The chapter presidents are the pulse of the organization... they create the local communities that breathe wear blue. They mark the courses, rally the runners, generate the volunteers, find the donors, forge the local partnerships, and show up every Saturday, rain, snow, hail, or shine, and do what we do...run, honor, remember. They motivated their communities to take on a larger mission, the 38th Annual Marine Corps Marathon, and led the way for 26.2 miles with their own steps. Thank you Beth Stitt, Rachel Elizalde-Powell, and Curtis Brake. It is truly because of your selfless commitment to honoring the fallen and building meaningful running communities, that wear blue continues to exist and thrive. wear blue is successful because of you. Keep doing great work.
Below, these incredible leaders share their reflections from the Marine Corps Marathon course:
Beth Stitt, Fort Bragg Chapter President
I ran the 2013 MCM in blue to honor and remember Captain Todd R. Bracy, who died on active duty in 2005. Todd and I went to college together at Norwich University (Military College of Vermont). I asked Todd's widow for permission I received this heartfelt response and I knew that I was truly running the marathon for our fallen, the fighting and the families: "The shirt looks fantastic! I can't wait for the girls to get out of school so I can share the picture with them. Sometimes I think their dad is this not real person. Tess has real memories of him, but Tate doesn't. It's great when someone other than myself or their Grandparents speak of Todd. It helps to make him a real person in their eyes. Thank you SO much for helping to keep him in their hearts. It means more to me than I can really express". Utilizing this motivation and encouragement, I knew the day would be a great experience.
The weather was cold but clear and I was truly exhilarated by my running partners and a wear blue remembrance circle. I could not wait to get to mile 12! I had worked the memorial mile in June at the Rock and Roll marathon in Seattle and knew what to expect - or at least I thought I did because the scene literally took my breath away. There was a blue poster announcing wear blue - then as far as the eye could see were the faces of the fallen and in the distance the flags blowing. I moved as close as I could to see each face and touch each poster. I saw Corey Jenkins poster and couldn't go any further, as I met Corey's parents and brother at the memorial mile this in June. I knew how happy they would be to see him here being honored. Tears flowing, I stepped off the curb to keep running and a fellow runner, not in blue, put their hand in mine and said "thank you" to me. I turned smiled and was too choked to answer at all. I wanted to say but could not - please don't thank me, thank them. She held my hand for a few more steps and pushed on. These moments always catch me slightly off guard, but encourage and motivated me even more to spread this sea of blue. When I got to those full size flags of the living memorial - it was overwhelming to hear the joyous chorus of cheering for me and mywear blue shirt! Volunteers I knew that had traveled from Fort Bragg
to be here to hold flags and yell out my name. I didn't want mile 12 to end, but I knew I had Todd pushing me to the finish.
Rachel Elizalde-Powell, JBLM Chapter Co-President
To use the word “emotional” to sum up the Marine Corps Marathon would simply come up flat. Flat because it was so much more than that. Honor, support, breath-taking, heart breaking...these are all the emotions, and more, of what I have experienced over the last 6 years since receiving notice that my brother was killed in action in Iraq. My life has turned into a marathon. From the moment I wake up until the moment I sleep, I think of Adrian. I also think of Mike Tully, Brandon Maggart, John Hallett, Alfred Bernardy, Brian Bradshaw, of all of the men and women who’s names have become a part of my family even though I have never met them. When I say their names out loud, they have faces that show up on a projector screen in my head. I think of their families and feel fortunate to see their children grow and thrive. I feel like I know them through the stories I have been told.
As the morning started in DC. and the anticipation of the race started moving through everyone, I began my morning the same way as I always do for a race. I ask Adrian not to laugh at me because I’m slow and tell him that I love him. I touch my bracelet and we start our journey together. Once all of our runners were together for our Circle of Remembrance, my heart swelled to see other runners stop to watch and in some of their faces you could see that they were trying to understand what emotion they should express for a group that was proudly honoring loved ones who had made the ultimate sacrifice.
Runners paired off and found the pacing group to stay with for the race and then the cannon blew. I wanted so badly to truly feel and burn the images of the marathon in my mind. I wanted to absorb every second of it, and I did. “Go Blue!” I can’t even begin to count the times I heard it and said it myself out on the course. I was running with my family. That family that has given me wings when sometimes I really don’t want to fly. My family that never leaves anyone behind. Mywear blue family.
I knew when mile 12 was close. I knew right where it would be. I knew what to expect. What I didn’t know, was that a man would come up to the three of us running together and ask who Brandon and Adrian were. He was a happy, strong runner in an Air Force t-shirt who had been behind us and was reading our shirts. When he found out that Adrian was my brother and that Brandon was the husband of our friend back home, his face fell. His shoulders slumped and he was visibly saddened. He reached out, touched my shoulder, told me he was sorry and thanked us for the sacrifices made. He thanked us for sharing with him and continued running. I knew he would be getting to mile 12 soon too...
Running through the wear blue mile can never really be explained. It can only be felt and seen. We have been fortunate to have photos taken there that have captured such raw emotions that people have felt. I, for one try hard to fight the tears knowing how hard it hurts to run and cry at the same time. And just like I promised to Adrian, I remain strong..for a little while. Until I see his picture and know his flag and Mike Tully’s flag will be right next to each other just as they were on the day they died.
At mile 25.5, the Air Force man was at my side again. He looked down at me and said, “I will get you to mile 26. Adrian and Brandon will get you to the .2” He didn’t lie.
I think my 26.2 miles gave a fellow runner the opportunity to have his own experience. I hope it fired up a projector in his mind and now he will see faces that go with the names of our fallen.
Curtis Brake, JBLM Chapter Co-President
I was going back to Washington D.C. to run my second Marine Corps Marathon, which happened to be my first ever marathon just one year prior. I was excited yet nervous. Can I beat my time from last year? Did I train enough? But every time I had those thoughts, I quickly knew it was much less about me and much more about why I was running and who I was running for. And, just as much, it was who I was running with. I was running with so many amazing people who I am proud to call my very close friends – all who share the same passion of running for a bigger purpose. I had a mix of emotions on race-day as I slipped on the armbands which bore the names of SGT Brandon Maggart, SFC Adrian Elizalde and SSG Michael Simpson , and as I pinned Mike’s picture to the back of my singlet. I was extremely honored to run for them, but overcome with the feelings of why I had to run for them. After calling out their names in the Circle of Remembrance, it was time to make our way to the start line. We watched overhead as several parachutists descended through the sky with the U.S. flag – it was a great way to precede the start of the race. Next was the blast from the howitzer – the marathon had started, but it also signaled the beginning of accomplishing our mission. It was packed. Thousands upon thousands were running – all for different reasons. But we were running to honor the service and sacrifice of our American military. And, as I was in the 12th mile of the marathon, I saw them – I saw the posters. I was at the wear blue mile. Don’t run too fast, I told myself – you need say the name of each serviceman and woman; you need to touch each poster, you need to ground yourself on why you are running. My emotions of sorrow quickly changed to excitement as I came up to amazing volunteers who were holding the flags of the fallen. I was excited to see many people that I knew and to thank them for volunteering their time. It was a time to celebrate the amazing lives of the fallen heroes. And, then it was time to finish the final half of the marathon. Of course I would check my watch from time to time, but it was looking at my armbands and feeling the picture on my back that would propel me to the end. My time no longer mattered. What mattered was that we accomplished our mission – together! I know I wouldn’t have been able to do this, or run my first marathon just one year ago, if it weren’t for the amazing organization of wear blue: run to remember and the even more amazing people who are a part of it!