16 October 2014

The road to Iwo Jima: 26.2 FWD

Since 2006, the Marine Corps Marathon has not only been run on the streets of D.C. but also on the dirt and asphalt roads of Iraq and Afghanistan and sometimes, on treadmills in the bowels of Navy ships deployed in the Arabian Gulf. Why in the world would the men and women forward deployed choose to put themselves through the physical and mental trial of a marathon? And who thought of such an idea??

One inspirational Marine: Major Megan McClung. A public affairs officer, Naval Academy graduate, avid runner, and a 6-time Ironman finisher. While on deployment to Iraq in 2006, she contacted MCM race director Rick Nealis "offering to organize a "satellite" event for troops fighting in the war zone. She believed the Marine Corps Marathon was a ‘must-do’ for Marines and wanted to give Marines in theater the same opportunity."(1) The Marine Corps Marathon Forward was thus established.

Maj McClung is third from the right, with the headband.
L-R: Wilkerson, Hunter, McClung, Edwards,
photo from the Armed Forces XC Championships
On October 29, 2006, 108 runners lined up in Al-Anbar, Iraq to complete 26.2 miles just as 30,000 runners did the same in D.C. Megan finished second woman overall in that race. 

Runners tackle a hill during the inaugural MCM Forward race.
Photo: LCpl Brandon Roach/(DVIDS)
Maj McClung with Col Jonathan Miclot accepting her award for 2nd place.
Photo: GySgt Chad McMeen/(DVIDS)
The 108 participants in their post-race photo.
Photo: DVIDS
Less than two months later, on December 6, 2006, while escorting journalists through the streets of Ramadi, her truck was hit by a roadside bomb. She died instantly. Megan is buried in Arlington Cemetery

The legacy she left for the Marines, sailors, soldiers and airmen, deployed thousands of miles from home and borne from her own love of the sport, continues again this year, on dusty roads and under scorching skies, in remembrance of fallen brethren across the world and connecting those men and women to 30,000 citizens in Washington, D.C.

Photo: William G. Smith

(1) Running Times, May 2007 "Marine Marathoner Megan McClung" by David Mays

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