NORFOLK, Virginia (MCT) — Her dark hair is pulled back in a tight ponytail. She's wearing a black tank top, black running shoes and a white visor. On the brick steps next to the American flag in front of her house in West Ghent, she switches on her iPod, slips her earphones into place and glances down at her shoelaces.
Nancy Lacore is off.
If you live anywhere along her usual route, you've probably seen her. She laughs and says running has become her part-time job. It's been this way for about seven months, since Lacore, a 46-year-old Navy reservist, came up with the idea for the Valor Run.
Over the course of 6-1/2 days in mid-October, Lacore will run from Hampton Roads to Arlington to honor American servicewomen killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
As of today, 160 have died, so as of today, she plans to run 160 miles.
"If we lose another one before then," Lacore says, "I'll add another mile."
Out of her neighborhood now, she heads for the Hague. On the foot bridge over the water, she catches a late morning breeze. She passes bicyclists in bright spandex and a gaggle of geese. She crosses busy Brambleton Avenue as soon as the lanes are clear.
Ask why she's doing this, and Lacore brings up Afghanistan. After a decade in the Navy as a search-and-rescue helicopter pilot, she moved to the Reserves 14 years ago. In 2011, she began a 10-month deployment to Kabul, leaving behind her husband and six children. Her job, at the International Security Assistance Force headquarters, involved strategic communication between NATO officers and key Afghan officials.
The transition when she came home wasn't easy. She'd been working nearly around the clock in a place and a job where every day the stakes were high. "You're going 150 miles an hour at the edge of a cliff," she says.
Then suddenly she was home, sorting out matters such as which style backpacks her kids should get for school. Does any of this really matter, she thought.
Even as she felt a loss of purpose at home, she felt guilty about the stress her absence had put on her family - which made her think about how much worse it was for families of service members who were killed or seriously injured. She started volunteering for Wounded Wear, a Chesapeake-based nonprofit that helps such families. Soon she joined the organization's board.
When she happened to visit the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery early this year, she picked up a book about women who'd died serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Before that, Lacore says, "I had no idea if we'd lost one or 1,000."
Soon she had a plan. She'd run a mile for each of them, and along the way and as she trained, she'd raise money. Some would go to Wounded Wear, and some would go to the women's memorial, also a nonprofit.
Lacore settled on the name "Valor Run" after she came across remarks President Barack Obama made praising the Pentagon's decision last year to lift the ban on women in combat. Many already had died doing such jobs, the president said - "patriots whose sacrifices show that valor knows no gender."
In the Freemason neighborhood now, Lacore's soles are pounding cobblestone. A fast beat is pumping from her iPod. She passes the Pagoda, the battleship Wisconsin and Nauticus. She pushes on through Town Point Park.
Despite appearances, Lacore is not a marathoner. She's done one; she didn't like it. She says she's an average runner who is training hard, with a detailed, 36-week plan. Besides running about 50 miles per week, she works most days with a strength trainer.
As long as she avoids injury, she's confident the Valor Run will go as planned: 25 miles per day for six days, starting in Chesapeake at Wounded Wear. Day two will take her through Williamsburg. She'll go on to Richmond, Fredericksburg, Quantico and Alexandria. She'll run 10 miles the seventh day, finishing at the Women's Memorial on its 17th anniversary.
Her husband, Patrick, who is also in the Navy, plans to borrow an RV and travel with her so she'll have food and water close by. Between the 25-mile legs, she'll ride with him.
As for fundraising, Lacore, now a Navy captain who commands a Reserve detachment, hopes to give $25,000 to Wounded Wear and $10,000 to the memorial. She's raised about $3,000 so far, but donations are picking up as word spreads.
Recently, she's begun hearing from people who want to run portions of the route with her. One woman plans to join Lacore for a particular mile on day three because she served with the soldier whom that mile will honor.
Some days, when Lacore reaches the edge of downtown, she keeps going past Norfolk State University and Booker T. Washington High School. On this day, which began with a 75-minute session at the gym, her training plan calls for lower mileage. So she turns and goes back the way she came.
It's hot out now. She's sweating. Another fast beat is pushing her along.
Back through the park. Back past the battleship. Back over the cobblestones and then over the bridge.
Back on her street. Back on her brick steps.
Finally, she slows down.
Corinne Reilly, 757-446-2277, firstname.lastname@example.org
©2014 The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.). Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.