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THE INSPIRATION OF TRIBE JAMES
When Marine Corps Major Brian James passed away in 1992, he left behind not only a young family, but also a legacy. Twenty years later, “Tribe James” will come together to run the MCM10K on Oct. 28, 2012. This race will be the culmination of months of training, preparation and fundraising by the James family in honor of their inspiration: Their father.
As a test pilot for the Marine Corps, Maj James served with the Rotary Wing Aircraft Test Directorate. He died at the age of 34 while co-piloting a test flight of the V-22 Osprey. During his service, Maj James’ military decorations include the Naval Aviator Insignia, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, the Navy Commendation Medal, the National Defense Service Medal and the Air Medal. Just prior to his death Maj James had completed a Masters in mathematics and had been selected as an Astronaut Candidate for NASA.
Perhaps the most impressive part of Maj James’ legacy is his children. Tribe James consists of Christy James Hale, 28, and her husband Brandon Hale, 27, of Chicago, IL; Erin James, 26, of Chapel Hill, NC; Kyle James, 24, of Chicago, IL; and Kathryn “Kate” James, 20, of Warrenton, VA and attending school in Greenville, NC. Younger sister Baylee Alerding, 16, and mother Deanna James, 52, both of Warrenton, VA, complete the team.
In previous years, the James family has cheered Christy and Kyle as they completed two and four Marine Corps Marathons, respectively, and have volunteered their time by working MCM aid stations along the course. The MCM10K, however, will be the first time the entire family will be participating in a running event together. The geographic distance between Tribe James members as they train is an obstacle that the team has overcome with a little creativity by creating their own blog as a tool to check in with each other. The more experienced family runners provide advice and encouragement to the novices of the family while everyone shares their experiences as they prepare for race day.
“It’s always nice to have someone training alongside you, pushing you and making sure you’re getting your runs in,” says Christy. “With family, you can be a little bit tougher. You can really encourage each other and call each other out if we aren’t performing our best. There’s a lot of competition brewing behind the scenes, too. No one wants to be the ‘slow’ one!”
Fundraising for the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation was an easy decision for the James family. The Marine Corps connection honored their father and the siblings themselves have benefited from scholarships from the foundation. Tribe James views the MCM10K as a way to pay the benevolence forward.
“This is our way of giving back to them. I wouldn’t have graduated without their help. The same goes for Kyle and Kate,” says Erin.
“I think this is exactly how our Dad would like to see us together, working toward a common goal and helping someone else in the end,” adds Christy.
As they complete the MCM10K, Maj James will be in the forefront of the Tribe’s minds. Christy recalls how her father enjoyed making people laugh and had what the family refers to as the “James Charm,” a quality that drew people in and made them love him. Most beneficial on the race course, however, will be the memory of how motivating and supportive Maj James was for his children.
“What I loved most about my Dad was that he was so encouraging. His motto was, ‘Never give up.’ I always felt like I could accomplish anything when he was with me,” says Christy. “My Dad was a runner and, in some ways, I’ve always felt like he’s been watching over us, leading us down this path.”
“He was funny, adventurous, loving and extremely driven,” adds Erin. “I think his drive is in all of us and it’s one of the reasons we are so excited about this race!”
For the James family, their participation in the MCM10K is symbolic of their life after losing their Dad; once again they will overcome challenges and stick together throughout their journey. Their hope is to make a big impression on other families and demonstrate that love and determination can ultimately result from life’s tragedies. Knowing that the James family patriarch will be with them in spirit will drive them all to a strong finish.
“The final stretch [of the MCM10K] runs alongside Arlington National Cemetery where our Dad is buried,” says Erin. “It’s the hardest part of the race, but being so close to him and to each other will make it possible and touching. The only thing that could be better is if he were able to run it with us.”
“It’s almost like he’ll be a part of the team, right there with us at the end,” says Christy. “When my Dad died, there were days that we thought life wouldn’t go on. This year, we’ll run together and show the world that nothing can take us down. That the bad parts of life can make you stronger, bring you together as a family, and inspire you to make a change in the lives of others.”
To learn more about Tribe James visit their blog at www.tribejames.wordpress.com. Registration for the MCM10K opens on April 4 at 12 p.m. EST at www.marinemarathon.com.