MICHAEL GRACZYK Associated Press HOUSTON -
Looking forward to a two-week vacation this month from the war in Iraq, Texas Army National Guardsman Glenn Barrow could have come up with a more relaxing activity than running a marathon.
"It's a crazy thing to do, but I am determined to do it," said the 44-year-old helicopter mechanic stationed in Balad, Iraq.
Barrow plans to run in the Chevron Houston Marathon on Sunday, his first full marathon. His furlough will mark the first trip to Texas for Barrow since July. Before Barrow's military duty took him away he was a police officer in San Antonio, most recently assigned to the downtown bike patrol.
"The people I work with know why I am running and think there are better things to do than go run for two or three hours at a time," Barrow said in e-mails from Iraq. "But they are very supportive and encourage me to keep going.
"This is not about me. It is about all the men and women serving our great nation and dying for our great nation and for the values we believe in. I am running for them, because they have perished or were wounded and cannot run."
Barrow's previous long runs have been in half-marathons and marathon relays with friends. The idea to run the full marathon "makes no sense," he adds parenthetically, but came to him in October after a 10-mile run was staged at his base. Work prevented him from participating, but it prompted him to start training.
"While I was out running that day, a Marine helicopter flew over the base headed to the hospital," he said. "I thought someone must be seriously hurt. I thought after a short prayer for their safety: Hey, I can run for them - 'them' being all those men and women who never came home and who came home unable to run."
Barrow, who also has served in the Air Force, said his run isn't a publicity stunt and acknowledged he was hesitant to even speak about it to a reporter.
"If you can make this about them, then I have done my job," he said.
Barrow expects to leave Iraq on Thursday and be in Houston by Saturday, the day before the marathon, to be among the 15,000 participants. His wife, Cheryl, will be there to cheer him on.
"I don't know if he'll be able to catch up on the jet lag," Cheryl Barrow said.
The timing of his return home also means they'll be together to celebrate their first wedding anniversary.
"That was the reason I chose January to come home and the marathon fell in perfect timing," he said.
"He is one of the most unselfish people," his wife said, also noting that her husband had shared his plans with only a few people. "He doesn't want too much attention drawn to him."
The couple regularly chats by webcam.
"He just said he would like to do it," she said. "I support him 100 percent. I've actually run a couple myself and I was all for it."
Before shipping out to Iraq, Barrow trained for six months at Fort Hood. He hopes to be finished with his tour in August and return to San Antonio, where his wife said he's nearly been killed twice while on duty as a police officer.
In one incident a year ago in October, a drunken driver ran over his bicycle.
"He happened to not be on it," Cheryl Barrow wife said.
Then in the same month, another drunken driver tried to run over Barrow while he was directing traffic.
"Actually I think he's safer over there than he is on the police force here," she said laughing.