The Most Inspirational Mile in Running
About 4.5 miles into last year’s Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Marathon, Heather Wooderson knelt down beside an 18-inch by 24-inch color picture of her son, Army private first class Matthew Walker.
Exactly two years earlier to the day, Walker was killed in Afghanistan.
A St. Louis police detective, Wooderson, who was running her first marathon, kissed her fingers, then grazed them across her son’s face.
“I kind of gave him a kiss and told him I love him,” said Wooderson.
Walker’s picture was part of a tribute to fallen military members that is funded by the organization “wear blue: run to remember.” In what is called the wear blue Mile, 125 pictures of deceased members of the military were displayed on both sides of the street. Following the pictures were 125 3-foot by 5-foot U.S. flags.
Many of the flags were held by family members or friends of the military members who died at war.
“Seeing people holding the flag, that they were honoring people who sacrificed their life for our freedom, it was awesome,” said Eddie Hernandez, who ran Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego, served in the U.S. Army and ran the race with a large American flag.
“Wear blue: run to remember” was co-founded by Lisa Hallett. Hallett’s husband, Army Capt. John Hallett, was killed in Afghanistan on Aug. 25, 2009. At the time of John’s death, the Halletts had three children, boys ages 3 and 1, and a 3-week-old daughter John never met.
In January 2010, Hallett organized a running support group of 15 people where she lives in Dupont, Wash. Seven years later, wear blue: run to remember includes more than 50 running communities across the United States.
“Military families need infrastructure to support them in healthy ways through these challenges,” said Hallett.
Last year’s Rock ‘n Roll San Diego Marathon marked the 20th road race where the organization honored men and women who have died during U.S. military service.
Regarding what the event meant to her last year, Wooderson said, “It was just emotionally overwhelming seeing (Matthew’s) face. It was kind of like he was saying, ‘I’m here with you, mom. Push forward. I’ll see you on the other side.’”
View our other Milestones episodes:
- The Game Changer | The debut episode of Milestones, looks back at the 1998 Inaugural Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Marathon, which was the game changer of the running industry.
- The Champion | Featuring three-time Super Bowl champion, Roger Craig, who was a founding member of the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose Half Marathon.
- The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll | The episode highlights why runners dressing up as “The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll” is a part of our history.
- Positively Harriette | The oldest woman in history to run a marathon returns to San Diego to participate in the half marathon.
- The Celebration | A thank you to the participants, volunteers, sponsors, and staff that have made 20 years of running possible.