Marathon tests mind, body
October 28, 2003
ARLINGTON, Va. — Heather Hanscom, 25, not only ran her first-ever marathon Sunday, but the novice also finished as the top female runner.
Elated, she made her No. 1 mission upon finishing the 26.2-mile run in the 28th Marine Corps Marathon to find a Stars and Stripes reporter, who could deliver a personal message to her father, Richard Hanscom, a civilian working in South Korea, and who would be scanning the paper the next day for any news.
“I want to tell him: ‘Dad, I did it!’” she blurted. Hanscom said she had a brain tumor removed 11 years ago, and had made the marathon a personal goal ever since.
She thought of her dad often during the run, said the research assistant for the American Red Cross who marked the end of her race with a run time of 2:37:59. “He’s always been there. He’s just a great dad, fan and supporter. I’m a daddy’s girl.”
More than 18,000 runners gathered Sunday in the unseasonably warm and humid Washington, D.C., area fall day to run the marathon, enduring blistered feet, cramps and, for some, a dose of humility when things didn’t go as hoped.
But for some, there were surprises.
Like for Peter Sherry, 35, who thought it was all but over around the eighth mile into the 26.2-mile run. “I had a cramp and thought I was going to have to drop out. But then I started feeling better and better, and kept plugging away.”
He ended up winning.
Sherry, who just opened a runner’s supply store across the street from the Pentagon called “Gotta Run,” crossed the finish line with a time of 2:25:07.
“I was in this to win,” he said, adding he’ll be trying out for the U.S. Olympic team.
Unlike other marathons, there is no cash prize at the end of the Marine Corps Marathon, dubbed “The People’s Marathon” because just about anyone can sign up to compete and there are no qualifying times, just a registration deadline.
Geoff Hopkins, 38, was the first hand-crank cyclist to cross the finish line, with a time of 1:54:30. One phrase kept running through his mind as the paraplegic circled the nation’s capital. “My elbow doesn’t hurt. My elbow doesn’t hurt,” he said, letting out a hearty laugh.
Army Staff Sgt. Gerardo Avila, stationed at Fort Lewis, Wash., was the first U.S. military man to cross the finish line. “I feel good, and frankly, I’m just glad to be done,” said the 30-year-old infantryman.
Army Maj. Jacqueline Chen, a podiatrist at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, summed up her efforts in the Marine Corps Marathon on Sunday with two short words.
“Still … alive,” she said between pants after completing the marathon with a time of 3:07:36, making the 41-year-old doctor the first U.S. military woman to cross the finish line.
The 26.2 miles are grueling and tough on the body. When asked why she does it, Lt. Cmdr. Sue Himes, 34, chuckled: “I ask myself the very same question.”
Sometimes, she comes up with an answer, said the intelligence officer for the amphibious ship USS Nassau in Norfolk, Va.
“You forget about the pain and it becomes about camaraderie and a great feeling of personal satisfaction.”