On Saturday, Tara and I (as well as some teammates) participated in the RI Run for the Fallen. Since Tara was going to do this with me, walking, I decided it would be a great race to ruck. It worked out really well because of my foot anyway. We were also able to pause at each marker and pay our respects, as well as to the Gold Star family members who were present.
The event schedule was that the Gold Star families would arrive by 8:30, opening ceremony at 9:00 and race start at 9:30. We were able to pick up our bibs starting at 7:30, so we left the house around 6:45 for the roughly hour long drive to Colt State Park in Bristol, RI. On a side note, this was my first trip to this park and it was amazing. Beautiful, waterfront views and amazing trails. It’s really a shame it’s so far away or I would definitely run there more often.
This race was a free event, in its first year, and they just simply asked for donations instead of race fees. I signed up myself and Tara through Active under Team RWB RI at a teammate’s request. When we got there, we went to team check-in and they didn’t have us, but gave us bibs and just made a note of the team on a sheet of paper. Later, I thought we should ask if maybe they had us under individuals instead, but they didn’t. With our bibs, we also received a small bag with some flyers and a travel size deodorant in it. Tshirts were available for purchase, but unfortunately they didn’t have any in our sizes when we thought to buy one afterwards.
As we were waiting in line my friend Al snuck up on us and gave us a quick squeeze before we headed back to the car to drop off the bags and grab my ruck. We then went over to the memorial they had set up for all of the fallen soldiers from the state of RI since the war began. They had two bagpipers playing music behind the memorial and it was very moving. Each memorial had a picture of the soldier, his hero date and how he died.
We hung out by the water a bit and chatted with our friends until the opening ceremony began.
Everybody lined up near the memorial and they had a pledge of allegiance said by a girl scout troop, presenting of the colors and the National Anthem. They then had a chaplain lead a prayer, there was a poem read by a Gold Star family member, followed by 4 men who read the name of each fallen soldier with a bell ring after each name. That might not be the right order of things, but you get the gist of it. Lots of tears were shed throughout the morning.Shortly after they were done, we all lined up to start.
It was a beautiful day, albeit a bit warm in the direct sunlight. Along the route were more memorial markers. Family members of each soldier were stationed near their respective markers and it was sad to see that probably half of the markers didn’t have anyone there. At each marker we passed, we put a hand on the marker with a quick “thank you” to let them know we appreciated their sacrifice. If family members were present, we shook their hands and said whatever we could think of, knowing nothing we said could heal their hurt. There was one couple in particular that broke my heart. They were an older couple, so not sure if they were parents or grandparents of the soldier, but the woman was just pouring out tears and her husband looked like he was just barely holding it together. They got hugs, not handshakes. I just wanted to squeeze the pain out of her.
It was a very emotional day, but they had excellent execution for a first time race. The only small complaint I would have, and really just a note for the next time, is to have more water if possible. It was very warm and they were already out of water at the first stop and almost out at the second one. I think we got the last bottle of water to split. Maybe a suggestion would be to ask people to donate cases of water, or maybe suggest people bring their own? One other minor thing would be to have arrows for the course. It was pretty easy to follow along due to the markers, but there was one point where we made a large, unnecessary loop because we were just following the traffic. After the race, we found out they estimated it around 3.7 miles instead of 3.1. Tara and I figured this out as we were leaving and came across that area (next to a rotary) and we didn’t know when we passed that point of why there were hero markers on both sides of the road. We were supposed to come up one side of the road and down the other after going around the rotary, but everyone was following the sidewalk instead of the road, and the sidewalk veered off to the right. That also explained why that section had no markers for a while. If these are the only complaints after your first year, you’re doing great.
I took advantage of a chiropractic tent to have them check out my foot, so that was pretty nice. They were having catered food after the race, but the line was so long we didn’t stick around. I needed to get home and try to nap (which never happened) before the NEFC event (recap coming soon) that night. This is definitely a race we will do again in the future.