There have been plenty of national headlines this week about flight delays and cancellations with Southwest Airlines, but for one local veteran, that situation dashed his dreams of running in both the Chicago and Boston Marathons.
Michael Mendoza planned to run in both Chicago on Sunday and in Boston on Monday, and he was excited to tackle the challenge of running two of the world’s biggest races on back-to-back days.
“If I tell myself I have it…I’m going to knock it out,” he said.
Mendoza, a decorated and disabled Marine Corps veteran, set out to bring attention and funds to other wounded veterans by running the two races.
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Things started out as planned on Sunday, as he finished the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. When he headed to Midway International Airport however, systemwide delays and cancellations at Southwest Airlines left him stranded.
“All of the sudden, it says it’s canceled,” he said. “I had no idea what was happening.”
While Mendoza couldn’t get to Boston, he was still determined to complete his mission, and on Monday, he decided to run a one-man marathon.
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“I grabbed my shoes and my gear, and I went to the course with my nutrition belt and said ‘see you in a few hours,’” he said.
That is exactly what Mendoza did, completing another 26.2 miles on Old Plank Road. He says that the support he was getting from others after all of the challenges he faced in recent days was a huge boost.
“I love the fact that people were encouraging me after the fact,” he said.
Even though he didn’t get to Boston, Mendoza raised $75,000 for wounded veterans and the Semper Fi America Fund.
Mendoza says that he plans to run both marathons next year, and is also planning other fundraisers, including an event where he will row for 24 hours straight to help raise money for cancer awareness and research.