**Some pictures of Matt running at the Saint Paul Saints 4 July Game…yeah, I know they’re kind of small…click on the image to bring it up in size. The one to the right is of Tom, Rachel and I on the field prior to speaking to the spectators…
23 July 2010 ~
Grand Island Trail Marathon in a week, TransRockies Run, 113 miles in 6 days, in a month. My left knee is coming along, not 100%, but close. After that, a long plane ride across the Pacific…
Then, on the 4th of July, Team WWP will be at the Saint Paul Saints game in a big way. There’s going to be a pregame ceremony with a ceremonial flyover, some wounded veterans and combat veterans in attendance, the Saints will wear special jerseys for auction…and I’ll be running during the game to earn donations…yep, you heard that right, I’ll be running from the first pitch to the last out (really hoping there aren’t extra innings!). Each inning, the announcer will let the crowd know how far I’ve gone and how much money we’ve raised…and, between some innings I’ll even do a lap of the field. I hope we can bring in some good donations that night ~ we’re so close to that $100,000 mark!
It’s hard to put into words what the Comrades Marathon means to me. For starters, it was one of my sources of inspiration for Team Wounded Warrior Project. In fact, if you read back to some of my first blog postings, they include the Comrades in multiple instances. For some of you that are new to Team WWP, let me briefly bring you up to speed on this amazing event. After World War I, a South African Veteran named Vic Clapham came home a different person having endured a 2,700 forced march across German East Africa as a prisoner of war. He wanted to honor his friends and “comrades” that had been killed and wounded in The Great War. So he founded a race, the first of it’s kind as it became the world’ first ultramarathon distance event. The race constitution states that the race is “to celebrate mankind’s spirit over adversity.”
But something’s changed. I feel better. More hopeful. Realizing more that two sub-par races are not the end of the world. And, getting back to my point, three things brought my gaze back to a motivated.
1. I saw the most amazing challenged athlete at the Boston Marathon. He was a young guy, maybe mid-20s, with some sort of birth defect in both legs that forced him to use a stablizing walker. That’s not the amazing part – his legs were malformed such that he had to do the race in a sort of backwards/side shuffle. I passed him going up a hill at about mile 8 (or so), and thought to myself “this is why you’re here – quit worrying about yourself!” All in one instance, I was energized to push forward. I know he wasn’t one of those that will benefit from the WWP, but he’s someone that is representative of the people that we’re trying to help. He was amazing and proved to me that the human spirit really can do anything if given a chance. I always fall back on one of my favorite quotations from the Count of Monte Cristo, “Don’t you know that anything is for sale to the man that is willing to pay the price?”
2. The second is not very happy, I’m afraid to report. The Veteran’s Administration recently reported an estimated 950 veterans receiving care attempt suicide each month, and that 18 veterans (including those beyond their care) commit suicide each month. When you couple that with the suicide epidemic in the Army (our numbers have grown signifcantly, each year, for 6 years) – it terrifies me. I don’t know what to say about this one. I mean, I have a lot to say, not much of it would help the problem. But it truly scares me. Primarily because I know how dark you can feel after a combat deployment. It’s not every truly happy…there’s feelings of regret, remorse, sadness, survivor’s guilt…a sense that nothing you’ll ever do will matter as much to the world as your role while deployed. They weigh heavily on the soul. I can say that, although I never really contemplated ending my life – I can see how other soldiers would in moments of irrational weakness. Anyhow, there isn’t much of a point here other than to say the report shocked my system and was another reminder that we’ve got a long way to go as we help our wounded veterans.
3. The last is a race I did for the Army this Wednesday – the ACLI Capital Challenge. It’s a charity event, for which all the proceeds go to the DC Special Olympics, a 3 mile run near the Thomas Jefferson Memorial. The Executive Branch, the Legislative Branch, Judicial Branch, and the media all put together teams of 5 – for example, I ran for Team Army Strong (our team captain was Major General McConville – the Army Chief of Legislative Liason). There were about 15 Senators there, 40 some Members of Congress…Senator John Thune just edged out Senator Scott Brown, for example. I finished 6th overall, about 16 minutes, and our team finished 2nd overall (just behind the FBI’s team, very close). While there, I got to meet Meb Keflezighi – the American Silver medalist in the marathon in 2004, he won the NYC Marathon last year (first American since 1982) – it was a huge honor. We talked briefly about his recovery from Boston (he finished 4th) and he profusely thanked our Army team for our service to the nation. What a great guy…of course, we thanked him in return for bringing honors to our country for his athletic achievements.
These three things…(good things come in threes, right?) brought my mind back to the positive end of the scale. Which, frankly, is something I’ll need going towards the Comrades Marathon. I’ve started preparation in earnest for Comrades, and I fully believe that I’ll be ready to go come May 30th. I’ve never done something like this (56 miles, in heat, on pavement, in South Africa), but, as far as physical preparation goes, I’ll be as ready as I can be. I’ve got some long miles ahead (90-100+ per week) that I think will pay fitness dividends next month. My original goal of a silver medal there (under 7 hours, 30 minutes, an 8 minute per mile pace) will be refined through training these next three weeks. I’ll start my rest period around 16 May – and ease up as I get closer to race day.
My greatest hope is that this hard work and effort will inspire you to support America’s severely wounded heroes. I promise the effort will be there, if nothing else. Please consider a donation and talk to others about doing the same!
All my best & Keep moving forward, Matt