Every year, thousands of runners converge in Fredericksburg to #RunWithTheMarines during the iconic Marine Corps Historic Half Weekend. And although the coronavirus pandemic resulted in the cancellation of the 2020 live event scheduled for Friday, May 15 through Sunday, May 17, participants had the opportunity to run the events virtually.
More than 7,000 runners, including 1,200 military personnel from all 50 states and 24 countries across the world completed the five-mile Semper 5ive, the 13.1-mile Historic Half and the 18.1-mile Devil Dog Double wherever they could on a course of their choosing — while hearing authentic sounds from the actual course. Through a partnership with Motigo, runners were able to download the free Marine Corps Historic Half Audio Experience to hear special audio messages ranging from the official start line announcements and motivational speeches to description of historical landmarks at each designated mile markers.
Patty Campbell originally registered for the 13.1-mile distance and had every intention of conquering the infamous “Hospital Hill” and crossing the finish line with Marines by her side. When the event transitioned to a virtual run, the thought of running alone was disappointing. That disappointment was further magnified when she had to undergo an emergency abdominal surgery and lose three weeks of training.
“I knew I would not be in a position to safely run the half marathon distance before the required date,” said Campbell. “So, I reluctantly transferred my bib to run the virtual Semper 5ive mile event.”
Campbell continued: “I worked hard to safely get myself back into condition to run five miles. The run was significant to me to accomplish something during this challenging time of isolation and to mark the end of my recovery after a somewhat traumatic medical experience.”
She admitted that she was still missing the tradition of running with and receiving encouragement from the men and women of the United States Marines Corps; that was, after all the most unique and memorable part of the experience for her and many others. Campbell took to Facebook to share her story and find out how she could connect with a Marine in her town to run the virtual event with her.
“My high school friend Col. Krista Crosetto USMC (Ret) shared my post on her page generating even more interest,” said Campbell. Eventually, Brett Steele, a Marine stationed in Okinawa, Japan, volunteered to run with the 60-year-old New York resident.
The two scheduled their virtual run for Mother’s Day weekend – Saturday at 3p.m. amidst wind gusts and snow squalls for her and Sunday at 4 a.m. in 70° weather for him. After kicking things off with a FaceTime call to get each other hyped, they were off.
“It was amazing! Knowing that he was running with me from half-way around the world gave me motivation and energy to complete the run,” said Campbell. “I ended up running my personal best five-mile run ever and was able to submit online to the race an amazing time that placed me well among other runners.”
Campbell continued that Steele even said this invitation inspired him to work on his running training. “He thanked me for inspiring him when it was really the opposite.”
“This certainly wasn’t the Marine Corps Historic Half memory that I thought I would create when I first registered, but in a way, this is so much more memorable and a run that I will never forget.” She finished with a time of 46:33 and plans to run the 2021 MCM.