Monday, October 19, 2009

Two and a Half Marathons in Fifteen Days

On Sunday, October 25, I will be rolling out into the pre-dawn darkness to embark on one the biggest feat of my life. I will be lining up at the starting line of the 34th Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, DC. My finish line, however, will be much more distant than the hill at the Marine War Memorial. I plan to complete the New York City Marathon the following weekend, followed by the OBX Half Marathon at Kill Devil Hills, NC the next weekend.

I do it because I wish to express my gratitude in my own way for the sacrifice of the thousands of men and women disabled by casualties in the war on terror. For me it is symbolic to do so in the two cities that took the first attacks of that war and then to return to Eastern NC for the final leg. Here at home we have remained safe and protected by the actions of our armed forces.

2008 was my first Marine Corps Marathon. It was the culmination of two years of training. It took me six hours to complete the course. However, I am still not done. What began two years earlier as a dream to complete the People’s Marathon has become something far more. It has turned into Hope, Inspiration, and a Promise. It is a journey I call 2008 Miles of Hope.


Thirty-one years ago I broke my neck in a swimming pool. While I’ve tried to stay active, opportunities for fitness activities are scarce for individuals with high-level disabilities such as mine. In October 2006, I sat in my wheelchair at the corner of Wilson Boulevard and Lynn Street in Arlington prior to the start of the 31st Marine Corps Marathon. I was hoping to catch a glimpse of my niece, who was running her first marathon.

There, at the start of the race, was a sight that changed my life. Alongside the wheelchair athletes were the crank chair athletes. I knew that wheelchairs athletes competed in marathons but I had not seen crank chairs before. I said to myself, “I think I can do that!” Completing the Marine Corps Marathon was to become a life goal for this C-6 quadriplegic.


Another sight that moved me as I watched the throngs of runners was the sight of thousands of charity runners dedicating their performance to a greater good. I wished to use my disability and my example to benefit others. I, like many other Americans, feel a profound indebtedness to our Nation's wounded warriors. Because of my disability, I feel a degree of insight into their challenge.

I knew I would be logging many miles in my journey to the Marine Corps Marathon. I decided to dedicate those miles to the wounded heroes. I set out to handbike over 2008 miles in training, races, and fundraising events to raise awareness of, and money for, the needs of our Nation's wounded warriors and their families.

I thought I might inspire others with my example. Over and over it was I who was inspired. I have had a rare opportunity to race alongside world-class athletes. I was often racing alongside other athletes with disabilities, including many wounded warriors. My blog has brought me into contact with supporters and fellow athletes around the world. The support I have received has been overwhelming. Even local runners in my neighborhood have provided motivation all along the way. I say there’s a new inspiration in every mile. As an example, during the 2008 MCM, as I plodded my way up Lee Highway, there were times that the cacophony of runners yelling “Go Wheels!” was deafening. The welcome to the finish line that announcer Robbie Powers gave me brought tears to the eyes of everyone present, including mine. As I inched my way up that difficult hill he asked the finish line spectators to stand and salute the flag I had carried on my yellow crankchair 26.2 miles through our Nation’s Capital.


Hope For The Warriors™ is the charity I chose to fulfill my promise to support wounded warriors financially. They have very low administration costs: eight cents of each dollar donated or less. They rely heavily on volunteers like myself to carry out their fundraising. Hope For The Warriors™ looks out for the needs of the wounded and their families. My own experience has taught me the importance of a loving family in the healing and rehabilitation process. Hope For The Warriors™ also has some great programs to benefit those they serve, such as Warrior’s Wishes™, Immediate Needs Grants, Spouses Scholarships, and the Hope and Care Center.

I have promised to raise $26,200 in donations for Hope For The Warriors™; $1,000 for every mile in a marathon. My website, is set up to handle credit card donations. I post articles on my activities from time to time on my blog,

2008 Miles of Hope

Last year I finished the MCM dead last among the crank chair participants. However, no one was prouder of their accomplishment than me. I’ll be there again this year, defending my last place finish. It will be an honor to put on the Hope For The Warriors™ jersey and join my teammates at the starting line of The People's Marathon.

As of the date of the Marine Corps Marathon, with the help of my loyal teammate and loving wife and teammate I have raised over $20,000. This year, I hope to build on last year’s achievement by completing the Marine Corps Marathon, the New York City Marathon, and the OBX half; all within fifteen days. When I cross the Marine Corps finish line, I will have completed another 2008 miles in training, races, and fundraising events again this year. I won’t quit until I’ve reached my goal of raising $26,200 for our injured heroes.

One member of the Marine Wounded Warrior Battalion once called me, “a warrior for the warriors.” I find that distinction to be undeserved. I’m not a warrior. I’m just a grateful beneficiary of the sacrifices of those brave professionals. Our wounded warriors have gone the distance for our freedom. I plan to go the distance to help them now.

Join me in my campaign, 2008 Miles of Hope, to help America's heroes, our wounded warriors and their families. Donate today. You can easily make a donation to Hope For The Warriors by using our secure credit card donation site:

2008 Miles of Hope

Or donate by check. Download our donation form, fill it out, and send it to us with your donation to our address on the form:

Donation form.pdf

And learn about where the money goes:

Hope For The Warriors

There is no better way to say thanks to those who have sacrificed so much.



Charlie said...

Have a great race out there at the MCM Paul! Hope to see you our on the course!

Kat said...

You are such an incredible inspiration, thank you so much doing what you do and sharing your journey! I'm honored and humbled that I shared the course with you today. Of all the things I've done (granted, I'm 26 so I still have lots of time), one of the best things I've ever done was raising funds and awareness for the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund. I received an e-mail from an injured Marine who was paralyzed telling me that she hoped I enjoyed my runs because she missed running so much. Being thankful for having the use of your legs makes them hurt a lot less at mile 25. And every time I run up the final hill to Iwo Jima I use wheelchair and crank athletes as inspiration- if you can make it up that hill on wheels I sure as heck can!! Thanks again for what you do.

Charlie said...

Great race yesturday Paul and congratulations on your 2nd MCM finish! I was cheering for you as you came up that final hill! Awesome accomplishment. You are a great inspiration to me and lots of others. It was also great talking with you at the Expo, I'm just disappointed I didn't see you on the course...there were so many runners out there!

Congrats again and have a great race at the NYC marathon!

LetsRoll said...


Thanks for your undeserved but kind words. Thanks also for stopping by the Hope For The Warriors table at the Expo. Congrats on your 3:49 finish. Sounds like you were a little off your goal. I hope everything went well for you. I appreciate you waiting around for my finish. Sorry I missed you. I’m hoping you will get a race report up on your blog. You are an inspiring athlete and your race reports have been helpful to me and others in my training. As I’ve said before, thanks for your service and it is truly a privilege to take part in any event with you.


Thanks for you comments, but thanks even more for your work with SF. They are also one of my favorite charities. Keep up the good work and keep raising money. I love your Antarctica RR. Looks like we did the Shamrock together this year and finished about the same time. If you see me at a future race, give me a shout and introduce yourself. Good luck on your JFK 50. Watch for my H4W teammate Toni out there in her Team H4W jersey.