm) I reflect on this feeling from after the race. The season’s over and you did it. You completed an Olympic Triathlon, a 70.3 mile Toughman, and now the Marine Corps Marathon. But more than training for a few races, a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I now feel worthy enough to lead again with both confidence and conviction. I have not felt this secure about who I am as a leader since my days as a Company Executive Officer in the Engineer Battalion.  The difference now is that my world is much bigger and far more complicated.

“What’s next?” I think to myself. I smile. I have no idea. Then a thought comes to mind. “Just follow the compass, Pat. Let it pull you due north.”

 

Beyond Race Day / The Biggest Lesson of 2010:

When I reflect on my experiences in 2010, the primary message has been to de-clutter your life and get back to principles. Phrases that have come up include:

“Openly love your God, your family, and your country.”

“Say what needs to be said and don’t let the moment pass.”

“Work to become the light you seek.”

“Find peace by harmonizing your decisions with natural laws. Adapt…”

“Be brave. Life is a temporary assignment. Eternity is forever.”

Unfortunately, I have not managed my time well enough to have moved them from scratch paper to journals. My plan is to write a 1 paragraph summary for each topic during the off months and publish them on Monday mornings throughout the 2011 race season, starting in June.

To close, I want to thank all of you for your emails, donations, and prayers over the season. Most of all, I want to thank my wife and two girls who continue to support me doing this. Over the past 20 years, I’ve put Gina through quite the roller coaster of emotions. Her patience and love sustains me. As for the girls, their innocence and desire to want me part of their lives has helped from being “gone” too long. Without the three of them, I would not be half the man I am today.

 

About the Freedom’s Light Newsletter

The Freedom’s Light Newsletter comes to a reader at no expense. Feel free to forward to others who would appreciate a bit of inspiration. All that we ask is that you consider stopping by our site at www.freedomslight.org to leave a small donation to any of our 4 charities listed.

The Freedom’s Light site also has free features to include motivational video clips, past journal entries, and the ability to leave a heartfelt message at our “Dedication Wall.” You can also sign up for future newsletters on the home page in the “Join Our Newsletter” section. The intent is to allow anyone to use the site to express their support for America’s best in their time of need.

All organizations associated with the site are 501(c) charities. All donations are tax deductible in accordance with IRS regulations. Every penny an individual donates through the Freedom’s Light website goes directly to the organization.

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