USAA member Kristin McCann wouldn’t let injuries and lengthy deployments keep her from this Sunday's Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C.
After all, for McCann and others like her, the marathon symbolizes much of what it means to be a Marine.
“Sometimes you stumble on things in life,” says McCann, a member of the Marine Corps elite running team. “But you learn how to manage, and it makes you stronger in the end.”
That kind of perseverance is what drives her and about 30,000 others to participate year after year in the third largest marathon in the country, and it's why USAA has sponsored the event annually since 2006.
“The People’s Marathon” isn’t about handsome cash prizes. The 26.2-mile run is designed to demonstrate the core qualities that define a Marine — honor, courage and commitment. The starting line, for instance, is intentionally positioned between the Pentagon and Arlington National Cemetery to honor those who are actively defending our nation as well as the fallen heroes who gave their lives.
“It doesn’t hit you until you get out there how much of an emotional race it can be,” McCann says. “You’re out there running, wearing your jersey … it’s such a cool institution and a very humbling experience.”
Retired Marine Alex Hetherington, a USAA member who now works at Quantico, has run the marathon 20 times. The former Marine Corps elite team runner was a top-10 finisher two years in a row.
Although it’s familiar ground, Hetherington admits it can be a new challenge each year. In 2010, a painful injury forced him to drop out of the race at mile 20.
“I could have walked the next six miles. I regret I didn’t finish the race,” he says. “Setbacks happen, but you have to finish. It’s what the Marine Corps is all about — finish what you started.”
To prepare, Hetherington says he keeps to a consistent regimen rather than rigid workouts. “If you get out and run six times a week, good things will happen,” he says.