Coming into this year’s Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, Gunnery Sergeant John Caraway, who works in Marine Corps Systems Command’s (MCSC) Communications, Intelligence and Networking Systems, had competed in four consecutive Marine Corps Marathons with several years of long-distance training under his belt. Through those years of training, he had become used to lacing up his shoes and heading out for a run, used to ratcheting up the distances of his runs as the fall event got closer, and the aches and pains that came with those longer distances. He has even become somewhat used to his ice bath, used to keep swelling down, after running 15 miles or more.
WASHINGTON, DC -- But this year, Caraway had to change his usual marathon routine ever so slightly: Before heading out for a run, he would tell his wife where and how far he was planning to run, and when he expected to return. That small change in routine reflects a major change in Caraway’s life.
In April, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
“The doctor told me, ‘It’s a cancerous brain tumor, and you’re not going to hear another word that I say,’” he said. “He was right. I can’t remember anything else from that conversation.”
Shortly after the shock wore off, Caraway wanted to make sure that his disease would not define him and, almost immediately, set his mind on running in this year’s marathon. According to the Gunnery Sergeant, the training and anticipation of running in this special race kept him positive through seemingly endless doctor’s appointments and treatments.
“Having that goal to keep my eyes on and having the training has helped me more than anything,” he said. “My family really indulged me on this one, and I had so much support from everybody around me that I was bound and determined to finish this marathon.”
Less than seven months after the diagnosis, Caraway completed his goal on Oct. 31, crossing the finish line at the Marine Corps Marathon in 4:03:55.
Caraway wasn’t the only runner from MCSC with a vast support network helping him toward the finish line. Paul Mann, Joint Program Manager, Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles, had his family and two retired Marines to thank for helping him cross the finish line.
Weeks before the race, he sustained an injury that stopped him from training. He had never run more than 17 miles, including in two attempts to run in the marathon in 2001 and 2003 that both ended in injury before the race started.
Prior to this year’s race, he was understandably nervous and considered dropping out when Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Carmody and Lieutenant Colonel John Smith, both retired, gave Mann the boost he needed.
“They just talked to me and there was no doubt in their mind,” Mann said. “They both knew I was getting across that line … I felt carried by these guys. Those guys and my family, who made huge sacrifices so I could run this race, crossed that line with me.”
This marathon is known as the “People’s Marathon,” and a huge crowd along the race course offered support to lagging runners.
Some runners listened to iPods or other portable music players but Lieutenant Colonel Michael Ledbetter, and Ruth Cisneros, both with Marine Air-Ground Task Force Command and Control, Weapons and Sensors Development and Integration, could not have imagined running while listening to music.
“There were spots where there were just people four and five deep,” Ledbetter said. “Those people helped when my legs were getting weary toward the end of the race.”
“There were only two or three spots where there were no fans,” Cisneros added. “I can only remember a stretch or two where there weren’t any fans watching, which is really fantastic.”
Captain Pauleen Stevens, Life Cycle Logistics, who ran in the marathon’s 10K race, appreciated being able to experience Washington in a way that she had not seen it.
“It was neat to be able to run through D.C. without cars,” she said. “I got to see a whole new side of the city.”