This weekend, we traveled to Washington DC as my husband was participating once again in the Marine Corps Marathon. Last year it had been a challenge to entertain my boys on my own for those several hours. This year, my mom offered to join us. I gratefully accepted thinking, reinforcements have arrived!
The race finishes in Arlington National Cemetery at the Iwo Jima Monument. As participants complete the course, a Marine hands them a medal signifying that they are a finisher. Then the racers are funneled through a gated walkway out of the cemetery and into a street festival where they can celebrate.
A marathon takes several hours to complete, even if you are faster than the average runner. By the time the hubby neared the final stretch, my boys had lost all interest in watching other people run by and had begun looking for other means to amuse themselves such as running off into crowds, my 5yo spearing his brother’s lunch with a stick before his brother could eat it, my 2yo kicking (and screaming at) the fence, or both becoming one with black street dirt. I had hoped to catch up with some old friends while we were in town, but now all I wanted to do was get the kids back to the home.
A couple approached us. They had recognized my sons from the evening before and wanted to know how everything was going. Oh dear, I thought to myself, my kid’s antics were gaining the attention of random passersby.
I received a text message from the hubby letting me know he was done and that he was “trying to get out.” I knew he was. I had been tracking his progress all morning with two smart phone apps. I wrote him back, “Try harder :).” I can be delightfully supportive sometimes.
We could have taken the Metro (subway) back to our hotel. But instead we chose to walk back to our hotel via the cemetery. As we made our way through the gates, I overheard a race official announce that spectators were not to enter the track and could not run those final yards in support of their racer. I guess some people had been even less patient to be reunited with their loved ones than my boys had been. He said, “we love you, and we are glad you are here, but you have not earned the right to enter the track.”
Even though I was not on the race course, I thought to myself, I beg to differ with you. I might not have run, but the last several hours had hardly been easy. Nor had been the several days of solo parenting leading up to this event that I experienced while the hubby was out training. I had my share of tears, exhaustion, and aching muscles. The only difference is I didn’t get a number on my shirt for my effort.
The path descended down a hill. To our right were rows upon rows of tidy, uniform gravestones. Monuments towered ahead and to our left. It was an amazing view and put the last several hours back into needed perspective.
Marathon medals are advertised as always earned and never given. They are earned through hard work and sacrifice. But in this case, the marathon poster has it backwards. I might have sacrificed my mornings in support of my hubby, but we were surrounded by the evidence of those strangers who had given more for my family than I ever have. And now it falls on us to deserve that gift.
To that very nice couple at the fence, we made it home and are quite fine now. My boys should be back to their adorable selves shortly. To those that serve or have served, thank you!