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Paul Long: Honor Run Half-Marathon in Florence on Nov. 15 benefits good cause and honors our veterans

Inaugural medal from the 2014 Honor Run

Inaugural medal from the 2014 Honor Run

It was a bitterly cold day last year when I volunteered at the first Honor Run Half-Marathon in Florence, where one of my duties was to hand out the age-group awards.

That task consisted of getting a printout of the top three in each age division, and when people came up and said, “Hey, that’s me!” I would congratulate them and give them the appropriate award. During this, two women walked up to my booth, looked at the list, and expressed disappointment that the last group was for females, aged 60-64.

“Is that as high as it goes?” I remember one asking. Because that list was all I had to go on, I told her it was, and I surmised it was because no one above that age had signed up for the race.

The two women, who appeared to be in their late 50s, turned and pointed out the woman behind them, who was wearing running clothes with a pinned-on racing bib, and had a medal draped around her neck. They identified her as their 83-year-old mother, who slowly nodded her head and shivered as her daughters said she had finished the 13.1-mile race in less than three hours.

She received her award — first place in the 70-99 age group. She said she was dedicating it to her father, who had fought in the First World War.

“We have a simple mission: To honor those who have served us,” said Honor Run race director Scott Spicher of Burlington.

All the proceeds from the race — being held this year on Nov. 15 starting at 7 a.m. at the Florence Mall — go directly to the Tri State Honor Flight.

And what is the Honor Flight, you may ask?

The Honor Flight Network recognizes American veterans by flying select groups to Washington to see the various war and service memorials in the nation’s capital. For the veterans, the cost — airfare, tour, and fees to cover all the sites — is covered. Several trips are sponsored every year, and top priority is given to World War II and terminally ill veterans from all wars. More recently, the network expanded the tours to include Korean War and Vietnam War veterans.

Spicher, who works for the Boone County school system, went on the last flight as a guardian to provide assistance to the veterans, ensure their safety, and help them have a safe, memorable, and rewarding experience.

“To see these guys, knowing everything they have done and gone through, who are seeing these (sites) for the first time, it’s something special,” he said.

One person who already has signed up for the race is Brian Barclay, an 31-year-old Army veteran from Independence,who will be running in his second Honor Run Marathon.

It’s a race that is close to Barclay’s heart, and one he has been training for since mid-summer — he proudly states that he ran 100 miles in October, his first 100-mile month ever. He often carries an American flag on his training runs, and signs up for races under Team RWB — a running community that helps to enrich the lives of veterans through physical and social activities.

“It is a deeply personal, almost spiritual, reason,” he said. “I carry her for those who can’t. I also run with the flag to try and connect our veteran community with our civilian communities. That is part of Team RWB’s mission. We strive to enrich veterans lives through physical activity, and building that connection is a crucial part in accomplishing our mission.”

Brian Barclay running with the American and POW flags at a Memorial Day race this year.

Brian Barclay running with the American and POW flags at a Memorial Day race this year.

His father is a veteran of the Korean War. His grandfather is a World War II veteran. Neither has been to Washington, and neither has been to the monuments to their service time. So he feels proud that by running the race and paying his entry fee, he somehow plays a small role in the trip for others.

“We choose to support causes with our entry fees,” he said. “This race funded an entire honor flight,” he said. “This was 70 veterans who got to see their monuments, and many were able to get the welcome home they deserved. Seeing the faces of these men and women coming back from their day in DC was truly awe inspiring.”

Spicher credits his wife, Laura, with coming up with the idea for a race, and encouraging him to see it through. He started working on it sometime in late 2013, and the first race went off in 2014, with the second race planned for Nov. 15. He is proud that not only does the race honor veterans, but his community of Boone County. The race is the only half-marathon that takes place completely in Northern Kentucky.

“Northern Kentucky didn’t have any (major) race to call its own.” he said. “We wanted to showcase what Boone County had to offer, and what do people think about when they think about Boone County? The water tower.”

The races — in addition to the half-marathon, there is a two-person relay and a kids’ one-mile race — start and end near the Florence Y’all Tower at the mall. Online registration is available through today (Nov. 4), and at the packet pickup at the mall this weekend.

The half-marathon was held on a Saturday last year, but traffic concerns pushed it back to Sunday this year. And while Stricher prefers the Saturday running, he said Florence and Boone County officials have been generous with their time and commitment to the race.

Barclay likes that the race is near his home in Independence. He said he started running in the Army, but got really serious in the summer of 2014, when he first heard about the Honor Run. That 2014 race remains his most memorable running experience.

“It was when I crossed over Route 18 coming in to the finish of the Honor Run (my first ever race) and about one-tenth of a mile past that I saw a buddy, Luke Smith, and he handed me his American flag to finish with,” Barclay said. “Then about another tenth of a mile another friend, Chris Dennemann, was waiting for me and ran me into the finish.

“He looked at me with about 300 feet left and said, ‘a half freaking marathon, you’re gonna make me cry,’ and then he left me to cross the finish line with Old Glory flying high.”

Paul Long, on the road (Photo by Kris Payler Staverman)

Paul Long, on the road (Photo by Kris Payler Staverman)

Paul Long writes weekly for the NKyTribune about running and runners. For his daily running stories, follow him at dailymile.com or on Twitter @Pogue57

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