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Running Strong: A Warrior's Road to Recovery

May 19, 2015 by Marc Hoffmeister

Colonel Marc Hoffmeister is a Bush Center 2011 W100K participant and Team 43 alumnus. He ran the 2015 Boston Marathon, and while high-endurance physical sports have been an important part of his recovery, he explains why that particular event had such significance for him.

Eight years ago, my life was irrevocably changed by an attack on my patrol in Iraq.  An improvised explosive device ripped through my truck, seriously wounding us all.  Miraculously, we all survived, though not all of us were entirely intact. 

The years since then reflect the same stories of our many wounded in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan…a daily physical and mental struggle to overcome physical disabilities and lost limbs, to relearn a “new normal” and figure out a new future either in or out of service.  The transition out is a difficult process even in the best of scenarios, but disabilities and trauma sustained in war make even easy things complicated. 

All of my life, and even more since my injuries, I’ve sought out individual physical challenges and competition.  Testing my physical limits drives me to continue to grow and makes me a better person in the face of adversity.

That’s why I decided to run this year’s Boston Marathon. The People’s Olympics.  75% of entrants must meet a difficult marathon time standard in a previous race in order to compete and the remaining 25% must raise a minimum of $5000 for a select charity simply to enter.  Making it to the start line requires serious work and the privilege of competing has an internationally renowned reputation. For me, having the opportunity to lace up and step to the starting line was profound, but it was made even more special by doing so as a representative of the George W. Bush Presidential Center’s Military Service Initiative.

Running to help my fellow wounded, many who gave their limbs and nearly their lives in defense of this great Nation, was an incredible motivation to pound out 26.2 miles of Boston asphalt.  And to do so under my own power after nearly dying in the desert of Iraq made the actual experience a pleasure…despite the pain!

I was struck by how the resilience of Boston since the 2013 attacks reflected the same parallel belief.  I’ve competed in a lot of venues in my lifetime, but I’ve never experienced the incredible, fierce pride of the people of Boston as they lined the course for every step of the 26.2 miles.  Their enthusiasm left me with hearing loss and an irrepressible pride in our people and our Nation. Our spirit is indomitable…I had to suppress a laugh as I thought how disheartening it must be to those who wish us ill will.  No matter what they do to try breaking our spirit, we just come back stronger.  After the bombing at the 2013 marathon, the turnout for the 2014 race was the largest EVER! Man I love America!

Despite constant rain and wind, the race was simply amazing!  I had barely crossed the finish line before thoughts of how to get back here and do it again filled my mind.  I’ll be deployed to Afghanistan this time next year, but perhaps I can shadow the run from a distance. What a great motivator to stay not only ARMY STRONG but also BOSTON STRONG!


Author

Marc Hoffmeister
Marc Hoffmeister

Colonel Marc Hoffmeister has served our nation for nearly 30 years, having commanded at all levels through Brigade, most recently commanding the 20th Engineer Brigade (Combat) at Fort Bragg, NC and continuing to serve as a senior leader in the U.S. Army Engineer Regiment. 

Seven months into his second deployment to Iraq in 2007, Hoffmeister was wounded by a roadside bomb in Iraq. An improvised explosive device (IED) hit his Humvee during a combat patrol and he lost partial use of his left arm and hand when five inches of his ulna nerve were severed, destroying the bones in his elbow and forearm, and inflicting a significant traumatic brain injury (TBI).  

In 2009, while serving in Alaska, Hoffmeister was recruited by one of his soldiers to try the Ride 2 Recovery Florida Challenge in 2009. Ride 2 Recovery enabled and inspired him to rediscover his passion on the bike.  That same year, Hoffmeister was the recipient of the Alaskan Governor’s Veterans Advocacy Award. 

In 2011, Hoffmeister was selected to join Team 43 during the first Warrior 100K Mountain Bike Ride and continues to support President Bush’s vision of aiding his fellow wounded warriors.  

In 2015, Hoffmeister raced in the Boston Marathon on the 8th anniversary of his injury and on his ‘Alive’ day, representing the George W. Bush Institute's Military Service Initiative and in partnership with the Energi Marathon Team to empower military service veterans. An avid competitor and fitness professional, Hoffmeister has completed seven marathons, two full distance Ironman events, raced the Leadville 100 MTB race twice, Eco Challenge Fiji, and the toughest mountain bike race on the planet’ La Ruta de los Conquistadors among many other athletic achievements.  Hoffmeister is a certified running coach, Pose running technique specialist and an NSCA Tactical Strength and Conditioning Facilitator.

Hoffmeister has also tied for the honor of National Geographic magazine's Reader's Choice Adventurer of the Year Award. Not only did he reach the summit of Mount McKinley, he and his, Gayle, wife organized a mountaineering team that included four wounded veterans to accompany him in the challenge.

In his off-time, Hoffmeister and Gayle combined their passions of mountaineering and assisting those in need, summiting Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and organizing and leading an expedition on Cerro Aconcagua in Argentina to support the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors in their mission to enable the families of our fallen Heroes. His personal goal is to pay it forward by teaching and sharing the benefits of a culture of fitness and continue to assist and motivate those who’ve served and sacrificed, be they veterans or family members, to better themselves by pursuing their passions.

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