Brad Flack has been training for his first marathon for four months.
He’s excited and a little nervous, but the volunteer choir director who started running in high school to lose weight and build self-esteem is not scared.
Flack admittedly asked himself, “What if? What if something did happen?”
Like what happened Monday at the finish of the prestigious Boston Marathon.
Two bomb blasts, about 10 seconds and 100 yards apart, killed at least three people and injured more than 150 at the Boston Marathon, bringing back horrific memories of other terroristic tragedies.
But the Army Marathon, which runs from Killeen to Temple and is expected to draw more than 1,000 runners, will proceed as planned Sunday.
Race director Ed Bandas said the local marathon, the first in the area in more than 30 years, already commands security detail from multiple Bell County agencies from Belton, Killeen and Temple among others, but added that Monday’s events at the finish line of the Boston Marathon has heightened their awareness.
“It’s always been part of the plan, it’s just that since there’s nothing on the radar screen right now for us, but it is all part of the plan. It’s something that obviously just got moved up in priority,” Bandas said, “so we’re taking a look at our intelligent forces that sheriff’s office and DPS (Department of Public Safety) and everybody uses just to make sure if there’s any chatter about anything. We just want to make sure to keep an ear to the ground on this kind of stuff.
“As soon as this happened, we already had phone calls flying to that effect. I’m actually very impressed by the fact that by the time I was calling them, they were already on top of it.”
Every year on Patriot’s Day, runners converge on Boston for the running of one of the most storied marathons in the world. But Monday’s race was marred at the finish line on Boylston Street near Copley Square bringing back fears that terrorists had again struck on U.S. soil, including the Nov. 5, 2009, shooting at Fort Hood that left 13 dead and 32 injured, and Pfc. Naser Jason Abdo’s foiled bomb plot in Killeen in 2011.
“The fact that we hang the Army word off of our race, obviously, it’s crossed our mind and been a part of our planning, but so far nothing’s shown up our radar and we’re constantly looking at it for that very reason,” Bandas said. “We’ve got soldiers running, we’re near Fort Hood, we’ve already had one bad incident there, we don’t need anything else.”
The 26.2-mile course begins at the Killeen Civic and Conference Center and starts going north on W.S. Young Drive and then east on Veterans Memorial Boulevard. The route then goes north again onto Farm-to-Market 3129 before heading east on FM 439 for its longest stretch. The route then heads north on FM 2271 over the Belton Dam and then east onto FM 2305 before turning north onto Hilliard Road toward the finish line.
“It’s a long way, but I’ve run a long way. And where I’ve run my long runs, it’s been in my neighborhood and to be honest, it’s not fun anymore running in my neighborhood,” Flack said. “I ran Pepper Creek Trail on (FM) 2305 and it felt like nothing because it was a new environment. ... I think I’m going to see new things and we get to cross the dam, which is pretty cool.”
There is also a 5K route that starts and ends at the finish line in Temple. Registration is still open for both events. For more information, go to thearmymarathon.com.
The idea for the marathon, the first in the Killeen area since the mid-1970s Bandas said, started a year and a half ago, when four retired servicemen, Bandas included, sought to raise both money and awareness for veterans’ charities.
“There was four of us old vets that got together and decided, ‘Hey, we want to do some kind of fundraiser for veteran charities,’ especially charities that are not as big as something like the Wounded Warrior Project, which is a wonderful charity, but there is nothing that we could do to move the needle on their gas tank. We wanted to help some of the smaller ones that do great work also,” Bandas said.
“We tossed around a bunch of ideas ... and we finally decided to do a marathon simply because there was no such thing as an Army marathon. There’s a Marine Corps marathan and an Air Force marathon, but there’s no Army marathon that’s nationwide.”
With cooperation from the Belton, Harker Heights, Killeen and Temple councils, the idea spawned by Bandas, Richard Archer, Gene Deutscher and Jay Taggart and the longtime dream of Flack has slowly come to fruition.
Training hasn’t been easy for Flack. He lost a toenail and more than once doubted he’d be able to finish. But he was committed.
“When I commit to something, I commit to it,” Flack said. “I had told a lot of people I was planning to run a marathon, I’m not a quitter. Because I’m not a quitter, that motivated me to keep on training and to just do it and really make it happen.”
When Flack was approached by a friend at church to run the marathon, it was first a bucket-list item he could check off, like flying a plane. Then, it became a mission to finish. He’s aiming to finish in under five and a half hours, but he just wants to finish.
When he does cross the line, Flack believes it could mean something bigger, greater in the wake of the tragedy in Boston.
“It would feel like we can have this, we still can do this,” Flack said. “And it’ll be successful.”