Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
Colleen O’Hare used to run with her husband but now runs with her family to honor his life and raise money for military kids going to college.
Fifteen years ago, Colleen’s husband, navy pilot Lieutenant Commander Raymond O’Hare, was killed on a test flight at the young age of 33. Suddenly, Colleen was left to raise their three children, Elizabeth, Katie and Tommy, who were all under the age of four, by herself.
Before his death, running was a hobby she shared with her husband. In fact, they had been in the midst of training for the 195-mile Hood to Coast relay race at the time of his death, which Colleen completed a month later with the rest of the team.
Instead of putting her running on hold, Colleen continued to push on, lacing up her shoes and hitting the road whenever she could. “It allowed me to process grief,” she told the TODAY Show in an interview. “There was a grief counselor that I had been going to who said the only way beyond grief is through it. That is my way.”
Today Colleen is still running. But over the years her purpose for running has changed. It’s no longer a solitary activity to cope with her husband’s passing; it has become a vehicle to carry on his memory and share it with others.
In 2014, Colleen ran the Boston Marathon, raising nearly $11,000 for the Brigham and Women’s Hospital. A few weeks later she completed a relay benefiting the Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation, which helps military children—including Colleen’s own children—who have lost a parent in service to afford a college education.
“It gives them a chance to see that even though their dad died almost 15 years ago, it still matters,” Colleen told the TODAY Show.
This Memorial Day, Colleen will be running another relay benefitting the foundation in the 500 For the Fallen relay from Concord, Mass., to the Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C. However, Colleen won’t be running alone this time as her daughters, Elizabeth, now 18, and Katie, 19, and her son Tommy, 15, will be joining her in the last leg of the relay into the Arlington Cemetery where Raymond is buried.
Are you a “real runner”? Email your running or race story in 500 words to firstname.lastname@example.org to be considered for a future post!