As this blog is being posted I have started my fifth and final Laguna Hills Memorial Day Half Marathon. On this Memorial Day, your humble blogger has left the dirt, cactus, rattlesnakes and dry heat for the mean streets of Newport Beach, CA. I started running this race five years ago after seeing they would be doing a race series, where over the next five years they would be dedicating each race to a different branch of the military. It would culminate with anyone doing all five consecutive years being rewarded the Commander in Chief Medal. As you know, the only thing us runners like better than medals are cooler medals. I believed this medal was the catalyst for me driving down here year after year. Then I lined up and saw them. The eyes. Then I remembered, the eyes were why I was here. The medal is cool and something I’ll cherish, but the eyes are something I’ll never forget.
The city of Laguna Hills, does something amazing during Memorial Day and during this race. They line their streets with vibrant color pictures of the fallen. On each light pole is the face of someone who made the ultimate sacrifice in the name of this country. As I run, I can’t help but look up into those faces and those eyes. The fallen don’t just look down on me, they look through me. They burn a hole into my soul. They remind me not only why I’m here, they remind me how I’m here. As I run the first three miles, I try to pace myself. It’s an impossible task; the pictures shoot a surge of adrenaline into me that I can’t control. My pace is only one thing I unsuccessfully hold back. Tears are the other. As I run this race for the final time, I will be doing something I’ve never done. Cherishing it. Truly cherish this race and this day for what it is about. It’s not about mile paces, cadences or heart rates. It’s about those faces and what they represent. It’s about 1st Calvary 2-7 Cav’s SFC Haynes, one of smartest and most remarkable leaders I ever had the honor of meeting. It’s about Army National Guard Sgt. Eric W. Slebodnik. My basic training/AIT battle buddy. The only person that could make me laugh after 20 miles of marching in the rain and mud. The only guy that would steal chocolate milk with me from the chow hall. This day and our ability to do races like this is because of these hero’s. We train, sweat, cry and bleed, because we want to succeed in our endeavors. These people trained, sweated, cried, bled and died so we could. On this day and in this race, I don’t run to honor you, I’m running in your honor.