Mild soreness, discomfort, and dull aches were ever-present Sunday morning.
But so was Rob Jones’s steady pace and outlook on life: Survive. Recover. Live.
The Marine propelled around Castle Island in South Boston on two prosthetic running blades, focused on his latest mission — to run 31 marathons in 31 days in 31 cities. The day was windy; clouds kept the sun at bay. Strangers and friends surrounded Sullivan’s, waiting for Jones to complete each loop before taking a moment to rest. Others joined him on the 26.2-mile run.
“Here he comes,” one woman said. “He’s leading the pack.”
One man held an American flag and a troupe of bagpipers performed while children and parents cheered and waved. Several wore shirts that said “Rob Jones Journey.” This is a journey that Jones spent a year-and-a-half mentally preparing for. The retired Marine Corp sergeant hopes to raise $1 million in his lifetime for three charities that helped him recover from his injuries. He also hopes to bring awareness to the struggles of America’s veterans.
“When a veteran comes home and they’re wounded, whether psychologically or mentally or physically, that doesn’t mean they’re now disabled, broken, or incapable of contributing to society,” Jones said. “I’m trying to be an example of a veteran who’s had a traumatic experience overseas and I came back and I found my new way of helping society, staying in the fight, and contributing to my family and to America.”
While serving in Afghanistan in 2010, Jones stepped on a land mine, resulting in the amputation of both legs above the knee. He learned to walk again, won a bronze medal for rowing in the 2012 Paralympics in London, and rode a bike for 5,180 miles from Maine to California to raise $126,000 for three wounded veterans charities.
Now, in less than a week, Jones ran four marathons. He finished 26.2 miles in London’s Hyde Park on Oct. 12, flew to Philadelphia for his second run, drove to New York City in an RV with family by his side for his third, and finished Boston. With four down, he has 27 more marathons in 27 more cities to go.
“No matter the situation, [Jones] always has a smile on his face,” said Eric Deavilla, who served with Jones and is a Malden firefighter. “On day four of running a marathon, and he’s smiling.”
Through sponsors, donations, and a team of volunteers, the word is getting out about the Marine’s month of marathons. Jones’s mother, Carol Miller, called this a journey of thankfulness.
A massage therapist by trade, she left her business and her two cats in Colorado to travel with her son for 31 days.
“I just feel so deeply. I just love him so much. I’m just so proud of him,” Miller said. “Arranging this whole thing felt insurmountable in the beginning and it all pulled together. It’s happening now and it’s just really, really exciting and I just know this is going to be the trip of my life.”
Jones’s wife, Pam, watched her mother-in-law and teared-up. She’s Jones’s running partner through life. He pushes her outside her comfort zone, challenging her to do things she’s never done.
“He’s just dedicated his entire life to this,” Pam Jones said.
There’s no budget. People have pitched in money and moral support. In New York City, the Joneses were allowed to park their RV outside a fire station on Fifth Avenue. In Massachusetts, firefighters let them park it at their station. In London, two Royal Marines ran with Jones the whole way, while in New York City, two teenagers finished. Pam Jones said they’re hitting their stride.
“We know how to set everything up before he starts running, we know exactly how many energy bars he needs to eat throughout the whole run,” Pam Jones said. “We know exactly how long it’s going to take him to do each loop, and we can make sure we’re there. We’ve got everything ready for him when he’s resting. So I feel like we’re getting into the groove of things now.”
On Veterans Day, Rob Jones plans to run his 31st consecutive marathon on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.Cristela Guerra can be
reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @CristelaGuerra.