ground was wet and the air was a bitter cold, but puddles and chill-filled gusts of air could not stop them. There was a goal in mind, and that goal was the finish line.With 3,606 of them huddled together laughing, chatting, jumping up and down in place, getting mentally prepared for the ensuing battle ahead, the All American Marathon participants sounded like an early-morning concert from afar.
“Five minutes to go!” the emcee shouted through the speakers, further exciting the crowd. “You better get down here ‘cause we’re ready to go!”
The energy was high for a bitter cold morning. When the 105mm Howitzer went off, the screams of excitement were deafening. Smiles and cheers filled the crowd. Faces were painted and some racers wore costumes with tutus, American flag leggings, but they were mainly groups of friends pushing each other along.
Abandoned jackets and sweatshirts lined the fence at Festival Park in downtown Fayetteville after their owners discarded them; left behind to be reclaimed later in the day.
From Festival Park, the racers ran up to Rowan Street, made a right, turned right onto Green Street, ran around the Market House to Hay Street, then circled the streets around the Airborne and Special Operations Museum making their way up Hay Street again headed to Morganton Rd.
When the racers made it to the Morganton Rd. ramp of the All American Expressway there were volunteers ready to eagerly pass out water and offer encouragement along the way.
The full marathon measured a total of 26 miles, the Mike to Mike half-marathon was 13 and the 5k measured a little over three miles.
Spectators held signs and flags screaming out cheers to push the racers along.
At the Santa Fe ramp began the Wear Blue: Run to Remember Mile. Some racers ran with photos of fallen Soldiers attached to the backs of their jerseys in order to commemorate them throughout the race.
Wear Blue: Run to Remember is a non-profit organization dedicated to remembering fallen Soldiers since the start of the Global War on Terror.
Marathon runner Robert Johnson, 39, suffered an injury but was able to successfully complete the half-marathon.
“One thing I thought was cool was the flags along the All American Expressway. There were [photos of] all the Soldiers that had passed away. I guess somebody knew one guy because she was just weeping. That kind of made me a little emotional… It was nice,” he said.
All American Marathon race winner, Edward Knudsen, 30, of the 3rd UK Signal Division Unit said the crowd kept him going.
“…hearing the crowd definitely gets you through those ups and downs that come and go the whole time,” he said.
Knudsen has raced in Cypress, Scotland, the UK and finally here in the U.S. He is now preparing for a 214-mile race in Scotland once he returns to the UK in May.
“Knowing the finish line is here … you’ll get there in the end. Staying focused on knowing how hard you can push. Knowing that feeling of when you push too hard, when it’s time to ease back slightly. Take a bout to recover and then dig deep again. Know the finish is coming,” Knudsen said.