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A Marine's Family Set to Navigate Marine Corps Marathon Together

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

By Christian Pelusi 

For many, running is a solitary exercise. An individual and the road, racing for a personal best or to complete the event. For Tim and Keri Gernand, running is a family affair.

Tim, a staff sergeant and a cryptologic linguist for the Marine Corps, and his wife, Keri, are training together to run this year’s Marine Corps Marathon. And they've had three great "running buddies" who have pushed them, even while they're the ones being pushed.

“It has been wonderful training with my husband,” Keri, 29, said via email. “We have never really ‘synchronized’ our running distances before this race, so it has been fun to feel the same things (tired, sore, sense of accomplishment, etc.) at the same time. I also like training together because he pushes the triple stroller on the runs we do together so I don't have to. ;)”  

The MCM will be the Camp Lejeune/Jacksonville, N.C., couple’s first marathon, but as avid runners, the Gernands seem ready for the challenge.

“Tim and I both have run as a hobby since high school,” she said. “I have run four half marathons, but this will be his first big race. Running is something that has allowed us both to pursue physical fitness while enjoying family time. We like that we can include our children, as they like stroller rides and the park and donut dates at the end.”

A runner’s first marathon is always special and Team USO is honored that the Gernands chose to pull on their bibs in support of the USO. As a couple who have family in St. Paul, Minn., and Houston, they have been able to take advantage of several USO Centers that provide aid and comfort military families as they hop from place to place.

“What drew us to Team USO is the fact that they are an organization that is so committed to helping service members and their families, especially with regards to the difficulties faced during deployments,” Keri said. “We have been so blessed by the organization, especially with the United Through Reading® program and the USO call centers.”

Tim’s been deployed twice, first to Iraq from Feb. 2007-Aug. 2007 and then to Afghanistan from July 2011-Jan. 2012 and he said his bond to his wife and then his young children was strengthened by the USO and its programs that are tailored to lift the spirits of troops and their families.

“I was drawn to the USO because I really appreciated the United Through Reading program while I was deployed to Afghanistan because it gave me an opportunity to meaningfully connect with my children thousands of miles away,” Tim, 29, said via email. “In addition, the USO on Camp Leatherneck was a place of refuge for me. It provided a quiet place to read, surf the Internet with a fast web connection or make free phone calls home with high sound quality. [And] the USO provided me blankets and a pillow to sleep on when I had to stay overnight in the San Diego airport while trying to meet up with my wife before my first deployment to Iraq.”

And the UTR program was embraced most by their three-year-old son Jack.

“Tim left for his most recent deployment when our oldest, Jack, was still 2. Olivia and Luke were 4 months old. He sent back two different shipments of UTR recordings and they were really just phenomenal for Jack, especially. But I also credit them with the babies recognizing Tim when he came back. (They were almost 11 months then.)”

That connection remains, according to Tim.

“He still asks me to read those same books to him today and now we get to share them in person. [And] we enjoyed the Sesame Street tour a few months after I returned from Afghanistan. It was a fun thing to do as a family and I appreciate that they write scripts that relate to the unique struggles of military children.”

Those struggles make even a grueling marathon pale in comparison, but it sounds like the close-knit Gernands will be conquering this challenge in the same way they’ve done in the past: as a family, even if the kids can't be taken along for the ride per the MCM's rules against strollers.

“It has been nice to share a physical challenge with my wife and kids,” Tim said. “It is good for it to no longer be an individual effort, but instead more of a group effort.  

“It is a struggle to get the kids out the door and get them all ready to go. We sometimes are anxious that they will end a training session early due to boredom, etc. But thankfully, they have been troopers thus far.”

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Want to run in the Marine Corps Marathon and be a part of Team USO in the process? We still have a few spots remaining so act fast and join today. 

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