Running with the Marines

Runners share intimate reasons for supporting Semper Fi Fund.

Military Families | by Rebecca Alwine | October 21, 2018 | Link to Article

Running is something people in the military do every day, but for some it means more than passing a PT test. It can be an outlet and a stress reliever, but for the thousands preparing for the Marine Corps Marathon, it’s a way to give back and motivate others. 

Since 2003, when a group of military spouses came together to ease the homecoming for wounded service members and their families, Semper Fi Fund has helped over 21,000 service members and raised over $182 million to do so. The organization has also had runners participating in the Marine Corps Marathon for the last 12 years, and has been the largest charity partner for seven consecutive years.

For runners who have teamed up with Semper Fi Fund, it’s a great opportunity to raise money for an organization they believe in, while doing something they love. In 2018, for the upcoming 43rdMarine Corps Marathon, Semper Fi Fund has over 700 supporters participating in the event, which includes 25 athletes handcycling, 57 running the full 26.2 miles, and 185 runners opting for the scenic 10k route.

“Over 100 of them are military family members,” said Brian McPherson, Sr. Manager, Communications at Semper Fi Fund.

2018 Ironman Chattanooga (1)

From Marine to Marathoner 

Last year, former Marine Corps sniper Mike Mendoza broke a Guinness World Record for the most Ironman 70.3 races completed in a year. When you add in his other Ironman races, his three times running the Boston Marathon, and his other marathon-distance races, he’s been pretty busy. Mendoza began racing competitively just five years ago, and started triathlons even more recently than that.

“I’ve always been naturally competitive,” he said. “When a friend introduced me to triathlon I was hooked.”

Mendoza was injured in Iraq in 2006, and that’s when he was first contacted by the Semper Fi Fund. His newborn son, wife, and mother were taken care of by a Semper Fi Fund representative while he was recovering from his wounds in North Carolina. Six years after transitioning from the Marine Corps, he joined the Semper Fi Fund team and started running with them. His running unites him with other veterans, some who need an extra dose of motivation and others who need a friend.

“The Marine Corps Marathon gives us an opportunity to catch up,” Mendoza said. “It’s more about reuniting with friends, sharing stories, and checking on each other than it is about racing.”

But he’s still in it to do his very best. Runners are incredibly superstitious, but Mendoza admitted he is aiming to complete this year’s marathon in about three hours and 15 minutes.

“I just want to stay healthy and strong,” he says. “But if I’m feeling great at that halfway mark, I’m going to push myself.” If not, he’ll find a runner who is struggling and make their marathon completion his next mission.

Sniper team (1)

Nine years running 

Ten years ago, Michelle Kinsella ran her first 5k and earlier this month, she completed her 15thmarathon. As the daughter of a Charlie 1/5 Marine Corps Vietnam veteran, Kinsella has grown up hearing, and seeing, “Semper Fi.” Her first marathon was the Marine Corps Marathon in 2010, and she’s run every year since. She’s also completed in five Boston Marathons, which even non-runners know is a big deal.

“There are so many special parts to the MCM!” Kinsella said. There are many runners who set goals for themselves to run a personal best, and others who raise money for charitable organizations, like Kinsella does. The wear blue: run to remember Blue Mile is another special part, “as it makes you realize the true sacrifices our service members have given to protect our freedoms,” she adds.

But the most important and meaningful part for Kinsella hits a little closer to home. “The most special part of the MCM is seeing so many Vietnam veterans cheering on the course and even some running the marathon. I run for them and for their friends that didn’t come home. I run for my Dad!”


Michelle pictured with her dad, a Vietnam veteran, and Medal of Honor recipient Kyle Carpenter. Courtesy photo.

Semper Fi Fund

I know how war can affect a person, as it did my dad,” Kinsella said. “He has PTSD. When he came home from Vietnam he was broken and there was no one there to help him. No service member should ever feel that way!”

She raises money for Semper Fi Fund because she truly believes in their mission and she has seen the good they have done.

Kinsella’s team, Team Just Because, is less than $5,000 in donations away from raising $250,000 – her goal for this year. The money raised does amazing things in the community, helping those in transition, helping injured service members and their families, and caring for Vietnam veterans, who hold a special place in Kinsella’s heart.

But the assistance Semper Fi Fund offers isn’t limited to the military community, as Kinsella explains, “After the Boston Marathon bombing the Semper Fi Fund team members came to Boston to offer their assistance and friendship to those civilians who lost limbs. The service members knew exactly what they were going through and were there to help.”

Kinsella and Mendoza join 30,000 runners representing over 60 countries and all 50 states in the 43th Marine Corps Marathon on Sunday, October 28th. Catch “The People’s Marathon” in person if you’re in the area or keep an eye on live updates on the website.

To learn more about Semper Fi Fund’s work, how to volunteer and to donate visit: Semper Fi Fund.