By Paul Ross, U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery Public Affairs
It takes a lot of determination, drive and guts to put in the endless hours of training to be able to pound the pavement for 26.2 miles around the Nation’s capital on a crisp October morning.
For all of the runners of the 36th annual Marine Corps Marathon (MCM), this was a challenge they eagerly accepted. Their reward wasn’t an elaborate trophy or even the modest medal that all finishers receive. The prize was the sense of accomplishment and pride they felt as they took the last few steps and crossed underneath the finish line.
But the race doesn’t always end at the finish line. Sometimes even the bodies of those in the best shape breakdown after a competition of this magnitude. That is where Navy Medicine provides an essential piece to the yearly event.
I have been to races in the past, but none like the MCM. It’s filled with the same sense of camaraderie that I felt when I was in the active duty Air Force, and still feel as a civilian working for the Navy. I was at the race to cover the story of Navy Medicine’s supporting role in the marathon for Navy Medicine Magazine.
From the moment I arrived I visited the numerous medical tents filled with Navy Medicine workers, mostly from Naval Health Clinic, Quantico, Va., and other volunteers who were ready to go from the moment they arrived – manybefore the sunrise. As I made my way through the tents located around the course, I realized and truly appreciated the essential nature of this mission.
Within three hours after the race began many runners were crossing the finish line. Because of the cold, many had severe tightening in their muscles and some also experienced hyperthermia-type conditions. Other had sprained ankles or were simply dehydrated or
fatigued. Each time a runner fell to their knees, a Navy Medicine representative was there — bright red cross on their back — to assist. Assistance might be triaging the to a medical tent, getting them ready for paramedic transport to a nearby hospital, or even just offering some water and a chance for the runner to get their bearings.
As I got a chance to talk to various individuals I realized why this race is so special. Every person was there because they wanted to be. I spoke with corpsmen, doctors, physical therapists and nurses, all who had volunteered before and had received as much reward out of it as the runners. I even talked to a registered nurse and mother of two Marines who travels up from Florida to attend the annual event. She told me that every year she learns something new from the Navy Medicine troops, who are highly skilled in weather and fatigue-related injuries.
It wasn’t until I witnessed the race and it’s great support staff that I realized why they call it “The People’s Marathon.” So for any runner who is contemplating running, or those who are coming back next year for more, know that you can rest easy because Navy Medicine will be there to offer care if needed.