We runners run for a plethora of reasons. For health, stress relief, for competition, and often times, simply because we can. Among the many great reasons to run is running in honor of those who cannot. There are many fantastic organizations that dedicate the sport solely to those who can not lace up their shoes. I have the honor of running side by side with one who’s got more than the finish line in his sights.
Nick Williams is surprising. He’s an Air Force pilot, a phenomenal runner, a dancer, and a talented chef. It’s hard to learn these things about him because he’s such a kind and caring individual, an excellent friend, and devoted son- qualities that are the loudest parts of his personality. I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Nick as we’ve trained on the streets of Wichita, Kansas together. In a short time, I’ve made more than a great running buddy. I’ve made a life-long friend.
Nick and I even ran the 2011 Boston Marathon side-by-side. We laughed, pushed, and fought our way to the famous finish line on Boylston Street together. We’re like “war buddies” now. We’ve been to “hell and back” together, the hell we call the marathon.
However, Nick knows much more about the perils of real war than I could ever dream of. He’s an active duty pilot in the Air Force. Our training has been paused multiple times in our short friendship when he’s been deployed. It’s hard explaining to my son why our buddy Nick is off in the desert being the “flying gas station,” but it’s over joyous to tell him “Nick’s coming home this week!” I know that not all military friends and family get to deliver such news. The fact that our soldiers fall is heartbreaking. This is why Nick runs.
Currently Nick is fundraising for the Operation Freedom Memorial in Wichita through his training efforts. The memorial is planned as a tribute to honor the fallen soldiers of Operation Desert Storm, Iraqi Freedom, and Enduring Freedom. Nick has been accepting donations in the form of pledges per mile he runs each month leading up to the January 14, 2012 Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon. He’s also been accepting flat donations as well. So far he’s raised nearly $3,500 and hopes to reach the $5,000 mark before he toes the line in Phoenix next month.
In return to his donors, Nick has let them all in in on the everyday ups and downs of marathon training. “By reading my posts, you will observe days when running feels great and days when running feels difficult,” Nick told me. “You’ll observe runs on insufficient sleep and runs where everything inside me clicks and I feel on top of the world.”
The memorial has not begun construction as of yet due to funding. He explains “By most estimates, the construction of our memorial will cost around $300,000, so this campaign is just one step in our process towards creating a lasting impression of our gratitude to the fallen soldiers of Operation Desert Storm, Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.”
Nick has just a few weeks left before he begins his taper and begins conserving energy for the battle he’ll face on the streets of Phoenix. If you’d like to follow his journey and donate to the worthy cause, you can visit his page at the Operation Freedom Memorial website.
“If you decide to donate and join my team, it’s my prayer that the entire effort involved with being a distance runner becomes evident while our team supports the memory of those who don’t have the opportunity to run free anymore.”