Why “We Run With Heroes”

by Mark Shilling

One of the most common questions we get is, “Why did you start The Army Marathon?” A simple question, but one that evokes a lot of emotion from those of us that started this event.

Two of the founders, Ed Bandas and Richard Archer, attended a military appreciation luncheon hosted by one of the local chambers of commerce in 2011. During this luncheon, the guest speaker asked the service members in the audience to stand up and be recognized if they have had at least one tour of duty in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Almost all of the soldiers present stood up (approximately 300 or so). The guest speaker then asked those who have had at least 2 tours to remain standing. A few soldiers sat down. The speaker then asked those with at least 3 tours to remain standing. A few more soldiers sat down. Then the speaker asked those with 4, then 5, then 6 to remain standing. About a third of the soldiers present were still standing. This was a very emotional moment for all present at this luncheon including the founders.

This moment spurred a conversation later with Ed and Richard and two other veterans about what we could do to help our military families in need of services. A decision was made to do something to help some smaller charities where we might make a difference either in funds or visibility. Many worthy charities already existed and it made sense to support them instead of making up another redundant program.

The how came about somewhat by accident – Ed was training to run the 2011 Marine Corps Marathon. During a discussion with his then-16 year old son about doing some kind of charitable “thing” in which the son’s JROTC could be involved, the son suggested that they create The Army Marathon. After a little research, it was determined that since a specific “Army Marathon” did not exist Ed and Richard would take the initiative and start it right here in Central Texas close to Fort Hood, the largest base in the free world and home to 50,000 soldiers plus families. They further decided to start it as a nonprofit with the hopes that it would attract the attention of potential sponsors and shine a spotlight on the charities they were trying to help in order to serve our military members and their families. And, just as importantly, they decided to call it “The Army Marathon” to honor the soldiers and National Guardsmen of our country and create another proud tradition like the other services’ marathons.

This kicked off a chain reaction that eventually became The Army Marathon. Thanks to some faithful sponsors and some smart people they found to help along the way, Ed and Richard worked through many of the issues of a brand new event. (By the way, these issues will be the subject of a future blog post! Stay tuned!)

The bottom line is that the founders, the advisors, the sponsors, the communities, and the runners all have a common interest to help the heroes and their families who serve this great nation. Thanks to one of our advisors who came up with our motto “We Run With Heroes”. We couldn’t have said it any better than that.