Emotional Reunion Paves Way for Marine Corps Marathon
Separated for 11 years, a local runner says the race is only the beginning of his new life with his daughter.
Twenty five years ago, Jim Phillips made the hardest decision a parent can ever make. He agreed to let his ex-wife's new husband adopt his 7-year-old daughter, Farra.
For the next 11 years he was not involved in Farra's life. When Farra turned 18, she decided to make contact and she visited her father twice. Over the past 14 years, the two have been in contact by e-mail and Facebook, but neither would describe their relationship as close.
Through their correspondence they discovered a mutual love of running. Jim has been a runner most of his life. He was in the military for 30 years and used running to maintain his fitness until about six years ago when he took a three-year break because of his knees.
Worries about a family history of heart disease forced him back out the door three years ago, when he started running with the Annapolis Striders. While Jim was enjoying his shorter-distance runs, his daughter fell in love with long-distance running, having completed 12 marathons and five ultras since 2004.
In January of this year, Jim and Farra started talking about running the Marine Corps Marathon together. Jim trained with the Moore's Marines program in Annapolis, while Farra trained at home in Michigan.
While most first-time marathoners are concerned about being able to cover 26.2 miles and most experienced marathoners spend the weeks before a race worrying about the logistics of traveling for a destination marathon, Farra and Jim had other concerns.
Both Farra and her father talked about the deep emotions that racing together brought out.
"The race never really made me nervous," Farra said. "But the weekend itself did. It was an emotional roller coaster ride for me, given that I hadn't seen him in 14 years and he was meeting my husband and 2-year-old son for the first time."
Having completed 11 marathons before towing the line with her father this year, Farra said she was more concerned with helping her father and her step-brother, John across the line than getting there herself.
Along the way, John decided to pull ahead and run his own race, leaving Farra and Jim to share the experience together. Jim went into the race feeling like the training had prepared him and though he said he was disappointed to find he had to walk several times in order to keep his heart rate down, crossing the finish line with his daughter made up for it.
"Without a doubt the best part was crossing the finish line with Farra," Jim said. "Just as we approached it she grabbed my hand and held it high in the air. After we crossed we hugged and kissed each other. It was very emotional. I'm not ashamed to say that we both cried."
For most people, their first marathon is an unforgettable experience. For Jim his first meant even more.
"Running the Marine Corps Marathon together was kind of an ice-breaker for us," he said. "I think this common bond is what helped to bring us back together."