Runners, Eagles, and the USMC

Sunday May 15, 2011

Every year, the Marine Corps Half Marathon comes to town. The course they choose runs right by my house, so I go out to watch and cheer. There is a Marine Corps base not too far from here, and many of the employees there make it a point to participate. The event also draws some national class runners and other notables (this year it’s Drew Carey). The usual top local runner has chosen this year to start after everyone else. He is raising money for a charity, and gets donations for every runner he passes. He starts with over seven thousand runners in front of him.

Like last year, it’s a beautiful morning. As usual a Marine Corps Sergeant and a local Police officer block off the roads and monitor the corner near the house. They keep traffic off the road, and also keep an eye on the runners. I hear the ‘slap, slap, slap, slap’ of a runner passing through the dip in the road. The dip (in the road, the runner is not a dip) passes under the local highway, and the runners comes up a small hill. The first runner goes by, I glance at the clock and it is 7:52 AM. We’re fairly close to the nine mile mark, so this guy is under a six-minute pace, maybe faster depending on when the race started, and on when he crossed the starting line.


1st runner passing by.
1st runner passing by. | Source

The lead runner is followed about two minutes later by a second runner. Another minute, then two more runners come by. Four more in the next minute. I count off the first ten, and note that the tenth runner is female, only five minutes behind the lead runner. There is a lot less separation between the lead runners this year. The same as last year, the occasional ‘slap, slap, slap, slap’ of running shoes on pavement becomes constant, and herds of runners go by. One hollers out, ‘Hi Jim’ and too late I try to pick the sole lone voice out of the herd and take her picture. If it was who I think it was, she is doubly lucky, her father is a senior Marine officer, and she also gets to work for the Marine Corps.

Other runners carrying flags go by, I try to take pictures, but my camera fails me. Others run by in costume of sorts, wearing horned helmets that remind me of Gimli the dwarf. Many runners holler out 'Thank You for your Service' to the Staff Sergeant stationed on the corner. He hollers back, encouraging them in their run. I notice that many of the runners towards the back of the pack start running again when they see him, clearly motivated by his presence.

2nd runner passing by.
2nd runner passing by. | Source
There was no way to tell from the original picture taken whether the bird flying that day was an eagle or not.  For this article, I took a photo of a picture that is hanging on my wall.
There was no way to tell from the original picture taken whether the bird flying that day was an eagle or not. For this article, I took a photo of a picture that is hanging on my wall. | Source

Eagles (?)

I eventually get distracted and begin noticing all the weeds in my yard, and the birds fishing over the river. One looks suspiciously like an eagle. It is definitely not the usual seagull, duck, vulture, or heron that fly over. It might also be a falcon of some sort. Either way, it is a really big bird and new to the area. It patrols, up and down the river, occasionally appearing to stop in mid-air, its huge wings flapping to hold it temporarily in place before it dives down towards the river. Hung in mid-air like that, I notice it has white markings on it's breast. A second really big bird appears and is nice enough to land on a tree visible from where I watch the runners. Sitting in one spot, it appears to have white markings on it's head. When there is a break in the passing herds, I cross the street to take a picture. The day has turned into yet another beautiful Mid-May morning.

Sunday Morning 09:55 AM May 15, 2011

The tools and gloves for weeding are in the house, and it is near the end of the race. The paper published the road opening time as 9:55 AM. I step back out to see if the race will end here the same way it did last year, with complaints from those who are seeking to get to church on time. Sure enough, there is a gentleman approaching the Marine Sergeant stationed there to monitor traffic, and in a repeat of last year asks if it is ‘ok’ to open the road long enough to get an elderly lady, 96 years of age, to church on time. I fail to hear the Sergeant’s response as the road crew comes chugging up the hill to retrieve the cones that mark the road as closed. Their timing is impeccable this year, and prevents a recurrence of the loud discussions of last year.

All is well, and I go pick weeds. Various folks go by on their way to church, or back-trace the racecourse, nearly all saying good morning as I begin to sweat. A gentleman in a wheel-chair comes by, I assume heading to church. I ask if he knew that the runner’s race is preceded by a wheel-chair race. The lead pair was nearly wheel-to-wheel when they came by, and moving at an admirable rate of speed. He says he might try that. I tell him that they are using low slung long wheel-base chairs driven by arm pedals.

Runners, Eagles, Marines, and folks religiously attending church. What a great way to start the day.

Marine Corps Hymn

FitnezzJim also has articles for the Marine Half-marathon for years 2010, 2013, and 2015.

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Comments 11 comments

FitnezzJim profile image

FitnezzJim 5 years ago from Fredericksburg, Virginia Author


Marines are a special breed. I know enough Marines, ex-Marines, and folks supporting the Marine Corps that the respect is now so natural and ingrained that it goes unexpressed. Actually, that's also true for MOST people from the other Services that I've met. Respect.

LuxmiH profile image

LuxmiH 5 years ago from Fort Pierce, Florida

I love this Hub... partly because of the delightful way that you combined Eagles, Marines and church-goers into a Hub about runners, but also because there's an element of praise for the sons and daughter's serving our country in the USMC.

Thank you a lovely read. Voted up and beautiful.

God Bless the USA

FitnezzJim profile image

FitnezzJim 5 years ago from Fredericksburg, Virginia Author


Thank you for taking time to read and comment.

Soldieringon profile image

Soldieringon 5 years ago from Hemet, CA

I discovered yo through a reply on one of my hubs, and I must say I love your writing style. I will be following your hubs. Thank you very much.

FitnezzJim profile image

FitnezzJim 5 years ago from Fredericksburg, Virginia Author

Thanks again for the good words.

I have no plans to do any sort of paid or syndicated column, would reject it if it were offered, and have not signed up for earnings here. I write in my free time, that is, some of my free time. When I write it is because I feel that a story needs to be told, or a path to solution or correction needs to be offered.

And if I recall correctly, that marker is about a mile and a half from me.

Max Havlick profile image

Max Havlick 5 years ago from Villa Park, Illinois

A nice piece of descriptive writing, Jim, esp. weaving in together the three scenarios. Not ready for a Pulitzer yet, perhaps, but that's a backhanded way of encouraging you to keep working on your writing. You have obvious communicative force, plenty to say, and good facility with words. Today, more than ever, we need good writers. Have you considered doing regular columns that could be syndicated?

It happens I lived in Fredericksburg one summer during college, esp. remember a marker where Geo. Washington supposedly threw a silver dollar across the Rap. River.

FitnezzJim profile image

FitnezzJim 5 years ago from Fredericksburg, Virginia Author

Pete, thanks for the comment. I agree.

Pam, Congratulations to any who can run that race. It is a test of endurance, and they tell the hard part doesn't occur until a mile or so AFTER my house.

PoorConservative, I sort of expect that all will settle into a routine as these races continue. These first years for hosting the race have sort of reminded of 'the new kid in the neighborhood syndrome'.


Thank you. I may have to set up a video recorder in the middle of the street next year, just so folks can get a feel for what it's like to have seven thousand people running towards them.

Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 5 years ago from Wales


I really enjoyed this one so thanks for sharing and I can now look forward to reading many more of your hubs.

Useful/awesome/and an up for this one.

Take care


poorconservative1 profile image

poorconservative1 5 years ago

I once heard a phrase that goes like this, 'God loves the Marine Corp.' So let those people that were late for church know that God will understand. I believe that marines are the bravest among us, when I was younger I wish I had been brave enough to be one.



Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States

My son and daughter-in-law are running this year. I enjoyed your description of the race. I am impressed with Drew Carey as that is a tough race and he is really doing a great service. Voted up.

Pete Maida profile image

Pete Maida 5 years ago

That was nice Jim. That's a wonderful group of people doing great things for the rest of us. We can't thank them enough.

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