I don't even know where to begin with this recap. This race was one of the most emotional races I have ever run. And not in a bad way. It was the cause, the Nine Line Foundation.
The Nine Line Foundation is a foundation that helps wounded soldiers. What's so great about them is that they only help one soldier at a time. Rather than focus on all wounded soldiers at once, they focus on one individual. They raise money to help that soldier financially to get the tools they need to rebuild their lives. There is no time limit. They set a goal amount and that soldier remains the focus until all the money has been raised.
The current candidate is SFC Mark Holbert. While responding to an explosion on the outer security perimeter, an IED exploded which resulted in nerve damage, the loss of fingers and his legs. He has made significant progress and is true hero (read his full story here). He has completed in multiple races since his injuries and now as a way to rebuild and improve his quality of life, he needs to have a specially modified smart home. Unfortunately, these are expensive and overwhelming. The Nine Line Foundation is here to help him reach his goal and improve his life. They have a goal of $300,000 to put towards this new home for him. While that is a lot, it's an extremely worthy cause and I couldn't have been happier to donate, so when I heard about the 5K being held by ERS Savannah and Nine Line Apparel, an apparel company that believes in wearing the cause and helps to raise money for the foundation, there was no question about signing up.
This was the first year for the race so I wasn't sure what to expect. It was also a night race, something I had never done before. Something that was familiar, this race was held at the same location as the Kilt and Kolor Run I ran in March. I knew that area but the course was going to be slightly different.
When I arrived, I noticed that this race was a lot smaller than some of the others, but knowing it was a night race and there was also a virtual run option I figured some runners choose that option. I was immediately overcome with emotion when I showed up. I guess reality set in that I was supporting an incredible cause so near and dear to my heart.
Before the start of the race, the race director made a few annoucements about the course, the cause we were supporting and then allowed SFC Holbert say a few words. It was then time to line up. As we all waited for the gun to go off, SFC Holbert began making his way to to front of the start line so that too could compete in the race. Here was an American hero competing in the 10K portion of the race in a wheelchair and I was just competing in the 5K. It kind of puts things in perspective.
The gun goes off and everyone starts running. I'm feeling pretty good and about ¼ quarter mile in, I realize I never turned my Garmin on. Oops! I look down to turn it on and I'm running a 9:25 pace. Holy cow! That's not me. I was feeling good but knew there was no way I could maintain that pace so I slowed down.
Once everyone started thinning out, I really started to focus on how I was doing. I was feeling pretty good, but each time I looked at my watch, I was still running faster than I should have been. It was this that made me realize I would need a few walk breaks at some point.
And I was right. A little more than halfway through the race, I took my first walk break. It wasn't long, maybe about 20-30 seconds, but it was long enough to catch my breath and start back again. This was also about the time, where I was able to start seeing the Talmedge Bridge, Savannah's iconic bridge that takes you across the river and into South Carolina. The race was at dusk and watching the sun set over the bridge was gorgeous. It was a view I could have looked at for hours, but the race must go on, so as I just stared at the sunset as I ran until it was time to turn and I could no longer see the bridge.
Just look at that sunset. Gorgeous, even with an iPhone picture. lol.
Once I made that turn, I knew I was about ½-¾ of a mile from the finish. It was bout this time when I ended up near a 12 year old boy and another woman who looked to be about my age. I was determined not to let the woman pass me. I took one last walk to catch my breath and then started running. I wasn't going to stop and, in fact, wanted to push harder at the final stretch.
And push harder was what I did. As soon as I hit the dirt path that was the final stretch, I sped up. Nit too much for fear of not being able to finish strong, but I definitely pushed myself, giving myself a strong finish and a sense of pride. I, also began to have a few tears in my eyes (again this cause really did it to me) and I was glad to have been wearing sunglasses.
TJ is totally jealous if the bottle opener we receved as finishers.
When reaching the finish, I noticed there weren't a lot of people who had come in, so I gave it about 5 minutes and they announced an updated results list. I found my name and it showed I placed 3rd in my age group! Check me out! I have never placed in my age group. Granted, this was a small race and there were only 10 in my age group, but still, I will take it. And not only did I finish 3rd, I also PR'd that race! Talk about a great race.
Can you find me? I'm #25 on the list. This was an unfinished list.
After the fantastic feeling of finishing so well, I waited around for SFT Holbert to arrive. Everyone who was already finished cheered him on and it was incredible to see the support he was given. I gave him time to come in, settle down and relax and then went over and thanked him for his service and told him what an honor it was to meet him. We talked about TJ being the military and about the foundation, along with the owners of Nine Line Apparel. He's an incredible guy and I can't express how happy I am to have been able to help him and this foundation.
All in all the race was amazing and definitely one of the best I had ever run. This race (both the live race and the virtual) raised $20,000 towards SFC Holbert's smart home. I think that's incredible considering it was the first year and it was relatively small.
Would you like to donate to the Nine Line Foundation and help raise money for SFC Holbert's new home? Click here to donate.
And don't forget to check out Nine Line Apparel's website. They have some pretty cool tactical gear and shirts to support the cause and a portion of every product sold goes to the foundation as well, and the owners are veterans and extremely nice. If you're ever in Savannah, you should stop in and see them.
Your turn! Have you ever participated in an event that you had you slightly emotional? What's your favorite cause?