As we get ready for the 15th Baltimore Running Festival, let’s review a few things we have learned over the years…

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Sid Busch

IT WILL TAKE SACRIFICE.

Retired Navy Senior Chief Sid Busch runs the Baltimore Running Festival and other marathons throughout the United States in memory of a fallen soldierhe never met. He completes each race with a picture pinned to his back of the late hero. It’s a weight he is proud to carry.

Some six hours later, when he’s done, Busch hands his finishing medal to the soldier’s family.

“I’ve got running shoes that are older than these kids who are dying. For many Americans, as long as they can go to the mall, or watch football games, these deaths are just numbers printed in the paper. I want the families of these [servicemen] to know that their loss has not gone unnoticed.”

Busch, who has finished close to 200 marathons, including eight in Baltimore , began running to honor those killed in action in 2001. Reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. “I’m a slow enough runner that people can actually see the picture on my back and read the soldier’s name,” he said. “Fans and even other runners come over and thank me. And they thank him.”

It doesn’t matter where he finishes. Busch wants the soldiers to be remembered, and this is another way of doing it.  “When I’m hurting, I think about what this kid went through,” Busch said. “My problems are minor. I’m not that religious, but I could almost feel the soldier’s presence helping me along. Whatever it was, it helped.”

He has but one regret.  “I just wish I could be running with these heroes, and not for them.”

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Dave Berdan

IT WILL TAKE COURAGE.

Dave Berdan, the 2013 Baltimore Marathon champion, returned to Charm City in 2014 to defend his title.

Berdan, 33, a local product from Owings Mills, Md., set the pace early. He started with a commanding lead, finishing his first mile in 5 minutes, 40 seconds. However, Berdan injured his left hip during training about three weeks prior to race day. He said he knew the problem was bad, but he had to at least try.

“I actually felt it pretty much right at the start. I was hoping it would loosen up as I ran, but it just got worse and worse to a point where I felt I was just kind of dragging my leg rather than running. I stopped about halfway and I knew there was no way I could do that again — a whole other half — with the way I was feeling,” Berdan said.

Berdan was diagnosed with a stress fracture to his femoral head. His doctor said it was a good thing he didn’t run the remainder of the marathon, or else the injury would have been much worse.

“My head’s not down. I know what my body has been going through, I know I tried and I know what it’s capable of, and it just wasn’t happening,” Berdan said. “If something’s bothering you, you can only do so much.”

Berdan needed a time of 2:18 this year to qualify for the 2016 U.S. Olympic Marathon trials, which was one of his goals, but the full-time Stevenson University cross-country coach said he hopes to be back at full speed next year. His courage to compete and endure such excruciating pain defines a champion.

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Anne-Charissa Halkias (1600) and Amy Elliker (1295)

IT WILL BE WORTH IT!

Prior to 2013, Anne-Charissa Halkias was not a runner.  She was a working mom with three kids whose husband is a Greek Orthodox Priest. “When the concept of running was brought up, it seemed that everyone in my life was in shape or trying to get into shape” said Anne-Charissa. “Everyone was running but me.  I just wanted to have something in common with them.”  She got that and a whole lot more.

Halkias crossed her first half marathon finish line in September of 2013 and truly fell in love with the sport.  “Although I swore I would never do a full marathon, somehow I found myself making a new year’s resolution to my high school aged Sunday school class that I would run a full marathon in 2014.”  One of her students made a comment that “it doesn’t matter what you say, nobody ever fulfills their resolutions.”  “I was so saddened by his view on the world that I was more determined than ever to prove him wrong!” she said.

While searching which marathon to run, a friend of hers suggested she join his team for the Baltimore Running Festival.  “I knew I would never be able to keep up with him and 26.2 miles is a long way to run by yourself.  So I called my best friend Amy and asked her if she would consider running just one more marathon.  By this time, Amy had already done 2 and said she was done. “I wasn’t sure I wanted to do another one,” Elliker said.  “But it was an amazing opportunity to connect with [Anne-Charissa] and also support a wonderful nonprofit.”

“I remember crying tears of relief knowing I wouldn’t be racing alone,” Halkias said.   “Little did I know just what that would mean.”

Although she lived four hours away, Amy and Anne-Charissa kept to the same training schedule.  “I even called her on one of my 20 mile training runs around mile 18 to get a little pick me up,” Halkias said.    On race day Halkias was a bundle of nerves and Amy did everything she could to calm her down.  “We had a fantastic first half of the race.  We got to see our families and friends three times and the crowd was great,” Halkias said..  Sadly, her knee started bothering her and by mile 16 it was hurting pretty bad.   “Amy told me to slow down and we would be fine.  She didn’t care what time it was when we finished, but we were going to finish, and we were going to finish together.” At mile 20 her knee made a terrible popping sound and she thought she was done.  “I don’t know how many times I told Amy to go ahead of me and finish.  She didn’t consider it for a minute.  She stood by my side step by step while I limp/jogged my way at a turtle speed for the last six miles.”

“Nothing could have prepared me for that moment we saw that finish line.  The pain stopped just for a moment, we grabbed each other’s hands and ran as fast as we could.  Finishing a marathon is an incredible task.  I ran 425 training miles over 3/4 months and lots of time away from my kids on those long run training days. But it all paid off.”

“I ran the Baltimore Marathon for her, and for us, to inspire others to have dreams and make them happen,”  Elliker said.  “It took hard work and sacrifice, but that made reaching the finish line a satisfying moment of raw emotion and jubilation. We grasped hands, held them high, and reveled in the incredible journey we just endured. We found our Strong.”

“Race day would have been exciting all on its own.  Finishing that race with Amy…well, there are no words to describe that emotion!  I am truly blessed to have a friend like her.  As for that kid in my Sunday School class, I can only hope that I let him know that some people do keep their word, and it’s never too late to start a new dream.”