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Runners undeterred by storm

Wear blue: run to remember group decides to run in annual Marine Corps Marathon despite storm

Published: 01:40PM November 8th, 2012
Runners undeterred by storm

Ingrid Barrentine/Grit City Photography

Rachel Elizalde-Powell reacts as she approaches the wear blue mile portion of the annual Marine Corps Marathon in Washington D.C. Oct. 28.

While many were evacuating areas of the East Coast in anticipation of Hurricane Sandy, a group of JBLM runners were headed straight to Washington, D.C. News of the storm wasn’t enough to deter the local organization, wear blue: run to remember from the Marine Corps Marathon Oct. 28.

Some of the group’s national staff had already been on the East Coast for a week, staying on after the Army Ten-Miler the week before the marathon.

“People feel so strongly about our organization that they came in the midst of a possible hurricane,” Chief Financial Officer Shella Hightower said. “I’m so impressed with our volunteers and our community that still came out and held flags, and those who ran with the threat of a hurricane on the horizon.”

Volunteers and wear blue runners gathered at 6:30 a.m. the day of the race for a circle of remembrance to honor the service members they run for. Nearly 30,000 runners saw and felt the impact of the wear blue message as volunteers lined the 12th mile with American flags and photos of fallen service members.

“It gets you every time,” JBLM Chapter Co-President Rachel Elizalde-Powell said. “Even though you know it’s there and even though you know you have your loved one’s picture there, you’re still never prepared for that emotional reaction, knowing that somebody does care.”

Powell runs to honor her brother, Sgt. First Class Adrian Elizalde of the 2nd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group, who was killed in action Aug. 23, 2007.

The Marine Corps Marathon was Powell’s second marathon and as she made the flight to the East Coast the Friday before the race, she wasn’t worried about the storm.

“I thought maybe it will just skim by us,” she said.

The staff started to pay close attention to the storm as the race day approached and were concerned about the hazards the American flags could present if there were severe winds. There was even the worry that the marathon would be cancelled.

But come race day the weather resembled that of the Pacific Northwest: overcast with a slight breeze. The day after the race Hightower was able to board her flight early in the morning to return home, but the rest of the JBLM group wasn’t so lucky. Phones rang and emails were received to inform the runners their flights had been cancelled.

“It was sheer luck,” Hightower said.

Rather than waiting for flights to open from D.C., wear blue co-founder Lisa Hallett, along with staff members Jessica Alley and Tracey Boyle hopped in a vehicle and drove down to North Carolina where they caught a flight back to Washington Oct. 30. Powell and her husband, along with JBLM Co-Chapter President Curtis Brake and two other runners were stuck in their hotel in Arlington until Nov. 1.

The group in Arlington knew there was nothing they could do but wait out the storm.

“We just decided to hang out and bond,” Powell said. “Truly it was nice because we got to sit down and find out more about each other and why we run.”

The extra time on the East Coast allowed Powell and her husband to tour the museums once they reopened Oct. 31.

Many of the runners who made the trip to the East Coast returned home in time to run the Anything’s Possible 5K in Seattle at 1:50 a.m. Nov. 3, an annual daylight saving time run.

The experience on the East Coast is a memorable one for many of the wear blue runners, including Powell.

“Anytime there’s a race outside of your normal surroundings there’s bound to be some sort of story that goes along with it,” she said. “That’s what makes it memorable; that’s what makes it part of the fun. If you don’t have a story you didn’t do it right.