Home / A Living Memorial / TSP at RTHB 2014

Race stats:  My place was 90th overall.   1600 participants.   Top 6% of runners.  For my age division 28/312 — Top 9%.  42:15 overall time ;    7:34 split.  July 19th, Fenway, USATF certified course.

With all 17600 runners we raised $1.54million for service members in New England who suffer from TBI or PTS.

This was my FOURTH year running the RTHB at Fenway Park.   What an excellent event and an even better cause.  I consider it an honor and a privilege.   I will do everything I can to help our fallen veterans. Every year has been memorable and I wouldn’t miss a chance to help support veterans — especially those New England veterans who need it most.

This year I ran the entire course carrying a stone from The Summit Project.  I want to carry the stones and the memories of our fallen heroes from Maine all the way to home plate of our beloved Fenway Park!

While helping to serve the needs of living veterans who suffer from combat stress and TBI, I also want to honor a generation of Maine veterans who died in the line of duty defending our country.  They did not come back to Maine, and could not take their grandchildren to Fenway Park.  I want to take a piece of their spirit to Fenway Park, and I want to take action to share the burden shouldered by our heroes and their families.

I completed this year’s RTHB in the spirit of our fallen heroes from Maine.  I will climb higher, run farther and work harder to make more connections within our communities and gain perspectives that will help me carry on the work of my fallen comrades towards creating a safer, sounder and more just America.

I chose 1SG Chris Coffin’s stone from the MEPS Honor Room on Friday morning around 0600am.   Did not know which stone I would carry at first.  Many are checked out for other TSP events, but after a few minutes, I picked 1SG Chris Coffin’s stone.. it was perfect.

I enjoyed the opening ceremony but was anxious to get going!  I left my brother in the 3rd base bleachers and went to the top the bleachers to take a pic and finish my mental preparation.   I stood alone to sing the National Anthem.  I thought about Chris Coffin and all our heroes.  Like Chris I was proud of my country, and like him, I was enjoying this day and making the most of the present moment.

My wave, the red bibs, was slated to first to go.  As soon as the anthem finished I descended the ramps of historic Fenway park to line up in our starting chute on Yawkey way.. just outside Fenway.   After the start on Yawkey Way, left turn on Van Ness — pure adrenaline, motivated by the crowds, the bells, horns, cheers and clapping.  Streets lined with people.  Fans overlooked from the upper stands of Fenway to the runners below.  Here is a pic of our start line.  I am standing next to Boston Mayor Marty Walsh

Perfect running weather —  Could not ask for better.  When I run, and I love running and swimming, I notice that after the start, I get into a rhythm.  My mind spaces out.  My legs are turning over and the body takes over.  My heart is pumping, my body goes on autopilot.   All systems go.   I’ve notived in all my years as s runner, that when my mind wanders, that is my indication that my body systems are fine.  Green lights and in range.  My mind starts to think of other issues, other ideas, solving problems and maybe even a voice that propels and sustains my body.   For some reason a phrase came to my mind on this race.  Not sure why.  I thought of Chris Coffin on that run, but the phrase that came to me was “Suns out Guns out.”  Not sure why, that was my mantra.  It is a reference to rolling sleeves in the USMC, but for some reason, that phrase kept entering my brain.

The run route was wonderful.   With two segments of the run that were out and backs, I was able to greet other runners, especially Marines.  I grunted to all of them and said ooh-rah.  After a few miles, the stone in my pack was there and I could feel the weight.  I thought about those who achieve weight loss goals.  I saw the Charles river below me, I monitored my pace and watched ever so slowly that my pace was slowing.   My first split was 6 min mile.  Not sure the pace of my last mile, but my average split for the entire race was 7:34. It was a small price to pay to honor one of our heroes.

The final mile is the return trip over the Mass Ave bridge.  It’s one of the most exhilarating finishes. Cross Mass Ave. run to Boyslton.. make two right turns so you are on the final approach on Ipswich street.. ready to enter the Green Monster on Landsdowne Street.  The cones funneled us in our beloved Fenway.  I knew the finish line was in the park, along the left center filed.  I did not let up yet.   Pumped and sprinted toward the finish.  Just before crossing the finish line, I got close enough to raise my right hand and touch my hand to the Green Monster.  With an open hand, I pounded the wall three times to feel the wall, to hear its sound, to feel the resistane and toughness of a vertical plane that has robbed countless homeruns, and is peppered with permanent dings from would be homeruns.

That wall was tall and big.  From its base I actually thought about the cliffs of Normandy.  I thought about the walls we all face in life, walls that appear to be a barrier, and deny our attempts to succeed on first attempts — barriers that might challenge our physical and mental toughness.  I thought about Chris Coffin and his dedication to his family, his country his commitment to give back.   Suddently, I was there, ready to cross the finish line and rest… just as I crossed, I glanced at the race clock — 42 minutes and 15 seconds.  Not a bad overall time.   I made a mental note, then I stopped.. I did not drink, I did not jog or walk or think about my body.. I stopped, got down on a kneeled and removed Chris Coffin’s memorial stone from my camelback.  I had it wrapped in a small white towel. I unwrapped it, and began to cover the stone with dirt from Fenway’s center field.  Red dirt.. I smeared the stone vigorously and saw my hands become instantly dirty.  The sweat on my hands, arms and the sweat driping from my face and head made a small mud paste.. I tried to cover Chris stone as quickly and reverently as I could.   To me the meaning was to share a piece of this experience with Chris Coffin and all those who he fought for, who might also love Fenway and might want to touch a piece of the park that is normally off limits.  I grasped the stone, snapped my camelback, zipped the pouch, then I hand carried Chris’s stone toward homeplate.   Along the warning track, I turned left at the 3rdbase foul line, and toward homeplate.  I remember a volunteer handing out bottles of water.. I opened a bottle, while still carring Chris’s stone, and with what seemed like one or two gulps, I drained the bottle and disposed of it.  I was ready to cross home plate… reverently, and keeping the memory of a Mainer whose life was cut short, and could not enjoy Fenway park, I carried his stone in front of my body, letters out, and crossed homeplate.  There were service members in uniform to greet us, I saw the pristine Navy white uniform of Navy sailors and felt bad that a handshake to me, in addition to the other finishers, but particularly me, would soil their perfect white uniforms.  I was dirty and drenched, from water, sweat, a tear or two.  Like Chris Coffin I finished with smile.  Chris always smiled.  He always was willing to help others, to think of others before himself.

He was a hero, a warrior, a Mainer, a compassionate soldier who adored his wife and loved his country.   He is the reason I ran that race today.  I felt proud, humbled, exhausted and honored.  I hope that in that moment, I was able to honor a hero from Maine who gave his LIFE for this country and I was able to keep his memory alive by challenging myself and living a life worthy of his sacrifice.   I had a great run that day.   I thank Chris and Betsy and all those who serve a higher calling.   I was proud to say, for that moment, that Maine heroes are NOT forgotten.

djc

 
 

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