How Did I get Myself Into This?
After completing the Bataan Memorial Death March last year, I thought I’d be one and done. It’s an amazing, moving, meaningful race, but it’s also very challenging and very taxing. I figured, “Alright, that’s done.” In my mind, it was checked off, never to be run again.
Then I joined Wear Blue: Run to Remember. Each week we would talk about forming a team. And each week, there wasn’t much of a consensus. “Sure, I’ll do it,” I told the group knowing in the back of my mind we’d never get the 5 total people needed to make an official team. We know how this story ends – people who thought they wouldn’t be able to were able, people who were on the fence decided to go for it, and we ended up with a full team plus even more Wear Blue members going for it!
The Morning Of
After hitting up the expo on Saturday, I was really looking forward to race day. (I had been kind of dreading it before that!) Groggy after a bad night’s sleep, I woke up at 3 am. I was ready and out of the house less than an hour after that. I wondered if the other people I saw on the road were just waking up like us or hadn’t gone to bed yet from the night before. The drive with easy with no issues, just like last year. We made great time and parked with ease. We even happened to have been parked right by Julie! Huzzah! All of us hung out in Stephen’s truck discussing our nerves. Somehow that also included everyone else mocking my “mom” sweats. They were keeping me warm! But once Stephen referred to me as Sheila (my mom’s name), I knew I had to ditch them. (No offense mom!)
We ditched the truck and bounded out toward the starting area. Our Wear Blue crew met up before the start for a circle. We all said the names of people that we were running in honor of. This is something we always do at Wear Blue. Normally, we read the names of people who have died in action on that week over the years since 9/11. Each week, I save the names by putting them in a special box on my dresser. The day before the race, I typed them up and added the names of those I personally run for and put them on my backpack. I was honored to carry those names alongside the one I picked up from Medals of Honor. I carried their names on my back and on my heart the entire day. This was the meaning behind it all.
We shifted over into our corral. By this time, we’d already been standing outside shivering for a while, and we seemed to just get colder and colder. The opening ceremonies began, and I tried to focus on the gravity of the day instead of how temporarily chilly I was. A number of people spoke including the Ambassador from The Philippines. The most touching part was the Roll Call. The speaker said the names of any survivors present, who triumphantly shout, “Here!” The names of the Bataan veterans who have died in the last year were read followed by silence. I definitely cried. Toward the end of the opening ceremony, a helicopter flew over. Stephen was unimpressed but I thought it was badass. With that the day, the ceremony was over.
The Bataan veterans were moved to the starting line and the wounded warriors followed. Our corral was one of the earlier ones and we pretty quickly made our way to the start. It takes a while to actually cross the starting line because the Bataan veterans shake the hands of every participant. It’s a really cool honor and worth the wait. The sun was finally appearing as I made my way to the front of the line. I was able to personally thank the Bataan veterans for their service and sacrifice.
It was 7:30. I had been up for 4 and a half hours already. I was cold and tense and tired. All that I had left to do was walk 26.2 miles…