Friday, September 12, 2008

Patriot's Run

The Patriot's Run here in my hometown of Olathe, Kansas, is an event that is truly unique.

The race itself is held on 9-11 to commemorate the events of 9-11 and pay tribute to those who lost there lives and those service men and women who help protect our country today.

Today I write almost with a tear in my eye, I'm so choked up over the entire experience. I'm proud of my hometown for putting on this event, proud of my own personal accomplishment, and most of all, proud to be an American.

The event itself begins at Noon on 9-11 and ends promptly at 9:11 pm. The course is a 3/4 mile track around a small park in the city. The idea is to run as many laps as you please. Come and run 5 laps; fine. Want to do a marathon? Fine, complete the 36+ laps. Want to start at 3pm rather than noon? Fine. Want to run for 9 hours 11 minutes? Fine. It is literally, a create your own event. Each lap is timed and recorded. My goal today was to try and get in the marathon distance.

  • The morning began with the Pledge of Allegiance, the National Anthem and then all the runners made their way from the picnic shelter, through a human tunnel of servicemen and out to the starting line. We are all led by Jose Nebrida who will be carrying the 'Flag of Honor', an American flag which is embroidered with all the names of the 9-11 victims in its stripes. Jose is a proud American who immigrated here from the Philippines when he was 19 and a veteran of 160 some marathons. If you don't feel inspired by all this, you'd better check your heart. Seriously folks, I'm choking up just writing about it.

This time of year in Kansas we could have easily had temperatures near 90, but today we were spared. Race time temps were around 70 and stayed there all day. We had an off and on light rain throughout the day which was really a blessing. The wet conditions did not dampen the spirit of the runners or the volunteers.

Jay (Olathe Running Club President) proudly waves the Flag of Honor

I started out running with my friend Joe, a fellow Olathe Running Club member. His goals were similar to mine, as he is hoping to finish his first ever official marathon today. We started out a bit ambitious; running the first 5 or 6 miles under a 10 minute pace, but I knew I would need to slow down. I really haven't even done much training lately, with only 1 long run (the half marathon in Chicago) since my last marathon in July. Also, somewhere in the back of my mind lay these thoughts about doing an Ultra today. So, I reign myself back some and get more into a 10:30 pace for the next 10 or so miles.

One of my fears about this course would be the boredom of running the same loop over and over and over. Somehow, I never really felt that bored; it was always encouraging to pass by the aid/timing station where your bib was scanned to record each lap. The volunteers were so friendly and supportive and it was exciting to see the lap count continue to increase. So far, I'm feeling decent and somewhere around 15-20 miles or so I think I made the decision to do more than the marathon. With that in mind, I begin to start mixing in some walking with my running.

During lap 36, which is the final lap to complete the marathon, I had the honor of taking the Flag of Honor from Jose and running with it as I completed goal #1. This gave me just a remarkable sense of joy. Now my thoughts are on completing my first ever Ultra. I figure about 8 more laps will give me the approx distance of a 50K, so that becomes the next goal. I'm now running about 3 laps to each one I walk, but I'm certainly not worried about time. I just want to finish. Off and on I meet back up with Joe and he has completed his marathon and has also decided to continue on.

After another hour or so of running, I've lost track of my lap count, but am quite sure I've done what I need for a 50K. I've been really inspired all day and still don't feel like quitting. I've got to be honest here, folks. I've led a pretty charmed life in comparison to what the 9-11 victims and their families went through. I've never had to serve my country in the armed forces. The least I can do is honor these people by enduring only a fraction of their pain by completing this entire run. So then was the decision made to keep going for the entire 9 hours and 11 minutes.

The last couple hours were very difficult. I was now doing the run/walk mixture at about 50%. It was dark and few people were left out on the track. But, somehow, I was able to make it all the way to 9:11.

Final count:

  • 55 Laps

  • 40.04 miles

  • 10th place overall for total number of laps

The smile on my face covered up any of the pain that was felt in my legs, my feet, my back, well, just about every part of my body. But with the help and motivation from people I've never known, I am now one Proud American.


Photos courtesy of Dick Ross at