Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Army Ten Miler- In Honor of Lance Corporal Julian Brennan

When I registered for the ATM, my goal was to have a great run experience in DC (similar to my Marine Corps Marathon experience last year), without having to run 26.2 again this year. As I registered and thought about the race, I felt compelled to write and ask my former art teacher if I could run the race in her son’s honor. Thya was the art teacher at our school for most of my ten years there, her son James was a year behind me, and daughter Shannon was my sister’s friend. Julian was there much younger brother who was often seen tagging along with an impish grin on his face.

“Little” Julian grew up, into an accomplished actor and triathlete. He was inspired by his Grandfather’s service in WWII, and joined the US Marine Corps in 2008. On January 24, 2009, Julian was killed in the Farah Province in Afghanistan.

Despite the fact that I hadn’t seen him in over ten years, I was honored that the Brennan family would allow me to run in his name. After four triathlons this summer and various short road races, I felt very different going into this event. At the expo (which was fairly empty when I went Friday afternoon), I actually got choked up. Just seeing all of the troops there, and knowing that giving us our packets or handing out T-shirts was much more benign than many of their usual work responsibilities. I made sure to thank as many as I could for their service.

Race day was again a different experience for me. My SI joint hurt from the moment I got up (a nagging injury in addition to knee issues), so I wasn’t sure how things would go. My mantra to myself was that this day wasn’t for me. It was to carry Julian’s name for 10 miles and finish no matter how long it took. In the start corral, it amazed me how tens of thousands of runners can suddenly be silent as the national anthem is played. I had Julian’s name and picture on my shirt, and several people asked me about him as we were waiting to start. I explained his story, and that his brother James will be running the Marine Corps Marathon in his honor later this month.

The SI pain got worse, not better, but I pushed hard. I did have a time goal in mind (under 90 min), but again had a bigger goal of just finishing. Just when I thought I felt defeated, I would see a wounded veteran competing and remember that this is just a Sunday run for me. So many people there have sacrificed so much more, and so many continue to serve our country. I wish I could have paused at every water stop to thank each of the servicemen and women for their service to our country. It just overwhelms me the commitment that these individuals make.

The only saving grace on the run was the downhill at the very end. I tried to pick up the pace at the finish, but it was way too crowded. At the risk of sounding dramatic, I got to the finishers area and started hobbling. My knee and SI were killing me, but I had accomplished my goal. (Unfortunately, ice and ice packs were in short supply and I figured there were others who needed me more). While happy about the time, my bigger goal was to recognize Julian’s sacrifice and I hope that I honored him appropriately.

The race overall met my expectations in terms of a really inspiring event through the streets of Washington. That being said, it was significantly more crowded than the MCM. I expended a significant amount of energy trying to get around people (and I was in the 8-8:59 min/mile corral, so I should have been a slow one). The water stops were hazardous with all the cups, and the last hundred meters was packed. They did have the biggest sea of Porta-Johns I have ever seen at the start/finish area, and plenty of water/snacks. Despite the congestion, it was a great event, and I am glad I competed.

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