When Leslie Mayne got the call that changed her life, she says it felt like she was pushed off a cliff.
It was March 7, 2009, the day after her son, Pvt. First Class Kyle Farr, was released from Maryland’s Perry Point Veteran’s Hospital after receiving treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder. The news she received dropped her to her knees.
Her son, 27, had overmedicated and was found dead in a Baltimore hotel room.
“Losing a child hurts so bad it should kill you,” Mayne said.
It’s a pain she doesn’t want anybody else to feel.
Bolstered by her faith, Mayne vowed to fight back against PTSD. In her son’s honor, she founded the Race for a Soldier half-marathon in Gig Harbor last fall. The second running of the race is Sept. 23 and other cities are considering launching their own versions.
More than 1,400 runners and 3,000 spectators attended last year’s event, raising more than $44,000. Organizers hope for 2,000 runners this year with troops doing a simultaneous run in Afghanistan.
It was an atypical success for a new race, but Mayne refuses to take credit. She points to her crew of about 350 volunteers and explains the success this way: “God doesn’t waste a tragedy.”
Mayne had already dedicated herself to helping people when her son died. She worked for 10 years for the Muscle Dystrophy Association.
But Farr’s loss hurt so deeply she had to leave her job. She also went through a divorce at the same time.
“I lost my marriage, my best friend, my son, everything that was secure,” Mayne said. “But I never stopped believing and loving God, and I never blamed him.”
Mayne traveled often, even going to New Orleans to help flood victims rebuild. “But there is nowhere you can go to get away from the pain.”
Soon she discovered her best therapy was running. As she pounded the pavement she prayed, praised and even cried.
“I wish I had discovered running years ago,” the 60-year-old Mayne said.
Today, she works at Gig Harbor’s Tides Tavern and her new interest in running inspired her to approach nearby Route 16 Running and Walking about the idea of staging a race to raise money to support PTSD groups.
Store owner Miguel Galeana and his staff had the perfect route in mind and helped her coordinate the event.
• n n
Farr was raised in Virginia and lived in the South Sound with his mom briefly before returning to Virginia to finish school. He played football, winning a state high school championship, and went on to play at Central Connecticut State University where he made the dean’s list.
On Sept. 11, 2001, his cousin, Shelley Farr Marshall, was killed during the terrorist attack on the Pentagon. The death motivated Farr, then 20, to serve in the military. He moved back to Washington to serve in the National Guard. He went into the Army in 2004 and served as a sharpshooter and machine gunner.
In 2006 he was the only survivor when his Humvee was hit. He was injured and was later diagnosed with post-traumatic stress syndrome and traumatic brain injury. He spent time at Walter Reed Hospital in 2008, then Perry Point.
He was released on March 6, 2009, with permission to self-medicate.
He was found dead the next day.
Farr, whose uncle is ESPN personality Kenny Mayne, had hoped to become a journalist but Mayne said her son “was a different man when he came back.”
Farr had horrible headaches and nightmares. He drank to mask the pain, Mayne said. “His story is not unique.”
That led Mayne to select race beneficiaries who support soldiers who suffer the way her son did.
Yelm’s Rainier Therapeutic Riding provides free therapeutic horsemanship for soldiers dealing with PTSD. All American Dogs gives these soldiers canine companionship. Heartbeat Serving Wounded Warriors helps these soldiers meet needs and offers horsemanship and SCUBA therapy. And the USO Puget Sound Area supports soldiers and their families. They also partner with the race so it can use the USO nonprofit status.
And just as important, Mayne said, the race “shows soldiers around the world that people back here really do care about them.”
• n n
Mayne has been approached by volunteers in San Antonio and Colorado Springs, Colo., about staging more Race for a Soldier events.
If the run grows beyond Gig Harbor she will be thrilled, but she will insist that all of the events are preceded by a prayer breakfast.
At the breakfast, soldiers share their stories and the gathering prays for them and others like them. This year’s prayer breakfast is Friday at Gig Harbor’s Milgard Hope Center. Tickets proceeds will go to the race beneficiaries.
“That is the most important thing,” Mayne said. “The prayer breakfast is my love letter to God. He is where my strength comes from.”
“... From our deepest pain comes our greatest joy. That’s how I know this is a God thing. Human’s can’t do that for you.” RUN FOR A SOLDIER
When: Sept. 23 at 8 a.m.
Where: Gig Harbor YMCA, 6869 Kimball Drive.
Distance: 13.1- and 2-miles routes on open roads.
Prayer breakfast: Friday, 7 a.m., Milgard Hope Center, 8502 Skansie Ave., Gig Harbor, $30.
Beneficiaries: Proceeds from the race and breakfast will go to Rainier Therapeutic Riding, All American Dogs, Heartbeat Serving Wounded Warriors and USO Puget Sound Area.
Info: Go to raceforasoldier.org.Craig Hill’s fitness column runs Sundays. Submit questions and comments email@example.com and twitter.com/AdventureGuys. Also get more fitness coverage at blog.thenewstribune.com/adventure and thenewstribune.com/fitness.