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Linda Wagers had never run a marathon.
But as the military mom pondered ways to do something special for her two Marine sons, an idea that at first seemed outlandish began to feel like a fitting choice.
What better way to honor Lee and Logan Osburn than to compete in the Marine Corps Marathon, an annual run in Washington, D.C., that celebrates service members and raises money for the Wounded Warrior Project.
Not only did Wagers achieve her goal of completing the Oct. 28 marathon in under four hours, she also shared a moment of triumph at the finish line with her son, Lee, a 28-year-old infantryman who has served tours in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Wagers called it her first and last marathon. She told her sons that she would run only for a cause that would benefit the Marine Corps and only if they would take on the challenge with her.
Missing from the jubilant post-race photo was Wagers younger son, Logan, 26, who had hoped to join his family. A squad leader, Logan learned several weeks ago that his tour in Afghanistan would be extended. He hopes to be home in North Raleigh by Christmas and stay for at least a year.
Wagers was eager last week for the chance to talk with Logan by phone or email in part so that she can tell him how she beat his older brother.
Moms a tough woman, a humbled Lee said, reflecting on the experience a few days later. Lee began experiencing knee pain and elected to walk for parts of the second half.
Sharing Marine pride
For months, the family discussed the possibility of entering the marathon. But it didnt get serious until March, when Wagers received a text message from Lee with two words: Im registered.
I knew what it meant right away, Wagers said.
Though she exercised regularly and was always a good athlete, Wagers, 54, had never done anything like this. She began an intensive training regimen that included early morning runs in her Durant Trails neighborhood in North Raleigh and afternoon runs around Shelley Lake and Umstead State Park.
Once Lee put the challenge out there, there wasnt anything stopping her, said Kevin Wagers, Lindas husband. Thats the way my wife is. When she puts her mind to something, shes going down that path.
The marathon, Lee said, was an opportunity for the family to share in the pride and commitment that comes with serving in the Marines. Based in Wilson, Lee now works as a recruiter.
Its something that we did together, Lee said. Heres a little piece of the Marine Corps that she and I now have. We dont get a lot of those opportunities.
It wasnt a surprise when Logan joined the Marines shortly after his graduation from Millbrook High School in 2004. Since childhood, he had talked about his desire to serve. The shocker was that Lee, then a sophomore at Western Carolina University, chose to sign up, too.
His brother said, You really need to come do this, Kevin Wagers said.
A day to remember
With Hurricane Sandy barreling toward the mid-Atlantic region last weekend, a record field of 24,000 runners encountered cloudy skies and steady breezes decent weather, it turns out, for a long-distance run.
Wagers said her workouts proved more grueling than the marathon itself. Knowing that you have this training schedule, and you have to stick to it, that is hard, she said.
During the marathon, Marines posted at food and water stations along the route give encouragement and tell runners about the remaining distance on the course.
It really makes you appreciate it when they say, Push through it, Wagers said. With all that they have to go through, it makes 26 miles seem like nothing.