News: Couple uses marathon in Iraq to connect
by Spc. Daniel Bearl
25th Combat Aviation Brigade Public Affairs
TIKRIT, Iraq ─ Separated by a deployment, many military couples used the Honolulu Marathon as a way to connect despite being on opposite ends of the globe.
One of those couples, Command Sgt. Major Allen R. Haynes and his wife Lilia Haynes, coordinated the run so they could have a common experience to transcend the distance between Hawaii and Iraq.
"We already miss each other tremendously being separated like this," said Allen, the command sergeant major for 2nd Squadron, 6th Cavalry, 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, 25th Infantry Division. "Knowing that she's going through the same 26.2 miles that I just went through, there's a long-distance connection."
"It means a lot," Lilia said in an e-mail interview. "Knowing that he is in a combat zone and in constant danger; that is really something to be proud of. He is my motivation, and even though he is so far away he was always in my thoughts while I was running. He gave me the strength that I needed."
The couple even helped each other train for the race both physically and mentally.
"We used to talk about it over the phone and tell each other that 'you could do it,'" Lilia said. "It was more like an emotional way to prepare for the marathon."
"When I went home on leave we ran together," Allen said. "And when I first met her, when we were dating when I was in the Sergeants Major Academy, we ran together quite often."
"I hope that when he gets back home we could run together more often," Lilia said.
Aside from being a day for connecting with a loved one, race day was marked with personal accomplishments for both Lilia and Allen.
The Honolulu Marathon was Allen's second marathon and Lilia's first.
For Allen, the option to run a marathon at all was cause for celebration.
"Two years ago I said to myself that every year I would run a marathon until I can't run anymore," Allen said. "In January 2005 in Phoenix was the last time I did a marathon. This year because of the deployment ... it looked like I wasn't going to get a chance to run a marathon this year. So, that meant a lot to me to keep on that little time schedule I set for myself.
"And then not only that, but my wife actually decided that she would run this year as well in Honolulu."
For Lilia Finishing her first marathon was a big accomplishment.
"I felt like a million dollar babe," Lilia said. "I was in so much pain and felt like crying, but nothing was compared to the joy I felt of finishing my first marathon.
"My longest run [before the marathon] was 15 miles and that was it," she added. "I did not think that I could accomplish my goal of finishing the marathon, but I did and am very proud of that."
As the couple moves past the marathon to face the remainder of Allen's deployment, they each expressed their love and support for their spouse.
"Allen is my inspiration," Lilia said. "I am proud of him and love him so much."
"[Lilia] is my inspiration and motivation," Allen said. "I'm lucky to have her in my life."