I started running three years ago to honor a young woman in our community, Meg Cross Menzies, who was struck and killed by a drunk driver while training for the Boston Marathon. I've kept running to keep her memory and all she stood for alive and well. As the miles have collected, though, I've felt a constant tug, probably from Meg, to not only remember what she stood for, but to be more of what she stood for.
I felt that tug strongest after finishing my first Marathon back in November. I heard a voice telling me there had to be something more than crossing finish lines to this running gig. After prayer and reflection, I decided that more was lending a voice to other people who need help crossing their finish lines. Whether they are running finish lines or life finish lines.
That's when this website was born. Thousands of years ago the Apostle Paul told a young minister, Timothy, when Paul knew his race was nearing an end and Timothy would need to continue it, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." (2 Timothy 4:7)
In many ways, I feel like when Paul passed his torch to Timothy, he passed it to me - and to you. I'm inspired by a song written by some local friends in the band Prospect 7. The song is One Flame to Burn. Probably because when I crossed the finish line of my marathon, that's how I felt. Like I had one flame to burn.
And I can't stop now, look how far I've come
I won't quit here, despite the setting sun
I will go and fight, I'll run to dark with light
I won't be deterred, I have one flame to burn
This weekend I'm running a half-marathon at the Flying Pig in Cincinnati, Ohio. When I do, I'll bring to life what I want TwoTim47.com to be. Running to dark with light. When I toe the line Sunday for my 7th half-marathon, I'll carry the picture below.
The young man in that picture, Michael Stangelo, was born and raised in Canal Fulton, Ohio. After graduating high school he pursued a lifelong dream to be like his grandfather. He joined the marines. Soon after, he found himself in a combat role in Iraq.
It's a small percentage of us who will experience the horror of fighting in a foreign land. And no, sitting on a couch playing Call of Duty isn't a close substitute for that horror. Mainly because when that game is over you can get up and go to dinner like nothing ever happened. In real life, men and women like Michael Stangelo take the battlefield memories to dinner with them.
They also take them to bed. They take them to phone calls back home with family and friends. And for many, they take them to their grave.
Michael Stangelo is one of 22 military veterans who take their lives every day as a result of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the effects of traumatic brain injury, challenges of adjustment and transistion after returning home from a deployement, and the negative stigma in the military community around seeking help.
So often when we honor our military we don't think of the word military beyond the single unit institution of good men and women willing to sacrifice their lives for our country and personal freedoms. But I had the chance to talk on the phone with Michael's cousin Erica earlier this week. When I got off the phone I was deeply saddened by the reminder that military is real lives and faces. Military is sometimes young men who grew up in Ohio like me, they graduated high school and pursued a life dream like me. But unlike me, sacrifice comes to means a young life cut short and a grieving family left behind as part of the memorial.
I am honored to run for Michael this weekend. I hope to run a little light to the darkness that lives in his family's life as a result of his death - especially in my new friend Erica's life. I'm asking God to use my run to bring awareness to the tragic but often preventable ending to the lives of some of this country's greatest heroes. It's my mission this weekend to help people understand the biggest difference between cancer and mental illness is that this country fights like hell to find a cure for cancer and too often tells folks battling mental illness - both in and out of the military - to toughen up.
Well I hope to run tough for Michael this weekend. Knowing the battle he fought will make the battles I often face at mile 6 or 9 or 12 seem small. Erica told me before Michael went to Iraq he was a kid full of life. That's how I plan to run Sunday, Michael, full of life brother.
I'll be publishing a podcast later this week to talk more about my conversation with Erica and about Michael's journey. I hope you'll tune in. You'll be able to find it on this website. You can also download my podcasts at iTunes or Podbean - just dowload either app and search for TwoTim47 and subscribe.
You can also follow me on my TwoTim47 Facebook page where I'll be posting links to the podcasts and updates this weekend about my run for Michael, to include live videos and thoughts.
Life is like running.