After a week away from running (and really any athletic activity at all), I was honestly a bit apprehensive about the run. Towards the end of the week, the weather report was calling for major storms on Friday and Saturday, separate from Hurricane Bill which was to be 400 miles off the coast of NJ by Saturday afternoon. As I drove to my parents' for dinner on Friday night, I could see dark black clouds rolling in and we all expected the storms to converge on the area with a bang.
But no. Instead, only more and more humidity rolled in.
I had friends coming in Friday night and Saturday morning (two of whom would also be running with me), and we woke up to bright sun on Saturday, which eventually gave way to clouds. An afternoon spent on the beach with a nice breeze gave me hope that the run would be cool enough and that the migraine that had started on Friday afternoon would dissipate, but neither of those things happened. I kept thinking about the active duty and reserve airmen and soldiers who had been running through NJ since 6am that morning and hoping that the humidity hadn't been too hard on them. We would be meeting up with runners around mile 75, where they would be placing a mile marker for 1st Lt. Michael Cleary, Hamilton class of 2003 and the inspiration for the first national Run for the Fallen held last year. Any time I thought about how little I've been running lately, or how humid it would be, I just remembered that we'd be running for military men and women who can't run anymore. After the run, I got to go home to my nice air conditioned house, where I could take a shower and rest, while these service members don't get to go home again. Running a couple of miles was the least I could do.
Around 5:30, we headed out to where I thought mile 75 was and it turned out I'd mapped it just past there (I'm legendary for getting lost, so it's really a miracle we found them at all). But the important thing was the run itself, so when we saw the two-man team running with their flags and a police escort, along with Warriors' Watch, we joined up. As the run's organizer, Bubba Beason, later told the paper, the "humidity along Route 9 [was] so thick you could cut it with a knife." It felt like running through a sauna. But it was worth it. We stopped at the first mile marker (for us, mile 76 for the overall run) to place a flag and card in remembrance of Spec. Gil Mercado of Paterson, NJ.
As the runners headed out again, we met up with Bubba (known in my first post as "The guy in charge, who said they'd love to have me") who had been in the first team of runners that morning, and was following the runners in a pickup. He thanked me for doing this, which made me laugh, because it felt like such a small gesture in return for the gratitude I feel for our military, especially those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. I think he could also tell I was already getting overheated, because he offered to give me a ride up to the next mile marker. So did another nice woman escorting the runners. But I felt like I would be cheating - I was running such a small distance, how could I give up and accept a ride?
We were a little ways behind the other runners at that point, and after a few more minutes. I was really struggling. I told my friends to go on ahead while I walked for a few minutes. I alternated running and walking to the next mile marker, in remembrance of Pfc. Bruce Miller Jr. of Orange, NJ. I didn't make it in time for the flag placing, but I was determined to make it to the next mile marker, even if I had to crawl there.
A few of the passing motorists honked as they passed and there were a few people gathered at each of the mile markers, which I thought was great. I wished more people had been there to remember the fallen, but at least there are some who never forget. And since Bubba's planning to continue doing this year after year, I'm sure it will only build on itself!
The last mile I ran (& walked) was certainly the slowest, but I pushed myself (I made it almost 3 miles total). I missed the flag placing at the final mile marker we stopped at, in remembrance of Sgt. Trista Moretti of South Plainfield, NJ and I couldn't have been happier to have been a part of the run. Overall the run raised $16,000 and my friends and family generously donated $190 of that. After we left the runners, they continued on to Toms River, where they stopped for the night before running the next day north to Holmdel. The run ended with a 10k that other volunteers could register for and run, capped off with a ceremony at the NJ Vietnam Veterans' Memorial. For the full story and photos, check out the Asbury Park Press. I would have loved to participate in the final five miles, but the migraine finally did me in and landed me in bed for two days (hence the late post).
Continuing Run for the Fallen in NJ this year was a great thing that Bubba and his fellow runners accomplished and I'm so grateful that I could be a little part of it.