Whether you are running around Burke Lake or the C&O Canal, this month, more than 14,000 D.C. area runners out there with you are taking the final steps of training for the Marine Corps Marathon (MCM). Each runner you pass has their own motivation and inspiration for lacing up a pair of running shoes.
For some runners, motivation for training is found through their own personal heroes. Karen Dietrich, 42, of Leesburg, Va., and her sister, Michelle Cunningham, 43, of Prattville, Ala., are two such people. Both married to military officers, the sisters wanted to pay tribute to the military members they have known, including former Marine, Michael. R. Horrocks.
On Sept. 11, 2001, Horrocks was the co-pilot on United Airlines Flight 175 that was hijacked and flew into the World Trade Center. “Michael’s dedication to his family, and his country inspires our family daily to be better people,” explained Cunningham. “This is just our small way of honoring his memory and supporting all members of the Armed Forces for their daily sacrifice to our country.”
Dietrich’s training has included weekday morning runs around town, weekend long runs on the W&OD trail and various local races including the Rockville Half Marathon this month. While she and Cunningham do not expect to lead the pack on race day, they will proudly wear red, white and blue pins to remind them of their inspiration.
OTHER LOCAL RUNNERS are participating to overcome personal challenges. Frederick, Md.’s Marién Bossaller, 34, has been a recreational runner for nearly 20 years but she has never completed more than a 10K. Bossaller, legally blind with no vision in her right eye and 20/2000 in her left, is in training for the MCM.
For Bossaller, long runs sometimes mean more than sore muscles and ravishing hunger. Often, her runs involve scrapes and bruises.
“I run either early in the morning or later at night so traffic isn't so bad, “ said Bossaler of her sometimes challenging runs. “Sundays and Wednesdays are tough, because people put their trash out on the street and I have a lot of obstacles.”
She is careful to choose flat sections of the C&O Canal to avoid stray objects. Her shorter runs often include running through her neighborhood on straight streets that are half a mile in length.
“I'm not letting my disability be an excuse,” said Bossaller. “I will continue to train until race day. I am determined to cross the finish line.”
Josh Stevens, 30, of Triangle, Va. is an active duty Marine who has Type 1 diabetes. Of the more than 18 million people with diabetes, roughly 5 percent have Type 1. Stevens can’t just lace up his shoes and go for a run. He must regularly ensure his glucose levels are within an acceptable range so he does not pass out while he runs. Then he carefully plans how far he will go on each run and how much energy he expects to expend to know if he’ll need to carry power gel or a snack to maintain his energy safely.
Unlike most runners who can treat themselves to a sugary snack after a run or a big meal of carbohydrates before a race, Stevens must carefully calculate and balance the sugars in each bite to maintain his health.
Though running is a part of his regular Marine training, he has been logging extra miles towards his running goals since Christmas 2005. To train for his first marathon, Stevens joins other Marines for training runs on Marine Corps Base Quantico before work most weekdays.
“I am going to run just like I do at 5 a.m. Monday through Friday,” said Stevens, “at ease and to finish the route. Maybe a conversation here and there and a great memory at the end.”
STILL OTHER RUNNERS in the Virginia area are running for a cause. Arlington native Dane Rauschenberg, 30, is running one marathon a weekend for fifty two weeks to raise money for operating expenses, special projects, building improvements and endowments for his cause, L’Arche Mobile. He hopes to raise $52,000 by the end of the year. The Marine Corp Marathon will be his 43rd marathon.
For some, the mere thought of being able to train in Virginia is inspiration. Maj. Megan McClung is more than 6,000 miles from the Arlington start line. She, along with nearly 150 deployed members of the U.S. military, are in training for their own marathon, the Marine Corps Marathon Forward. They will be the first to participate in the 26.2-mile satellite race that offers deployed service members throughout Iraq the chance to gather in the Al Anbar province to earn their place as a Marine Corp Marathon finisher. For those like McClung, training includes sweating it out in the heat of the Iraqi summer, for her own test of endurance in expected 80-degree weather on race day.
So on your next run, whether it’s a few miles to stay in shape or the final long run of your Marine Corp Marathon training, be sure to smile, nod or even say to other runners you pass. You never know what might be motivating them to keep going.