Richard Brooks was easy to spot at the St. Jude Rock ‘n’ Roll Nashville Marathon and ½ Marathon. He was the man carrying a 3-foot-by-5-foot American flag, all 26.2 miles, for 5 hours, 51 minutes, 38 seconds.
A 50-year-old floor layer from Erin, Tenn., Brooks has run all 17 editions of the race, formerly known as the St. Jude Country Music Marathon and ½ Marathon.
“So I don’t have perfect knees,” he joked.
Brooks began toting the American flag at Nashville in 2014, just weeks after the Boston Marathon terrorist attacks.
“I wanted to be patriotic and show my support,” said Brooks. “I’m not going to be afraid of terrorists.”
Brooks is downhome Southern, from his spiritual faith, passion for country music, to his love of NASCAR. In fact, after Dale Earnhardt died at the Daytona 500 in 2001, Brooks carried an Earnhardt No. 3 flag at the Country Music Marathon.
While lugging the Earnhardt flag during the Country Music Marathon one year, Brooks was bumped by a fellow NASCAR fan with a passion for another driver. Easing past Brooks on the course, the runner said, “Earnhardt just got passed by Mark Martin.”
On Saturday, Brooks was proud to carry the Stars & Stripes. He heard chants of “USA!” And “Go America!” People thanked him too many times to count.
“My wrists hurt. And it’s bad on the shoulders,” he said. “But the fans motivate me. The fans are great.”