This past Sunday, October 27th was the BIG DAY. Charlene Gatewood, our very own and very dedicated ETS mentor, ran the 38th Annual Marine Corps Marathon to support the professional and educational goals of women with her fundraising campaign, Charlene’s Race to Empower Women. We are so proud of her and enormously grateful! In her own words, she shares her story of that day:
Dear Friends and Family,
Well, it’s over and this is my last email on the subject, so forgive me if it’s a bit long. Yesterday started off very cold. When I picked up my race packet at the Expo, I received the official marathon shirt, a long sleeved gray shirt with lots of emblems and the MCM logo commemorating the occasion. I layered that shirt under my light-weight jacket to ensure that I stayed warm. I had gloves and wore some panty hose under my yoga pants. My fanny pack was loaded with paper towels for my runny nose and Clif Mocha Gel Shots for energy – I was ready.
We got to the Crystal City parking garage about 6:50 am and the line of runners and their families waiting for the shuttle buses was already down the sidewalk and wrapped around the circumference of the garage. We parked and got in line. The buses were taking runners first and when enough family members were gathered, they would get on a separate bus. Walter was 2 buses behind me.
When we got to the Pentagon parking lot, I immediately started walking toward the starting line. As I walked, I saw 4 parachutes floating down – 2 with humans and 2 with the U.S. flag. It was quite a sight to see the flag unfurled and blowing in the wind and floating down to earth.
There were so many people and many of them were skimpily dressed, some with plastic bags over them to keep them warm. I was very comfortable. There was music blaring and camera panning the crowd. The gun went off for the wheelchair racers and a few minutes later for the runners. It took over 3 minutes for me to cross the start line. As we ran up Lee Highway, I took off my gloves. I could see that runners were discarding clothes in the street, but I was determined not to leave anything I brought with me. Just as we were climbing the hill toward Spout Run, I realized I had on too much. I tried to unzip my jacket, but the zipper got stuck and wouldn’t move no matter how hard I tried. I was less than 3 miles in and knew that I couldn’t run the whole race that way. So, I stopped, pulled the jacket over my head and pulled the shirt over my head. At that point I’m standing in the street with only my sports bra, but I really didn’t care. I put the jacket back on and tied my MCM shirt around my waist and ran the hill.
The spectators had some very interesting signs. Most stated that we were “running better than Congress” but my favorites said that “this was the worst parade ever”!
The course turned right at West Potomac Park. By mile 12 I felt my bladder would burst, but every porta-john I passed had long lines and I couldn’t waste time or slow my momentum. As I entered the West Potomac Park, I saw a large tree with branches and leaves all the way to the ground. I ran over, went into the seclusion of the leaves and came out relieved. The shoulder of West Potomac Park was lined with the photographs of fallen Marines who died between 2011 and 2013. It was very sobering and sad.
I continued running nonstop and got to mile 17 in 3 hours and 30 minutes. I knew that I was doing well. I walked about half of the next 3 miles but got to mile 20 (on the 14th Street Bridge) at 12:35, still not bad. I anticipated finishing in another hour and a half. However, that’s when I decided to stretch – bad idea. I must have pulled something because when I started to walk I had pain in my right hip. It was less painful when I ran but I was so tired by then my running was sporadic.
When I finally made it to the finish line, I reacted the same way that I did 11 years ago. When the young female marine put the medal around my neck I burst into tears. When I looked up, a woman at the end of the lane took my picture – it was of my ugly cry face, not the pretty one, but I really didn’t care. It as over, I was done, mission accomplished!
I would like to thank all of you who contributed your financial support to Empowered Women International and those of you who supported me emotionally. God bless you! A very special thank you to my love, Walter, who singlehandedly raised $2,460 though his Masonic affiliations and my beloved daughter, Saronda, who gave $325. My total is now $3,870, only $130 shy of my goal.
My biggest contributors:
Columbia Commandry Knights Templar $2000 (Walter’s affiliation)
Lafayette Dupont Lodge $460 (Walter’s affiliation)
Saronda Gatewood-Royster $325 (my lovely daughter)
There is still time to give. Empowered Women International operates 12 months out of the year serving women in need. Please consider supporting this organization in the future. You can mail your contribution to Empowered Women International at 320 S Henry Street, Alexandria, VA, 22314. Don’t wait for my next marathon, because there won’t be one; I’m done!
By the way, I beat my 2002 time by 3 minutes and 50 seconds!
Love you all and thank you,
She Did It! Charlene Tells Her Story of the Marine Corps Marathon