Michelle Carduner placed her hands on her chest, overcome with emotion after crossing the finish line at the Army Run Sept. 22 in Ottawa.
Completing the half marathon marked the end of a journey, both emotional and physical, for the 54-year-old Langley realtor.
She began feeling knee pain roughly 14 kilometres into her 21-kilometre run, but wasn’t about to let that stop her from finishing an event that raises funds and awareness for Soldier On as well as the Military Families Fund.
Carduner was among the 12,000 runners who took part in the half marathon. Another 10,000 participants registered for the five-kilometre event.
“My goal, was, I needed to come through there upright,” she said. “I had no time [goal]. They leave it open for four hours.”
Running in cool, cloudy, and occasionally misty conditions in the Nation’s Capital, Carduner finished the half marathon in 2:48.00.
Her own personal motivation kept her on the road.
During the Army Run, veterans and soldiers run side-by-side with civilians in support of the two causes.
Soldier On provides resources and opportunities for serving and retired Canadian Forces personnel with a permanent or chronic illness or injury, to actively participate in physical, recreational, or sporting activities.
“All of the money raised from the registration fees and from the pledges goes to support military families and veterans who have been ill or perhaps disabled,” Carduner told the Langley Advance a few months prior to the run [Realtor runs in soldier’s memory, April 4 Advance]. “This is a chance to give back to our military.”
Carduner raised $1,200 and ran in honour of Canadian Forces Pte. Garrett Chidley, a 21-year-old from Langley who was killed by a landmine in Afghanistan on Dec. 30, 2009.
Chidley was driving a light armoured vehicle when it was ripped apart by an explosion.
The night before the run, Carduner visited an expo and had an opportunity to hold the guns the military uses during missions.
“How those guys carry their packs, with all the weight in them, in the heat, with all their flak jackets and everything and drop and aim, carrying those heavy guns, is beyond me,” she said.
She also got an up close look at a LAV III, the exact type of armoured vehicle Chidley was riding in when the landmine took his life.
“Those things are built to more or less roll or turn over as opposed to blow apart,” she related. “It’s pretty tight quarters in there.”
Standing near the LAV III, Carduner explained to a young soldier, roughly Chidley’s age, about her motivation for running.
“I could see in his face, it really hurt him,” Carduner said.
She apologized to the young man for upsetting him.
He told Carduner, “I’ve lost my friends exactly the same way. It’s part of the job.’”
This was the first time Carduner had taken part in the sixth annual event.
“I had a personal goal of doing something that was completely outside my box,” Carduner said.
Like a number of the soldiers she ran with, Carduner suffers from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the residual effect of years of past abuse.
“Because I suffer from PTSD, I wanted to take on a huge challenge to push myself as far as I could,” she shared, “to get through that for my own personal well being.”
Registration for this year’s Army Run sold out quickly. It is so popular, organizers are aiming at boosting the number of participants to 25,000 participants in 2014, and 30,000 the year after, according to Carduner.
“They have that much interest in it,” said Carduner, who on Oct. 8 proudly wore a “dog tag” medal, presented to all participants who cross the finish line.
Interest, along with awareness, is definitely something Carduner hopes to drum up locally, in her fundraising efforts for next year’s run.
“I realized that… our area does not have a big military presence,” she said. “We do not understand the programs that this run raises money for.”
This year’s Army Run raised $300,000 for the two funds.
“The most important one is for ill and injured soldiers,” opined Carduner. “Some of their physical injuries are pretty horrific.”
One soldier took part riding a specialized bike.
He only has one limb after losing both of his legs and one arm.
“There were runners who lost both legs, and they were running on blades,” Carduner said, adding, “We do not as a country, we do not take care of that. We do very, very little for our ill and injured soldiers, and that’s why this run was started – to raise money for our ill and injured.”
At the midway point of the half marathon, Carduner and others broke into the chorus of the Bon Jovi song Living On A Prayer:
“Woah, we’re halfway there, woah, livin’ on a prayer.”
“We just crossed back in from Hull, Quebec, over the big bridge to turn left onto Sussex Drive,” Carduner recalled.
The military members Carduner spoke to during her time in Ottawa showed great appreciation for her involvement.
“We all kept saying, ‘Thank you for what you do,’” Carduner said.
The night before the run, civilians and soldiers enjoyed a pasta dinner, served “army style,” Carduner shared.
“You have to get in line with your tray, and you walk through the cook trucks to get your pasta, and you eat under the tent, like you would if you are in the army,” Carduner said.
An injured soldier spoke to the group, and what he shared brought Carduner and many others to tears.
He described how he and his best friend were assigned to disarm an IED. It was his friend’s turn to wear the bomb suit. After completing their task, they turned around to walk back. The soldier remembered walking three steps, “and then being in hell,” Carduner related.
“He was so badly injured they told him to shut his eyes,” Carduner said. “They wouldn’t allow his eyes to be open.”
The soldier suffered numerous facial injuries, and lost an eye, along with a long list of internal injuries.
His best friend was killed
“I can’t tell you how many times he got a standing ovation,” Carduner said.
On the flight home Carduner thought about what she could do, to share with her community, “the amazing amount of information I learned about our ill and injured and about our soldiers in general.”
With Remembrance Day fast approaching, Carduner says she has a goal of raising more pledge money from the community for next year’s run, through understanding of what ill and injured soldiers “do not get from the our government, and they need.”
@ Copyright 2013