Always earned, never given

Always Earned Never GivenThis 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.

English: Section 31 at Arlington National Ceme...

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!


No thanks required


The weather is finally beginning to transition from the scalding heat of summer into more comfortable temperatures, and at my house that means that running season has once again begun. The hubby’s more casual runs have taken on a more desperate urgency as he trains to participate once again in the Marine Corp Marathon.

He’s run a few marathons before, but last year was his first time attending this particular event. The boys and I traveled with him to our nation’s capital to offer our support with plans to cheer him on along with thousands of other spectators.

The bombing in Boston had understandably made everyone a wee bit nervous and it was going to be nearly impossible to get anywhere near the course except by foot. Knowing that I was going to be in charge of wrangling both of our boys by myself all the way from the hotel to the finish line I had borrowed a double stroller. It unfortunately had a semi-broken wheel, a fact that I didn’t immediately recognize until we were already in DC. I chose to make do with what we had. My hubby wasn’t going to be the only one getting a workout that weekend.

The day before the big race, we had gone to check in with the officials and pick up the hubby’s race number. Security was in force and there were several lines you had to stand in. We actually stood in one line for close to ten minutes only to realize that it was a line to buy race related merchandise and had nothing what so ever to do with picking up the official bib and tracker.

We had managed to pick up most everything, but there was one more line required on the other side of the street. The boys by this point were starting to go a little stir crazy. I told the hubby to go ahead, that we’d catch up. Without the unwieldy stroller, he would make better time. He did, disappearing into the crowd.

I began making my way out, only to realize that the exit I had gone through took me out on top of a large staircase with no handicap accessible ramp. Going back in the way I came wasn’t an option, security check points wouldn’t allow it. I inched our way towards the first stair, stopping the stroller at the edge. I circled around to the front to ask my elder son to get up and walk down the steps so that I would be free to carry his brother. He decided this was a good time to be uncooperative.

I heard a voice over my shoulder ask if I needed help. I muttered an automatic negative response. I would be okay, I told myself, and returned my attention to my eldest son, who continued to show no signs of behaving. I must not have been very convincing. Suddenly hands appeared from every direction lifting the stroller and my sons up. Within a blink we were down at the bottom. I glanced around. Based on the number of hands, there had to have been at least four people, but they were gone before the words, thank you, had even left my mouth. I never even truly saw their faces.

I thought to myself, what just happened!?!

Then it hit me. I was surrounded by Marines.

Marine Corp Memorial Iwo Jima with Washington ...
Marine Corp Memorial Iwo Jima and finish line of the MCM distance (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have been very fortunate to never once been in a position to see Marines in action first hand. At least not when it mattered. So perhaps I might be excused for being surprised. However I realized then that I should not have expected anything else. These were people trained to overcome resistance, execute their mission with maximum speed and efficiency, and leave no one behind. Even more amazingly they were expected to do all of these things each day without thanks.

I will admit that my ego needs feeding. I crave acknowledgement of good work. I will perform a little victory dance after a job well done. I think to myself I’ve earned my praise, I deserve it, when the majority of my work consists of taping some keys at a computer. To be reminded that there are people who risk far more, requiring far less is extremely humbling.

I may not always agree with the when and how they are deployed, but I am grateful everyday that there are people like that out there. If one of my random helpers from last year’s race stumbles upon this post and remembers the lady with the double stroller on top of the stairs trying to do too much on her own, please accept my most sincere thanks even if you didn’t think it was required. You are inspiring.