Runners honor fallen heroes in Oak Harbor

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Organizers of the 7th annual Major Megan McClung Memorial Run say they’re pleased with the turnout for this year’s event, held in downtown Oak Harbor.

“This year is kind of a learning curve for us,” said race director Melissa Riker.

Originally begun in 2007 by then-Major Phil Murphy of MATSG 53 on Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Megan McClung’s parents assumed control of the race in 2009. The event took a two year break following the sudden death of Michael McClung, Megan’s father, in 2013. Riker contacted Megan’s mom, Re McClung, just a few months ago and the two decided to move forward with the race this year.

“It’s good to get the race done, to work out the kinks for next year,” said Re.

The Maj. Megan McClung Marine Corps League Detachment present colors before the race.

The Maj. Megan McClung Marine Corps League Detachment present colors before the race.

Despite only a couple of minor issues, race day went very smoothly. The weather in the morning was cool and comfortable, but warm enough near the end of the 10K run to make the runners feel it. The race began at Flintstone Park on Bayshore Drive in downtown Oak Harbor. The local Megan McClung Detachment of the Marine Corps League presented colors while Miss Oak Harbor, Dejsha Lollar, sang the national anthem.

Dejsha Lollar, Miss Oak Harbor 2015, sings the national anthem before runners in the 5K race take off.

Dejsha Lollar, Miss Oak Harbor 2015, sings the national anthem before runners in the 5K race take off.

Oak Harbor Mayor Scott Dudley welcomed runners and told those from out of town they were in for a treat.

“Megan McClung live on because of this, and because of you,” Dudley said. “This is the most beautiful run, you’ll enjoy this immensely.”

In all, there were between 75 and 100 runners, more for the 5K than the 10k, which Riker thought wasn’t bad for a rebuilding year. Both routes led the runners past fallen hero banners provided by Gold Star Mothers and another section of the route was lined with boots holding American flags, provided by the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society. All proceeds from the event go to the Semper Fi Fund, which provides assistance to those wounded in service in any branch of the military.

The special touches, said Re, were added by Riker and brought another layer of depth to the race.

Rick and Barbara Slater walk through a section of the race course lined with boots and American flags.

Rick and Barbara Slater walk through a section of the race course lined with boots and American flags.

“She had a vision before she even called me,” Re said.

The spirit and meaning brought out a number of runners, many of whom had run the race before, according to Re. Still, there were several first-time participants.

“I like that it’s a non-profit and it’s helping the military,” said Issa Sharpe of Oak Harbor, whose husband is in the Navy. “I like the meaning they have for military families.”

“I knew who Megan was, and having had a daughter and a son-in-law in the Army serving overseas, we know what it’s like,” said Rick Slater, Coupeville, who was walking the route with his wife, Barbara. “It seemed like a really good cause.”

For others, it just seemed like a fun challenge.

A runner in the 10K enjoys her moment at the finish line.

A runner in the 10K enjoys her moment at the finish line.

“I’ve always wanted to do this event,” said Gwen Oest of Oak Harbor, who participated with her good friend and walking partner Irene Allen.

“I’ve never done anything like this,” said Allen. “It got me out of my box. I did something different. We did our normal walk at our normal speed and it was fun.”

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