So This is Goodbye

For once I’m at a loss for words.  How do you write an intro paragraph to the demise of something you’ve enjoyed doing the past year? I guess you don’t, you just jump into it.

First and foremost, I want to thank all of you for sharing this journey with me.  13 months ago I started Noshing on Asphalt as a way for me to keep family and friends up to date on training for one of the biggest challenges I had accepted – running my first marathon.  While every ‘first’ marathon is absolutely special the one that I chose to be my first had extra meaning.  I would be running the Marine Corps Marathon in memory of my brother who was killed in Iraq.

Roger

On October 28th, as Hurricane Sandy started showing her ugly face, I laced up my tennis shoes and set out on a 26.2 mile journey.  They say you discover who you really are during a marathon.  Your mental and physical strengths pushed to the limits.   What I discovered during that race was that it wasn’t the race itself that showed me who I was; instead it was the months of preparation that went into it.  During those months of training highs and lows, I realized that I had finally come to some peace about my brother’s death.

MCM

So that’s how Noshing on Asphalt got it’s roots.  But something happened during those few shorts months of training and blogging about my experiences, I discovered you, my readers.  We forged a bond through your sweet comments, advice and encouragement.  I had friends who weren’t active asking me how they could start living a healthier lifestyle.  Even though I’m nothing special, I realized that people were motivated and intrigued about my lifestyle and that excited me.

untitled

So I kept blogging.  I kept sharing my ramblings.  Bits and pieces of my quirkiness.  My love for all things bright, colorful and obnoxiously neon.

My love for running.  Without running, I don’t know where I would be.  It is my bliss.

109141-111-018fI shared my passion for healthy eating and expanded my knowledge of what it really means to me.  I discovered that I feel better when I follow a more Paleo diet instead of the beloved clean eating which was one of the cornerstones of my blog.

food 2

Ah spaghetti squash, how I love thee.

Ah spaghetti squash, how I love thee.

I discovered some truly fantastic bloggers that have helped me grow in my fitness and healthy living life.  Make sure to check out my Good Reads tab if you’re looking for some good blog recommendations.

Ready to rock-n-roll.  Bring on the brains!

Zombie Run with several of my fun blogger friends.

During the past 13 months I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some amazing companies and found several products that I seriously can’t live without.

Nothing but thumbs up for Handana after a very sweaty run!

Nothing but thumbs up for Handana after a very sweaty run!

To say the least, I’ve really enjoyed breaking out of my comfort zone and sharing my adventures.  I’m not quite ready to shut everything down but life is funny with how it happens so I now need to devote my time to other matters.  I don’t know if this is my absolute last post or if I’ll pick it up down the road when things calm down a bit.  However, for now at least, this is goodbye.

Thank you again for sticking with me and enjoying this fun roller coaster journey I’ve been on.  I will miss you all very much but I know you’ll continue to do exciting things.  Keep pushing yourself; don’t stop striving for healthier lifestyles.  Remember, you’re a role model for others – even if you don’t realize it.

Advertisements

Celebrating Life

First things first, time to announce my Vega Energizing Smoothing winner.  Congratulations JenniferLynn I will be contacting you shortly for shipping details.

Now that I have that out of the way, I want to talk about today.  Today used to be just plain ol’ November 16th, nothing fancy to it, no reason to pay it any special attention until 7 years ago.  On this day, November 16, 2005, my family found out that my brother had been killed in Iraq. Instantly, November 16th became a day that I would never forget.

I still remember every single detail about when and how I found out, what time of day it was, even what the weather was like outside.  It’s fascinating to me how our brains lock in certain details and keep them forever.  I will probably be able to recall the same vivid details when I’m 80.  Some day I’ll share them, but this post isn’t the right time.

Roger had been killed with several other Marines while searching farm houses for terrorists as part of Operation Steel Curtain.  They came under gunfire and a terribly fierce battle erupted that altered the lives of countless people.  My brother was awarded a Bronze Star Medal for his heroism.  I encourage you to read the short citation from his Bronze Star; it gives you some idea of what happened that day.

This is from the memorial in Iraq. So many lives lost in a period of 3 days.

From Roger’s funeral; just a few days after Thanksgiving.

Each year on this day I stop by and visit my brother and say hi to him from my Mom and Dad since they live too far away and can’t.  I drop off flowers and give him an update on what’s going on.  I try not to play the ‘what if’ game but, inevitably, I’m going to lose and sometime today I’ll find myself wondering ‘what if’ he was still here or some variation of that scenario.

While this is a very sad day by all means, I try not to let the past dictate my happiness.  I choose to celebrate life instead of pine over death.  I choose to remember my brother and all the silly/dangerous/ridiculous things we did together as kids.  All the fights we got into.  All the advice he passed on to me.  His infectious grin.

And tomorrow, I choose to be a kid again.  I will run carefree through the streets of New Orleans in a tutu while strangers throw powdered paint at me.  (Sounds like fun, right?)  When I signed up for The Color Run last February I knew that it would fall this weekend and I thought it would be a wonderful way to celebrate life.  Roger was a fun guy and I can imagine him having a blast throwing paint at random people.

Everyone deals with grief differently.  It’s ok to be sad, angry, numb, confused, whatever.  But it’s important to remember that it’s also ok to be happy.  Nothing says that you’re bound to sadness; it’s a choice that’s made and I choose happiness.  I choose to cast my excess baggage on God and let him carry the burden for me.  After all, his shoulders are much more broad than mine.

The first year after Roger was killed I dreaded today like the plague.  I didn’t know what to expect or how I would  react.  Over the years, I’ve realized that if I make a conscious effort to address that this day (or other significant days like his birthday) are going to be emotionally charged, I have a much better chance of it not affecting me.  It’s the times I’m not prepared that really catch me off guard and knock me on my butt.  Trust me, I have plenty of spontaneous pity-parties during the year but today, and this weekend, will not be one of them.

To say I’m excited about The Color Run tomorrow would be an understatement.  I have been talking about this race since before I even knew it was coming to New Orleans.  There’s just something about finishing a race looking like an Oompa Loompa that really appeals to me.  I have all of my neon gear and I’m ready to go get pelted with paint! I know Roger would have liked that.

I miss my brother dearly and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about him, the other families that lost their hero, and also the men that were survived.  I honestly think today is much harder for those Marines that survived and I pray for peace of mind for them.

Marine Corps Marathon Race Recap

In Wednesday’s post I recapped my weekend fun around DC and at the expo but I left you hanging for my race recap.  Sorry, that wasn’t very nice.  Forgive me?  Since this was my first marathon and because I ran it in memory of my brother I really wanted to put some serious thought into the recap; he deserves it.  So bear with me, this is going to be a long post and have lots of pictures (you’re welcome Mom & Dad).

In the interest of making the recap easier to read, I feel like I need to introduce you to the two names you’ll see the most.  1.) Mary – She’s like a mom to me.  2.) Stacey – My die hard training buddy and constant race partner.  Now that you know these girls I can just call them by their first names. 🙂  So here it is – the good, bad and the ugly from the MCM.  (Ok, there really wasn’t any ugly.  I just like being dramatic.)

Sunday morning started with an early wake-up call.  Mary’s alarm went off at 3:45a.m. (which is really 2:45 my time).  I had my alarm set for 4:12 but once I heard her alarm go off I was wide awake.

It was race day! The day that I had been prepping for for the last four months.

I got up, got dressed, ate some breakfast and of course snapped a few pictures.  Mary surprised me with her shirt which read on the front, “I’m with the birthday girl”.  I loved it!!

After we put our shoes on, we (Mary, myself and our hubbies) walked a few blocks to the race shuttle.  I chatted with a lady who was running the marathon and told her this was my first one.  Have you ever noticed that people always have input when they find out something is your first? She immediately likened running a marathon to giving birth.  It’s long and painful but 100% worth it at the end.  Sheesh lady! I didn’t need to hear that – I don’t have kids for a reason and labor is one of them.

After we made it to the starting area we were surprised to find that the military chaplain was just starting a prayer service.  This just made my day.  It was amazing fellowshipping with other believers right before the race.  Definitely helped get my mind right.

After the prayer service ended Mary and I said goodbye to our hubbies and then huddled together to try to warm up.

It was cold, humid, and I kept getting splattered with random drops of rain.  I said a quick prayer that Hurricane Sandy would hold off long enough for the race to be done with.  We hit the port-o-potties a few times and headed off to the official start line where we heard the National Anthem and watched the flyover.  It was incredibly moving.

Right after the flyover we met up with the girls I trained with.  It was so great seeing everyone’s smiling / nervous faces!

Just a few minutes to go.  The atmosphere was electrified; the excitement and tension almost palpable. Veteran marathoners encouraging the newbies, newbies nervously watching the actions of the veterans.  25,000 sets of feet with the same goal to accomplish.

I was too busy soaking in the atmosphere that I didn’t hear the howitzer blast which signifies the start of the race.  However, I felt the crowd start surging forward, pressing me towards the start line.  No times for nerves now.  This. Was. It.  I crossed the starting line and embarked on my journey through the 26.2 miles of the course.  (This is where I put my camera away so there aren’t many pictures until the finish.)

The first few miles of the course were gorgeous, winding through the outskirts of the city.  It was completely picturesque with vibrant golden, cardinal, and amber colored leaves floating around us as we ran.  It was very overcast but the temperature was perfect and there wasn’t any rain.  The only downfall was the fact that the course was so congested it was hard to get up to speed without literally running into someone.

At mile 5 I opted for a potty stop; I knew the lines would be shorter earlier in the race verses later.  It was around this point that I happened to look over into the woods and BAM hello naked booties.  Apparently some runners didn’t want to wait in the potty line.  My mom taught me better.  I tried to not look over into the woods again.

Everything was going  flawlessly until the water stop around mile 7.  This is where Mary and I got separated; thankfully Stacey and I were able to stay together.  I stopped a few times to look for Mary and I kept thinking I would be able to spot her and reconnect.  After about 2 miles I knew that wasn’t going to happen so I did something most runners would never do.  I pulled out my cell phone and started making calls in hopes of locating her.  I called my husband to tell him I what happened and kept my fingers crossed that he and Greg (Mary’s hubby) could help us reconnect.  I managed to keep my pace but I never imagined I’d be talking on the phone during my first 26.2.

I was so upset about loosing Mary that I didn’t notice a lot of what was going on around me between miles 8-11.  Around mile 12 a guy behind me decided to try to use me as a speed bump.  Not on purpose; the race was just so congested with runners that this was almost inevitable.  I felt what was about to happen as his shoe brushed mine and I was able to dodge him falling on me.  I turned around just in time to see him writhing on the ground clutching his elbow in pain.  I felt terrible but there was nothing I could do.  It was also around this point in the race I noticed someone had put large pictures of Marines that had been killed in action.  This was a much needed reminder as to why I was running this race in the first place.

The miles were flying by. 12…13….Half marathon….15…and before I knew it Stacey and I passed mile 16.  I looked over at her and said, “I hate to be the one that points out the obvious, but we only have 10 miles left!’  I was feeling great and our pace wasn’t too far off from what we trained for.  I passed Mary’s husband at mile 18 who told me I was about 10 minutes ahead of her.  I ran backwards for a little bit (I got some crazy looks from other runners) and then made the decision to stop and wait for her; it was much more important to finish together then worry about time.  (I looked at my splits and my time for mile 18 was just short of 21 minutes.) Stacey was sweet and hung back, too, and as soon as we saw Mary we took off.  I had never been so happy to see her face!

The miles kept ticking by and before I knew it, I was looking at mile marker 23.  We passed my hubby on the sideline and it gave me such a boost to see him cheering us on!

This is a really awkward shot of mile at mile 23. All smiles after seeing Jody.

By mile 24 my body was starting to fatigue.  I was having some fairly intense GI cramps (I broke the cardinal ‘don’t ingest anything new on race day’ rule) and I could feel my right IT band starting to get tight.  The wind picked up (thanks Hurricane Sandy) and I was starting to slow down.  It was right around this time that we were treated to Dunkin Donuts on the course.  They were stale but gave me the sugar kick I needed to finish. I need to mention that the crowd support was amazing during the entire marathon but especially encouraging during the last few miles.

The last part of the race ended with a killer incline leading up to the Iwo Jima Memorial.  This was a tough way to finish but I really wouldn’t expect anything less from the Marines.  Stacey, Mary and I crossed the finish line together and I just remember giving both of them a huge hug.  I had become marathoner!

*MARATHONER*

The sweet Marine that placed the medal around my neck.

I had anticipated bursting into tears as I crossed the finish line but I was surprised to realize that I didn’t shed a single tear.  As we stood in line to collect our medals, my calve muscles and IT band on fire, I couldn’t help but think about how excited I was to already be signed up for my next marathon.   I think I’m officially hooked.  Admittedly, one of my character flaws is that I’m always thinking about what’s next, instead of basking in what just happened.

We got disposable jackets instead of space blankets.

Me being silly showing off my medal and Semper Fi socks.

Hands-down, the best athletic supporter ever!

The official chip time was 4:55:47 (only one second different from my Garmin) and the actual distance was 26.75 miles (I guess that’s what happens when you run backwards for a bit).

This was such a huge accomplishment and even though I didn’t run it in the time I trained for, I have no doubt that I can run a 4:30 marathon.  It’s important to remember that some races aren’t about time but merely the journey itself.  Preparing for this race was very cathartic and really allowed me to work through some residual issues with my brother’s death.  I miss Roger terribly but I feel like I have more closure and I’m so blessed to have run this race in memory of him.

It was humbling running side-by-side with amputees, men in wheelchairs, and seeing all the pictures pinned to people’s shirt.  The race was not nearly as physically or mentally exhausting as I thought it would be and I think it’s because I kept thinking about everything that Roger, his brother’s-in-arms, and all of our deployed soldiers went/go through.  If they can fight to keep me free, I can run 26.2 miles in honor of them.

As for how I felt physically after the marathon, I was {pleasantly} surprised at how little I hurt.  I was pretty stiff Monday but was back in the gym Tuesday for some easy cycling and upper body strength training.  And since my next marathon is in 3 months I’ll be getting up early tomorrow for a 10 mile run.  If you have ever considered running a marathon, I urge you to do it. Don’t let fear, hesitation or self-doubt get to you.  It takes grit and determination but if you can commit the time, you can accomplish it!

Question:  What’s your proudest accomplishment in life? A PR? An award? Children? College Degree? Tell me, I love hearing about your achievements!

MCM Weekend Fun

Happy Halloween y’all!! I hope you have something spooktacular planned for tonight! Me? I’m just going to take it easy at home.  I know, I’m such an old lady…

I did it!! I’m officially a ‘marathoner’!!  It was the most amazing experience and I seriously can’t wait to do it again!  But before I recap the race, I want to recap the weekend first.  It would be sensory overload for me to try to mash everything into one post.

*MARATHONER*

The weekend festivities officially started Friday with Jody and I flying to DC. I was so excited to board the plane with him because up until late Thursday afternoon we were thinking that he wasn’t going to be able to go thanks to Hurricane Sandy.  Thankfully he was able to get his flight worked out to where he left right after the race.  Me = happy!

We had a layover in Atlanta where we grabbed a highly overpriced turkey panini before boarding the plane to DC.  After a very uneventful flight –just the way I like it– we arrived.  I’m a sucker for American flags so it was nice being greeted by the red, white, and blue.

We hopped the shuttle to our hotel and enjoyed a splendid sunset from our room before heading out to grab some grub.

Jody and I decided to claim Friday night for ourselves since the rest of the weekend would be spent doing marathon stuff.  We ended up at Kora where I ordered a hand-tossed pizza (carbs, right?) and a super tasty pineapple-lime mojito.  Then we went back to the hotel and waited for Mary (she’s like a mom to me) and her husband Greg to arrive.  Mary’s been training in San Antonio to run this race with me.

The next day we headed to the expo to pick up our bibs, t-shirts and free stuff.  It’s always a bit nerve-wracking to me to pick up my bib.  I’m always afraid that something’s going to go wrong.  Like me forgetting my e-card, or me getting lost in their system.  But, like normal, everything went fine.

After picking up my shirt and bib we headed across the street to the expo.  I have to admit that I was fairly disappointed in the expo.  I don’t know if it was because we hit it the last day or what but it just had a wonky feel to it.  I wasn’t crazy about the vendors and there wasn’t very many freebies.  C’mon, we all know freebies are the best part of the expo.

One really fun thing at the expo was they had a Marine Corps band playing some swing songs.  This made my former band nerd self incredibly happy.  It was really cute because there was an elderly guy (obviously retired military) that plucked a young girl out of the crowd and started twirling her around to the music.  You could tell that he was having a great time!

This was a really cool tribute bike in memory of fallen Marines.

Wall of motivational blurbs for the runners.

After the expo we met up with my hubby for lunch.  (Jody had to stay at the hotel to work on a presentation that he was giving Monday – boooo.) Mary and I opted to carb-up for the marathon during lunch instead of having a heavy supper to make sure everything digested well.  I ordered some sort of chicken farfalle pasta in a spicy vodka cream sauce.  Maybe not the safest pre-marathon meal but I like to live on the edge a bit.  Also, I knew I’d have at least 16 hours if my system decided not to like it.  And it. was. tasty!

After lunch, Mary and I took the Metro back to the hotel to relax while the guys went and did some sight-seeing.  We stopped and picked up some celebratory wine for after the marathon.  I also had a mini birthday celebration at the hotel thanks to my dad and my cousin Bridget but I’m saving that for my birthday post.

Finally, it was time to head to bed.  I laid out all of my gear that way I wouldn’t have to search for stuff the next morning.

With Hurricane Sandy I didn’t know what type of gear to wear I needed. So I had cold weather and warm weather laid out. I opted for warm weather.

This is when it started to hit me that I was running a marathon in just a few hours.  I don’t know why but I didn’t experience any pre-race jitters.  I was incredibly excited but I didn’t have any of the doubts or second guessing like I expected.  I think after spending so much time preparing for the race I was just ready to run it; there’s only so many emotions you can go through before you’re just ready to be done.

Then it was beddy-by time for Gina.  I needed to get some beauty rest before the 3:45 alarm went off.  It was definitely a great weekend and a great kickoff to the run.  The only bummer was my training girls stayed at a different hotel so we didn’t get to do a lot  together. I did get to meet up with them at the race. 🙂

Stay tuned….The race recap is next!

Question:  Do you typically get pre-race jitters or are you just ready to get it over with?

MCM Bound!

Yep. I think the picture says it all. By the time you read this, I will either be 30,000 feet above you or have my feet firmly planted in DC soil. That is, if I made it through security at the airport; for some reason I always get flagged for a pat down… I think hubby’s hoping that they’ll confiscate his marathon sign. Sorry babe, no dice. You’re going to be stuck holding this and I’m going to love seeing you with it!

I  got my t-shirt yesterday for the MCM.  It turned out better than expected and I can wait to run in it!! It’s kind of hard to see, but the list of men underneath my brother’s name are the guys that were killed with him.  So many lives and they were all so young.  It’s going to be a nice reminder having those names one me when the miles get tough.

I also want to thank everyone for all of the well wishes and words of encouragement from Wednesday’s post. Y’all sure know how to make a girl feel special! I was totally bummed about the cemetery situation but I have my big girl panties on and am super excited/nervous/anxious – you get the point – about Sunday’s marathon.  Although now I have a new fear – Hurricane Sandy!

Apparently there will be 30,000 of us runners trying to achieve marathon glory in less than stellar weather…  There is little doubt that we will be running in heavy wind and rain.  This also means that we had to change travel plans for my hubby.  He has a huge presentation to give Monday in his MBA class and we can’t risk getting stuck in DC so he’ll be flying back after the marathon.

Wednesday night my training girls and I got together for a ‘farewell training, I will not miss you’ celebration. It only seemed appropriate since we had a MCM training kickoff back in July. I was going to get a drink but I opted to consume my calories in solid food.  So instead, I got this masterpiece.

Grilled chicken topped with wilted spinach, goat cheese and artichoke hearts along with a side of asparagus and cinnamon carrots.

I also came bearing gifts for my training girls. I’m a total memento type person so I took advantage of my stepmom’s sewing genius while she visited me this summer and had her make these pillows for my lovely girls. Aren’t they cute? My stepmom’s a highschool math teacher but I think she should go into business for herself!

Last night was my last run before the marathon. Just a three mile, easy-peesy pace run. I think I’m in some sort of denial that the next run I complete will be 26.2 miles. SHEESH!! So in preparation for running that distance, I had to make a significant change with my hair. As in chopping almost 7″ off significant. I’m going to miss my long hair but I knew it was time to go when it bordered on becoming a deadly weapon to those running around me.

Incase your super curious, here’s the rundown of my weekend. Friday night: Super romantic pre-birthday dinner date with my awesome hubby! Saturday: Expo, expo, expo! Bring on the free stuff. Sunday: Err, do I really need to say? Hello MARATHON-glory-running-in-memory-of-my-brother!! Then later that day/evening I will be having the best birthday celebration with no holds barred on food and drink. 🙂 (If you haven’t figured out, my birthday is actually the same day as the MCM – happy birthday to me!)

And if my schedule’s not enough for you, you can always follow me for updates through my various social media outlets:

I have my race splits scheduled to post via Twitter so y’all can follow me in real time if you want.  And finally…. Thank you, thank you, thank you ALL for your wonderful words of encouragement.  You helped me survive training and get me to this point.  Now it’s my job to run the distance.  Please know that I will be taking a piece of each of you with me Sunday!

Isaiah 40:31:  But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

3.1 for Roger’s 31

Monday was Roger’s 31st birthday (if you follow me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram I apologize for blowing up your news feed with sappy posts).  So in memory of what would have been the beginning of his 31st year, I decided to run 3.1 miles.  It seemed only fitting that I should run a 5k on his birthday since I’ll be running a marathon for him on my birthday.  Yep, October is filled with both birthdays and memory miles.

There was a happy birthday balloon attached but it flew away before I could get the picture. At least his team colors (University of Michigan Wolverines -Go Blue!) stayed.

This run wasn’t about time or speed, just merely reflection.  So I grabbed my tennis shoes and Ipod and headed out the door to run the route that Roger and I ran many times together.  I rarely run with music unless it’s at the gym or a race but I was feeling particularly masochistic so I cranked up “Roger’s Playlist” which is patriotic songs like American Soldier, If You’re Reading This, Arlington…You know, the songs that make you cry even when you haven’t lost someone to war.  Fantastic choice, Gina…..

About 1/3 way through the run I turned a corner and had a flashback to the last time we ran together.  It was right before he enlisted in the Marines and he was getting ready to go through all the testing.  I was having trouble keeping up with him and he kept harassing me for it.  I smile now, knowing that I could totally lap him a million times over if he were still alive. (Ah, sibling rivalry at its finest.)

About the same time ‘If You’re Reading This’ by Tim McGraw started playing.  There’s a particular verse in the song that always gets to me.  “If  you’re reading this half way around the world, I won’t be there to see the birth of our little girl. I hope she looks like you, I hope she fights like me. And stands up for the innocent and the weak.”  My niece was born 2 days before Roger’s birthday; she never got to meet her daddy.

Commence the water works.  I have never cried while running but I guess there’s a first for everything.  Between the combination of sweat, snot and tears I’m sure I looked like Ms. America (ha!) to the construction guys I ran by.  I’m surprised nobody called the cops.  “Um, yeah, there’s this crazy lady running around our construction site….You may want to come and check her out….make sure she’s not rabid or anything.”

Luckily the tears were short lived; but the memories just kept coming.  Which is nice because after so many years, I worry I’m going to forget him.  Memories of rollerblading, ice skating, and building snow forts when we were little, hanging on for dear life after he got his driver’s license (The Fast and the Furious didn’t have anything on him), going shopping with him to help match clothes (he was color blind), getting yelled at to ‘get that boy out of your room before dad gets home’ (whoops…), and I also remembered the not so great memories – we were after all brother and sister and fought like it.

After all was said and done, it was a very cathartic run and I’m glad I was able to do it.  I still had my scheduled training run to do Monday night but I really wanted to dedicate this time to Roger.

Happy 31st birthday, Roger! Love, your annoying little sister.

RFR: Run for Roger

In loving memory of Roger Deeds, 10/1/81 – 11/16/05

I can’t believe that yesterday marked the 11th anniversary of the most heinous attack on American soil in recent history.  On September 11, 2001, I was sitting in my zoology class watching the whole thing unfold; my adolescent brain not being able to reconcile the images on TV and the fact that everyone’s lives had just been instantly transformed.  I still can’t watch any footage from 9/11 without tears streaming down my face but I find comfort remembering the days after the attack when our country became totally unified.

If there is one singular event that I can pinpoint as the reason my brother became a Marine, it would be September 11, 2001.  Anybody that knew Roger would tell you that he was born with the military gene; he just kind of oozed it (even during his rebellious teenage years).  I’m pretty sure scientists haven’t discovered the “born to be in the military” gene, but whatever it is, Roger had it.  Kidding aside, my dad was career military so I guess you can say it kind of rubbed off on Roger.  Roger loved history and you could always find him reading a military novel or biography.  He was in JROTC in high school and it came as no surprise when he joined the military.

Boot camp graduation pictures of my Dad (L) and my brother (R).

 As you know from reading my blog, in 6 1/2 short weeks I’ll be running my first marathon, the Marine Corps Marathon.  When non-runners (and even some runners) find out I’m training for a marathon they automatically want to know why I would put myself through something so intense.  “Why would you do that? You must be crazy.”  My answer to their question why leaves little room for argument in whether or not a sane person would run 26.2 miles.  So what’s the answer? I’m running in memory of my brother.  Then there’s the typical awkward silence.

Roger (L) pictured with Cpl. Jeffry Rogers (R) who was also killed on 11/16/05.

Memorial Day 2006. The first time I fully understood what the holiday was about.

Even though this is my first marathon, I really don’t look at it as my own.  This one is totally for Roger. Now that training is getting harder, the race getting closer, I’m constantly reminding myself of the reason I’m running it.  When I want to give up during a particularly hard run, I think about everything that Roger and his fellow brothers-in-arms endured to secure my freedom.  How they would never give up when the going gets tough.

On November 16, 2005, Roger, my big brother, my only sibling, was killed in action in Iraq on.  Almost 7 years later I remember every detail about the night I found out he was killed.  It’s strange how some things are seared in your memory; half the time I can’t even tell you what I wore yesterday.  Roger was killed 10 weeks after Hurricane Katrina had devestated the city that I lived in.  I was at work when I found out; Jody came to get me saying that my mom who lives in Minnesota had called and left a message asking he take me someplace private and then call her.  I knew at that moment someone had died.  I naively hoped it wasn’t Roger, but my hope was misplaced.   I remember Mom telling me in a calm voice and then asking if I was ok, her priorities focused on her living child and not the one she had just lost.  I responded by asking her to put me on the phone with the casualty officer.  He confirmed what Mom had told me, Roger had been killed by enemy fire.

Taken at Roger’s funeral.

Now, I don’t really know a lot of the details, which may be for the best, but from what I know is Roger and his fellow Marines were searching for terrorists during Operation Steel Curtain.  They were tasked with the job of searching and clearing farm houses and were met with enemy resistance.  The story that my family has pieced together is that Roger was shot while attempting to save another Marine.  Obviously, I wasn’t there to verify the story but it’s definitely something he would do.   He was selfless like that. His Bronze Star Citation states that he “launched a recovery effort”…”to secure and render aid to embattled Marines”.  After everything was all said and done, Roger and 7 others had paid that ultimate price for our freedom; countless other Marines still carry the scars (both physical and emotional) from that day.

Makeshift memorial in Iraq of the fallen members of Fox Company 2/1.

I miss him terribly.  I miss hearing his voice, I miss being harassed by him, I miss play fighting with him.  I miss that he didn’t get to see his beautiful children  grow up or help me tease our mom and dad about turning grey.

Running the Marine Corps Marathon is part of my journey, part of the healing process.  I know that the 26.2 miles of the marathon in no way compares to the hell that Roger went through (and the hell our soldiers still go through) but for me it’s my way of paying tribute to his sacrifice.  It’s a way for me to ensure that he’s not forgotten; that none of the sacrifices our soldiers make are forgotten.  And some small (ok, very big) part of me also feels that running this race would make him proud of me.  Now, I know it’s silly to think a dead person can feel pride but, hey, I’m a silly girl sometimes.  So my mantra for this marathon is “RFR” – run for Roger.  I know that this will be an emotional run for me but I’m so excited to toe up to the start line and listen for the canon to fire.  To read more about growing up with my brother, check out my My Brother, My Hero.

Question of the day: Have you ever run an event in memory of someone? I would love to hear about it!