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Running Strong: A Warrior's Road to Recovery
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!