The Megan McClung Memorial Run is making its return after a two-year hiatus.
The run took a break following the unexpected death of race director Michael McClung in 2013. Future races remained in limbo as well, as Megan’s mom and Michael’s widow, Re McClung, wasn’t sure how she would be able to bring the memorial run back.
“I didn’t think we’d do it ever again,” admitted Re McClung.
Things changed a few weeks ago, when McClung was approached by race director Melissa Riker.
“I came across Megan’s story and was overwhelmed with sadness,” said Riker. “I just felt it was important to bring it back. It’s amazing how many people knew Megan and knew Mike as well.”
The seventh annual 5K run/walk and 10K run will begin at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 12 at Flintstone Park in Oak Harbor.
Maj. Megan McClung was the first female United States Marine Corps officer killed in combat during the Iraq War. The former Marine unit on Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, MATSG-53, started the race in 2007 to honor Megan and other fallen heroes. McClung’s parents took over management of the race in 2010.
Although a little short on time in terms of planning the event this year, things are coming together well, said both women. The hardest part is getting the word out to both runners and volunteers.
“To put on an event like this takes money and it takes people,” Re said.
“We have a zero-dollar budget, so we are looking for people to volunteer,” said Riker. “We need course monitors, so if you want to have a group of people cheering the runners on and showing support for our military, please let us know.”
This year the end of the race coincides with the beginning of the annual Military Appreciation Picnic.
“I think it is brilliant to move the race to September, and to have that connection to the Military Appreciation Picnic is great,” said Re. “There’s a lot going on, especially in August, and because this is just a 5K or 10K, people will make different choices, because they don’t race two weekends in a row. Participation had dropped off because of that.”
“I figured if we were going to try to bring the race back, it would be good to connect to something,” said Riker.
All proceeds from the memorial run benefit the Semper Fi Fund, which provides financial help to all members of the military injured on duty as they recover and transition back into civilian life.
“Our service men and women are a unique breed, they’re special,” said Re. “They are part of something bigger than themselves, a cog in the wheel. We owe them a great deal, our respect, our support. That’s what the Semper Fi Fund does, and that would be the work Megan would be doing if she was here. Through this race, we can help.”
According to Re, Megan was an athlete and then some. She was known for finishing a race, then running back to encourage fellow runners to finish. In honor of Megan‘s military service, Riker said the race will have a more defined patriotic character this time.
“There will be special things along the route,” she said. “We want to pay respect to everyone currently serving, those who did, the injured and fallen and their families.”
Gold Star Moms have arranged for 50 fallen hero banners, which will be displayed along the course. There will be boots with American flags along the pathway and the local detachment of the Marine Corps League will do the opening colors.
Before Michael McClung’s unexpected death, there had been talk of turning the memorial run into a marathon. Those plans are still on the plate, according to Re.
“It’s always been a goal to do a marathon,” she said. “We need to evolve, and Megan would have wanted that. Megan continues to be an inspiration. Her story meant something. We’re trying to keep her memory, and Mike’s memory, alive by continuing what they were dedicated to doing.”
Bayshore Drive will be closed on race day from Dock Street to Midway. The Navy will open up Maylor Point for the 10K route and there will also be a 1K Kids Fun Run at 11:30 a.m. Those who pre-register online (www.meganmcclungmemorialrun.com or www.active.com) will receive a technical running shirt and commemorative poker chip. Race day registration will begin at Flintstone Park at 8 a.m. Those interested in volunteering may contact Re or Riker at race email@example.com.
As for race day, Re knows her family will be around her. Her son, Michael, not only runs the website, but will be running the race this year. Neither will be alone.
“Michael’s spirit will be there. He’ll be looking down, and so will Megan,” she said.