The four of us arrived at Mead Gardens for the Independence Day run about 7:05. A number of runners were doing warm ups on the street where we parked. Trevor started to pull out his ruck from the back of the car and the passing runners stopped chatting. They stared at this guy in a uniform pulling on his pack. I sensed they realized they were going to be running a different race today.
We posed for the running family picture before heading over to the start.
We stood around talking to a friend in the Navy and a mother with a daughter Trevor dated in high school and who now flies F18s for the Marines. Curious runners walked by as they saw the soldier with a race number pinned on his chest. Mrs. T took pictures on her camera.
The Race. There were 2,700 registered runners for the Watermelon 5K. They announced that it was the largest 5K race in the state today.
We started in the back, as much as I wanted to start in the front. I decided there might never be another chance to run with Trevor and Cole this way so we all stuck together. After our speedwork yesterday and getting a great massage from Hank (maybe more on that another time), taking it easy today was actually a good plan.
There were so many runners - so many one-time runners - that they had signs for pace miles. We started with the walkers and spent the first mile passing all of them and a good number of 10-minute pacers. Cole and I ran escort for the soldier although he hardly needed any assistance moving through the crowd.
We bobbed and weaved our way along to the first mile marker in 9:30. The people we passed were astonished to see somebody running in uniform, boots, kevlar helmet and full ruck and their comments reflected the same: "Holy crap," "He must be really fit," "Wow Dad; a Marine," "No son. He's Army," "Look at him," "That's why I'll never be in the military," "Thanks for your service," "Hoo-ah," Oooo-ah," "Good job brother," clapping, "Let's hear it for our soldiers" encouraging cheers, "Holy crap" more than once, etc.
The second mile lane ran aside the third mile return lane at one point and a friend/fan of Trevor spotted me and I pointed to Trevor. He hollered back, "Is that Trevor? Wow. Awesome. Go Trevor!" We passed an Air Force guy in uniform with a light ruck pack/no helmet. Then we spotted a US Marines guidon up ahead. We were gaining on it. The second mile took us 10:19.
In the third mile runners were quieter and you could hear the squeak of Trevor's ruck shifting slightly on his back. Several ladies sidled up to him and ran alongside just to feel his energy. Running 10 yards behind him allowed me to eavesdrop on comments from those who only spoke to each other. There was a whole lot of respect paid out there today.
We reeled in the Marine and saw that he was carrying the flag for a group of eight Marines running in formation but only wearing T-shirts, camo pants and boots. We passed them with a half mile to go. A band played military songs at the head of the final stretch before the finish.
Towards the end, the friend who called out T's name made his way back out on the course to run Trevor in the last 400 meters. He is a history and military buff of the highest order. Running with Trevor, he was smiling like he had just won the lottery. As they ran the last 100 yards Trevor turned on the turbos (he's always had a kick to ruin your day) and sprinted towards the line waving the American flag he pulled from his ruck, smiling like a champ.
We finished all together in 31:05.
In the shade of the park we washed down water and watermelon. We ran into a number of acquaintances and folks wanting to say hello. We took more photos and then headed for home.
The grill is fired up. Later - fireworks downtown from a high rise balcony over the park.
A fine day.