WASHINGTON, D.C. — Jennifer Hickey has never served in the military, but her daily physical regimen rivals the type you see on any military installation.
"Generally, I run between six and 10 miles every day from the National Guard Memorial Museum in northwest D.C. to the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, [Virginia]," Hickey said. "It's about five miles one-way, and five miles back."
Hickey is also the digital content manager for NGAUS, which is headquartered at the National Guard Memorial Museum near Capitol Hill.
According to Hickey, her motivation for marathoning isn't tied to losing weight, body composition or reducing stress — instead, it is memorializing the fallen.
"In 2012, I ran a marathon and dedicated it to my father who I lost at age seven," Hickey said. "Then in 2014, I decided to set a goal to run 14 marathons and instead finished the year with 28."
Hickey is also an advocate for families adjusting to loss. After running to raise awareness of Comfort Zone Camp, a Virginia-based organization serving children who have lost a parent or other family member, she teamed with the Travis Manion Foundation to draft a robust personal operation order.
"I was unable to serve in the military, but I can serve those who do serve," she said.
To date, Hickey has completed 240 marathons. Just this year, she ran marathons in Utah, Wisconsin and Illinois, plus the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., and Arlington County, Virginia, Oct. 29.
"This is about more than my passion for running," Hickey said. "It's values and it's principles, and I hope it speaks to people."
Hickey's completed Oct. 29 run of 03:58:24 was in honor of Spc. Darryl T. Dent, a District of Columbia Guard member assigned to the 547th Transportation Company. The 21-year-old died Aug. 26, 2003, when an improvised explosive device struck his vehicle in Southeast Arimaji, Iraq.
"He's not forgotten," Hickey said. "With this being his 20th anniversary, I know that certain anniversaries hit harder for loved ones.
"I know this from personal experience when my father died," she continued. "I want Dent's 'family' to know that their son, brother, friend and fellow Guardsman has not been forgotten."
During the race, Hickey wore Dent's picture on her back for runners and spectators to see. A photo, bib and finisher medal will also be sent to Dent's family.
"I want to show Spc. Dent's family that their sacrifice is not forgotten and neither is his service," Hickey said. "What I'm doing is such a small sacrifice when you look at the larger picture.
"I enjoy the hard work, because this is about doing something that's bigger than yourself," Hickey noted. "It's service, commitment, freedom and celebrating the lives behind it.
"I also think that's what the National Guard stands for — not only serving overseas, but serving in the community. And that's where real change occurs."
When you've completed hundreds of marathons, you're bound to face physical and mental challenges. Hickey said when she hits a wall, she reflects on the people who inspire her.
"I call them my anchors — they're the people who remind me why I'm doing this," she said. "Crossing the finish line is honestly humbling for me. I thank God I'm able to run."
Hickey's already thinking about the next race she'll sign up for. Her message for spectators at her next race or the people reading this story: do something for others.
"My personal motto is, 'Whatever you do best, do it in the service of others,'" she said. "Not everybody wants to run a marathon.
"If you're artistic, draw an incredible picture and donate it to a veteran's organization, or if you're a writer, write something," Hickey suggested. "Whatever you're good at, just think of your community."
— By Master Sgt. Arthur Wright, District of Columbia National Guard