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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Running for Mac and James

26.2 miles. That’s the distance of a marathon. It takes some 3 hours and others 6 hours. It is long, exciting and at times painful miles with one foot in front of the other in sheer determination to make it to the finish line. Doubt creeps in your mind asking yourself over and over again to stop running and just give up. Just give up! Please! But then I wonder if my grandfather even gave up on Mac?

My grandfather was a top turret gunner in 1943 fighting WWII in N. Africa. He was fighting with the British army to push back the advances of Rommel, the Desert Fox. My grandfather was shot down twice, flew General Patton, received several medals and conducted over 193 missions. Throughout all this time, he kept a diary of the above events which was given to me upon his death. The diary accounts for 6 months of fighting as he describes fear, loss, pain, hope and death. This diary has become a catalyst and a source of values for me in my life.

On my 40th birthday this year, I began to read pages of the diary again to feel a sense of purpose in my life. To feel that I have achieved something and I am someone with a deep connection to life or at least I hoped so. It was at that moment I turned to the page of the doomed mission where my grandfather’s best friend Mac was lost over Sicily. My grandfather was so sad and filled with emotions about losing Mac. There a pictures of my grandfather and Mac together right before the fatal mission. His only friend was gone and there was nothing he could do but pray and hope Mac returned safely. He wrote in his diary for days that he hoped Mac jumped out of the plane in time and was walking back to base with his parachute in hand. But day after day would go by with no word from Mac. My grandfather’s pain for his loss was enormous but yet he continued on fighting the war mission after mission. It was then when I realized my pain, procrastination, and agony was nothing compared to my grandfather and Mac. I wanted to do something that would push my limits, test the boundaries of my convictions and challenge me to push my mind, body and soul further. I decided after 4 years I would run another marathon in honor of Mac and James( my grandfather)

I ran my first marathon in Richmond, VA on veteran’s day 2006 right after my grandfather passed away and before I received his diary. It was 85 degrees and HOT. I remember the last 3 miles vividly and passing my coaches as they scream my name with words of encouragement. All I could do was give a “thumbs up” sign because anything else would be more energy than I could give at the moment. The “thumbs up” was my grandfather’s signal that all was OK when I went to visit him in the hospital during his last days. I did not even realize I was doing it until my coaches told me that was the only sign I would give them that I was OK. I can remember the end of the Richmond marathon and feeling elated as I crossed the finish line on Veteran’s day in honor of my grandfather. But I was in pain. My knees, hip and back were throbbing. I felt elated but yet also alone. No one was there to wave me in, hold up a sign with my name on it or give me a hug at the end. It was just me and my grandfather. I swore I would never run another marathon! My body just does not like to run 26.2 miles. I will never do it again! Until the diary came in my life and showed me courage, fearlessness and above all the love of a friendship.

So, I signed up for the New York City Marathon- what better place to test your wits and honor two of brave soldiers. I felt alive at 40 and ready to see if I could do it all over again. But in NYC you can only get a spot in the marathon if you completed a certain number of races the previous year (which I did not) or through the lottery drawing. I entered my name in the drawing and just my luck my number was not called. Rats! How do I get a number to honor Mac and James? Through a charity organization I was told at the New York Road Runners web site. Charities have numbers that you can raise money in honor of that charity and they give you a NYC marathon number. Ok, but I have to feel the charity- it has to be a cause I care about and that can satisfy my goal to my two soldiers. I found one- Hope For the Warriors.

Hope for the Warriors goal is to enhance quality of life for US Service Members and their families nationwide who have been adversely affected by injuries or death in the line of duty. Hope for the Warriors actively seeks to ensure that the sacrifices of wounded and fallen warriors and their families are never forgotten nor their needs unmet. It was perfect! I will be running the NYC marathon for the charity Hope for the Warriors in honor of Mac and my grandfather who will never be forgotten in my heart. Mac or Alvin Macpherson was an honorable soldier who fought proudly for this country. It took me over 2 years to find his family and share with them the diary and pictures. I found Sarah Moore, his niece, who is now 82 and living in N. Carolina. She was astonished that after all these years something was discovered about her favorite uncle. She can recall him leaving to go to war in N. Africa and saying his goodbyes. After hugging and kissing the family, he walked to the end of the driveway turned around and smiled to his favorite niece, Sarah. That was the last anyone saw of Alvin. Until my pictures and diary were given to me and I in turn gave them to Alvin’s family.

On the first Sunday in November, I will line up on the Verrazano Bridge with my Hope For the Warrior teammates and run 26.2 miles through the 5 boroughs of New York City. Through the pain of a reoccurring injury- I will press on. Through the temperatures throughout the day- I will press on. Through the self-doubt- I will press on! And through the excitement of the city streets- I will press on. But most of all I will press on for the friendship of Mac and James. The true heroes of the day!

If you would like more information on the book I am writing about my grandfather’s diary be a fan on Facebook at: My Grandfather’s Love.
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Hope to see you cheering me on!

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