Sunday, May 15, 2011

2011 Philadelphia to Washington DC Memorial Run

I have made it home from the 2011 Philadelphia to Washington DC Law Enforcement Memorial Run.    This is an event for the ages and a roller coaster ride of emotions.     As a summary, this is a run that starts at the Naval Yards in Philadelphia, PA and ends at the National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington, DC.
    On Wednesday, May 11, 2011, I arrived at the 30th Street Train Station in Philadelphia and was picked up by the run organizer, Jim Harrity, of the PA State FOP lodge.    Jim proceeded to take me from the train station to the Ramada Inn at the Airport.     Jim dropped me off and I got to start meeting runners and support crew from the east coast of the United States and Canada.     We had about an hour to get to know each other before heading to Jim's house for a welcome dinner.  I can say that the runners and support crew from PA, Prince George's County Maryland, and Canada were awesome.  They welcomed me with open arms and treated me as one of their own.  
    After enjoying an awesome welcome dinner at Jim's house, we made it back to the hotel to get ready to start the run in the morning.   One of the main focuses of this run is the Survivors.  Survivors are the family members of fallen police officers.    We were fortunate enough to have a Survivor with us from Canada.   
    On Thursday, May 12, 2011, we were greeted at the front of the hotel by about 20 marked police cars and multiple police motorcycles.  The officers in uniform had a detail set up to escort us from the hotel to the naval yards.    They also set up in front of the hotel to honor Erin from Canada.  Erin's husband was killed in 2010 while working for the Peel Regional Police Department in Canada.  As Erin walked out of the hotel, they saluted her and made sure that she was honored as a survivor.    
    After this sad but uplifting moment, we were off to the Naval Yards.    Now imagine this, we had approximately 20 marked police cars, at least 10 motorcycles, and 10 support vehicles flying down I95 at 8:30 in the morning.    This was a police escort like no other.  And this escort was to honor one survivor.   Lights and sirens the whole way into the naval yard.   What an awesome sight. 
    Once at the Naval Yard, we had a ceremony where we honored survivors from other families.   There were four awards given out to the families.   These awards/plaques are beautiful.   These awards are paid for by the runners.   
    After the ceremony, we were off.   There was a line of honor guards from several agencies that were lining the street as we left.   From this point, our goal for the day was to make it to the Maryland border by way of Delaware.  
    I spent a lot of the time running with Mike from Prince George's County in Maryland and the Canadian Runners.    Mike and I kept talking and I told Mike that I wasn't stopping until we hit the Delaware border.    During the course of this part of the run, it was around 80 degrees and wall to wall sunshine.   We were running on the blacktop and it felt like it was 100 degrees.  Fortunately, we had a support vehicle from Prince George's that played music for us and provided us with endless water, gatorade, and food.   This support vehicle would do this for us for the entire journey. 
    After we crossed over into Delaware, Mike and I were in between miles.    Mike and I made an agreement that we would stop at 18 miles, jump in the vans until Wilmington, and then start again so that we could get out of the sun and get some food.   
     We arrived in Wilmington after about an 6 mile ride in the vans.  During this ride, we passed a McDonalds outside of Wilmington.   The support crew was standing along side of the road handing bags of Cheeseburgers into each van.   McDonalds probably donated a total of about 200 burgers for the runners.  
    Once at Wilmington, we had another memorial service.   What a way to go from a runners high, to a really bad low.   
     We got done with the service, and we were off again.    I decided to run out of Wilmington until I hit marathon distance for the day.    At the 27 mile mark, I jumped back in the van with the Canadians. I thought that I was done at this point.  
     We got 3 miles from the Delaware/Maryland border and a cadet class from the Delaware State Police joined us.    They started running in formation and singing cadence, so I had to jump back out again.    I had only been in the van for about 2 miles, but running with the cadets needed to be done.    I finished up the day with 30 miles.     Day 1 was a great run.   I had the chance to run through 3 states.   
     We picked everyone up and headed to a Holiday Inn in Aberdeen, Maryland.    We were checked into our rooms and got fed like kings and queens at the Holiday Inn.  They had a great buffet for us and then we got some time to hang out and share stories. 
     Day 2 started at 830 am.   We started running and I planned on running to where they were stopping to jump us ahead in the vans due to time constraints.    We needed to be at the Holiday Inn in College Park, Maryland by 430 pm.    The goal of the run was to get into Baltimore, attend a service, and then run into Howard County, Maryland and pick up the runners by 2pm.   This would allow us to do the last 6 miles into College Park and finish by 430 pm.  
     We ran into Baltimore from Aberdeen which was an 8 mile leg.   We attended a short service and then we were off again.   As we got into Howard County, we were down to 5 runners on the road.  This was due to the very hilly and challenging course.    One of the support crew advised that we had one big hill left and then were were getting picked up to move ahead.   This hill was about a mile long with a steep grade.   What a way to end this leg.   At the top of the hill, I was nearing the 20 mile mark for the day.    Well, we kept going at the top.   We ended up running about 2-3 more miles to the pick up spot.    At this point, it was down to me and one other runner who started at the top of the hill.    When we finally got to the pick up point, I was somewhere between 20 and 23 miles for the day.   Time to throw in the towel and let the legs recover for the next day.  
     We jumped ahead in the vans and some of the other runners got out and finished up the leg for the day.  I had an enjoyable ride in the Canadian van and got to share some more time with them.  
     Once at the hotel, it was eat and go.  We had to pull out by 7pm to be at the Candlelight Vigil at the National Memorial.   We got on a bus from Prince George's County and away we went.   Lights and sirens right into downtown DC.   Everywhere we went, we had a police escort. 
     If you have never been to a candlelight vigil, you really need to go.   Whether you are law enforcement or not, it is a very moving service.   I can't say anything but WOW!.   I have never seen so many candles lit in one place.    I think by the end of this service I had cried enough for the week.   Well, I was wrong as I would find out on Saturday morning.    
     Day 3 began at 830 again.   We started running from the Holiday Inn in College Park to the memorial.   We only had a half marathon to go.  We had the graduating class of cadets join us from Prince George's.    They had to finish the run to DC or they don't graduate. 
     At about 1.5 miles out, one of our survivors from Prince George's was honored.   We ran past the place where her young husband of less than a year was killed during a car accident.    This young officer was killed responding to back up his Sergeant at a call.   The PG Police had 5 cruisers lined up with an honor guard saluting our survivor.    She saw this and almost fell to the ground.   I stood there with a lot of grown men and women and completely broke down.   
     After we gathered ourselves, we ran to a service in Hyattsville, Maryland for Prince George's county.     After the service, we had about 7 miles into DC.   This run was hilly, but not as bad as the day before.    We had one major hill just outside of DC.   We were up to a lot of runners at this point coming into the city. 
     We stopped about 500 yards before the memorial and picked up more survivors.   We were honoring 18 fallen officers with our run.   We walked into the memorial and were greeted by police officers and families from all over the world.  We ran a lap around the memorial and then walked a lap around the memorial.   We then had our last memorial service for the week.    
     I couldn't believe the emotions that were at the memorial.   It is an incredible sight.    I cried for 2 laps around the memorial.   It was an absolute roller coaster.   All in all, we ran for a total of 80 miles out of 150.
     After all was done, we all said our goodbyes and started planning for next year.     I made some great friends, some life long friends, and became an honorary Canadian.    I also ran a lot of miles to honor our fallen brothers and sisters.    The pain that I felt during some of my 63 miles pales in comparison to the pain that our survivors have and are feeling.    We ran to mourn for our survivors this year, but we will run to celebrate this year's survivors next year.