Against the Odds, PHS Grad and Wounded Vet, Completes 2020 Marine Corp Marathon
Special to the Portland Beacon.
Daniel Lathers, a 2005 Portland High School Graduate, and retired U.S. Marine, completed the Marine Corp Marathon on Sunday in honor of Veteran’s Day. Lathers was a Portland Varsity Cross Country runner for four years. He was selected in early 2020 to be a member of Team Semper Fi’s Running Battalion, a group of wounded veterans that began training in February for the Marine Corp Marathon scheduled to be held in Washington D.C. near the national Veteran’s Day holiday. The Marine Corp Marathon is an extraordinary event that includes special events and celebrations that culminate with a 26.2-mile race that begins and ends at Arlington National Cemetery.
Team Semper Fi members were selected based on being a wounded vet and achieving qualifying times in shorter races. (Lathers had served three tours of duty in the Mideast in the infantry and lives with several combat related injuries). Selected marathon participants were placed into one of eight tiers of runners. Lathers was assigned to the first and most competitive tier. Team members were given electronic monitoring equipment, training schedules and goals. Failure to meet the schedule and goals meant disqualification. Those Marines that met the rigorous expectations would be flown to Washington D.C. for five days with their spouses or partners, all expenses paid, to run the 2020 Marine Corp Marathon.
Then just as training began, Covid-19 hit, and marathon group events and races were put on hold. Team Semper Fi members were encouraged to continue to train on their own as the Marine Corp Marathon was still scheduled to occur. Lathers, who graduated in December with a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from Texas State University, and was looking for his first professional job, pressed on. As summer approached, he started a new job and trained in the early morning whenever he could in order to avoid the scorching Texas heat.
He started to wear out running shoes and found training routes around his suburban Austin home that had the least amount of traffic and he learned to avoid snakes laying on the shoulders of the road. He also learned to plant water along his routes and only once did someone refuse to let him drink from their hose when he found himself dehydrating. Fortunately, he was able to call a friend from work who rushed water to him while he sat and waited.
In August, the Marine Corp Marathon in Washington D.C. officially became a virtual event. Registered participants were encouraged to continue their training and transfer to the virtual event which meant that they would run the marathon independently while being electronically monitored for compliance. There would be no all-expense paid trip to Washington D.C. Lathers waffled on quitting the program, but his wife Renee’ encouraged him to play it out. He continued.
“I initially started training wanting to run for all the vets that couldn’t run”, Lathers said, “but by the time I ran the final event, I was doing if for myself. I needed to prove to myself that I could do anything I wanted to do.” He continued to train and by last Sunday he had logged 850 training miles since February.
On Sunday his wife drove him to the Texas State Capitol Building in downtown Austin. He thought if he couldn’t run in the U.S. Capitol then the Texas Capitol was the next best thing. It was 25 miles from his house and with the addition of a few side roads he had measured off the 26.2 required marathon miles.
Lathers had joined the Marines in 2005 and retired in 2013. He met his wife at Camp Pendleton, her father is a retired Gunny Sergeant, and the first picture they took together as a couple was in front of the Austin Statehouse, after her family moved to Texas. “The place has special sentimental meaning to me”, he said.
Sunday, November 8th, was a “great day to run in Austin”. Family and friends met up with him at designated points on the course. It took him 4 hours and 24 minutes to complete the course and become an official finisher of the 2020 Marine Corp Marathon. Next year he hopes to run the Marathon again only he wants to start and end the race at Arlington National Cemetery. “This has been a real blessing to my family”, Lathers said, “I feel emotionally free”.