Culture

Marathon Organizers Give Heartbroken Family and Stranger the Gift of a Lifetime

A stranger connected with a family after tragedy—and both got something special at a marathon.

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*Courtesy of RunHaven

Ask Richard Clark how his second marathon went and he’d promptly reply with “PERFECT,” but not for the reasons you’d imagine — like a PR or a first-place medal.

About six months ago, Clark saw a post on Facebook from a man named Greg McReynolds. McReynolds’ son Austin, who was a solider, had been killed by a drunk driver at Ft. Cambell, Ky., in 2013.

Clark researched Austin’s story and then began exchanging messages with McReynolds. Within a few messages, the two agreed that Clark would carry the American Flag for Austin at the Grand Lake Marathon.

For months, the two stayed in touch and the plan was for the McReynolds to receive the flag by mail after the race. But three days before the race, the McReynolds told Clark they were driving from Tennessee to Celina, Ohio to be at the finish line.

During packet pick up Clark asked the race director if he could receive an additional medal and explained Austin’s story. Little to Clark’s knowledge, after he left packet pick up that evening plans continued to change. On race morning, Clark got a surprise that he will never forget.

“When I got to the start line about 6:15 a.m. the race director came and got me and took me to these two US Navy officers who present the medals at the finish,” said Clark. “They said when I crossed the line they wanted me to hand the flag to them, they would do a full blown, white glove folding ceremony, and present the flag back to me, and then I could present it (with the medal) to Greg and Trista.”

To Austin’s family, and to Clark, the day was perfect in ways he couldn’t fathom.

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