Somewhere, silently in the night, we crossed the border into West Virginia, the “Mountain Mama” state. Though I’d never visited before, I was anticipating a place where historic country roads wind throughtree covered peaks in gentle synchronicity. What I found was a beautiful mixture of parks and townships, along with the start and finish at Marshall University, where Matthew McConaughey just finished filming his upcoming movie, “We are Marshall,” about the tragic loss of the school’s football team in a plane crash.
We were given some great news at the start of the marathon, Governor Joe Manchin signed a proclamation declaring this day, October 13th,“Move Your Feet Day” in West Virginia, to promote healthy, active living within the state. It was tremendously gratifying to know that we’re having such an impact across this country, changing lives one step at a time. So with today being officially declared “Move Your Feet Day,” my daughter and son gave the starting countdown, and we runners began moving our feet.
The athletes today had come from far and near. One had driven through the night from Michigan, and this was to be the first of four marathons she was running with me. A soccer coach had driven five hours this morning to run his first ever marathon today. A college student had skipped class to attempt his first marathon. Several Ironman triathletes were in the group, along with a very dedicated teacher.
At mile nine, the course entered the enchanting Ritter Park. We were greeted by other runners, along with many walkers and well-wisher. At the halfway point, a large group of office workers had. congregated with a sign that read “Go Dean!” They did the wave as we ran by, cheering and yelling encouragement to the group.
We worked well together as a team today, and held tightly as a group for most of the way. The Police support was incredible, the motorcycle officers pointing out potholes in the road and other obstacles to watch for. At mile 26 we entered the Marshall University campus and were greeted by the basketball coach and his boys who ran the final stretch with us. The finish is at the southern goal line of the school’s 40,000-seat football stadium. We entered the arena to the cheers of the crowd and crossed the line hand-in-hand.
After congratulating the other runners, the Associate Athletic Director of the University presented me we a signed football and an official Marshall University football jersey. The number on the jersey was 27, to correspond with the marathon today, and the name on the back was, “KARNAZES.” It was a touching moment, and one that my family and I will remember forever. We feel like we now have a home in West Virginia.
As we were preparing to depart, the soccer coach, who just completed his first marathon, handed me a note. It was a quote from a young player of his. She wrote:
“You find you are made of bits and pieces of all who ever touched your life, and you are more because of it, and you would be less if they had not touched you.”
Country roads, take me home,
Dean & Family