Why I Run (written in October 2013):
My wife and I came from our home in Southern California to the interesting city/state of Washington DC, so I could run my 5th Marine Corps Marathon. We arrived a few days early so I could adjust to the three hour time difference and so we headed south for a few days to visit family. My wife has family that lives in the Richmond, Virginia area and we stayed with her uncle.
As part of my adjustment efforts I tried to run every morning and this morning I got up and headed for the woods near his house. On the other side of the woods I had to follow a road for a couple of miles before coming back to the woods again. This morning’s run was dark (05:30) and back East they do not have shoulders along their highways. It is road and then nothing, so I found a hole while avoiding being hit by a car and fell. Along with the normal cuts and bruises, I also broke my left ankle. I did not think I would or could run because of the pain. Yet I have spent hundreds of hours training and thousands of dollars to participate in this marathon, I kept moving. Finally making it back to my wife’s uncles home I packed my ankle in ice and wrapped it with KT tape then keep moving to reduce the swelling.
The race day was the next morning: Before coming to this year’s marathon I decided this would be my last Marine Corps Marathon. I no longer had a reason to run it. My son who started me running marathons five years go graduated from West Point and was now an Infantry Officer in Afghanistan. So I dedicated this last Marine Corps Marathon to honor son LT Erik Pedersen and another dear hero/friend, Gunner Bill Crowell.
Prior to leaving for Washington DC I found out that Gunner Crowell was suffering from Congestive Heart Failure and was at a rehab hospital. I am going to tell you a little about this unsung hero. He enlisted in the Marine Corps along with his father (who also served as a Marine in WWI and fought in the famous battle of Belleau Wood and was discharged from the Corps after the war) together they went through basic training and eventually they fought at the battle of Iwo Jima. During this battle, Gunner Crowell lost his father (his remains where never found) and Gunner Crowell was also wounded in the hip.
He spent the rest of the war in rehab and pushed himself to be it to be put back in the Corps to fight again in Korea, where he was wounded a second time. He later served two more tours in Vietnam. He has been awarded two purple hearts and a two bronze stars and I think a silver star. He served 38 years in the US Marine Corps and achieved the highest rank of Warrant Officer and the title of “Gunner” given to him by the President of the United States.
So on race day as my wife accompanied me (like she has for the past five years) as I hobbled with her around the Pentagon to the starting line of the race near Arlington Cemetery. It was dark at 5:00 in the morning, and while we walked I formed a plan with her. I would run for at least 6 miles where we could meet and then head back to our hotel in Crystal City.
But this year the race changed part of the race course, so instead of going up and around Georgetown, we headed directly to Georgetown the up through a park and back, so I missed the meeting place where I planned to meet my wife.
Then the second change to the course. Just past the Kennedy Center heading out on the east end of the Potomac Park there was something new…
Over the next couple of miles of name course place a sacred Honor Mile with pictures of all the fallen in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, with each picture was accompanied an Honor Guard holding an American Flag and the Service Flag of the fallen. But what really affected me was the many people, family members, fellow service members who served with these fallen heroes, they stopped and many knelt down next to the pictures (most were crying) other silently stood at attention or solemnly bowed their heads.
I do not think I have ever been so touched. Hundreds of pictures, honor guards, and mourners; how could I stop now? With tears in my own eyes I kept going.
It was almost to mile 15 when we finished the Honor Mile and I had no where to go to be picked up by my wife that was shorter then what I had to run. So again, I kept running and eventually got to the 14th Street Bridge.
At the end of the 14th Street Bridge (mile 21) there was the usual beer, and I was tempted, really tempted to indulge in some extra carbs. But what saved my life was a new Aid Station in Crystal City. That station had DONUT HOLES!! Chocolate donuts, glazed donuts, sugar donuts… I was in heaven; I filled my mouth and my shirt and pockets with dozens of donut holes and I ate and ate them. I was in sugar heaven.
When I was finished with my donut holes, I was around the Pentagon at mile 25, only 1.2 miles to go, so I pushed on and on.
I finished with my slowest time of 5:52:48 but I finished. I met my wonderful wife at the finish area and she helped me back to the hotel where we prepared for the horrible flight home the next morning at 6:00 a.m. Not moving in the plane for many hours was worse than the run. That flight almost killed me.
But that is another story.