(NEWS10) — Whether you’re the first runner or the last to cross the finish line, the energy of the crowd keeps you going on race day. In this pandemic year, with so many races canceled, NEWS10’s Lydia Kulbida shows us how two local men found inspiration in the service of others to keep running.
Being a runner doesn’t take much — just a pair of sneakers and the desire to start.
Michael Newhouse used to be a former smoker and didn’t eat very well. He said he decided enough was enough after he used to get winded walking up and down the stairs
“So I drove right over here to the Spa Park and started running.”
Then, you need the will to keep going. Andy LaPorta competed in track in high school and college and 30 years later is still going.
No matter how or when you started running, you quickly find it’s not about the medal at the end of a race … it’s about the people you meet along the way. That’s how Michael met Andy.
“I met Andy through running it was actually,” Michael told NEWS10 ABC. “A friend of ours, who’s in the military, she’s actually deployed right now. Her name is Jean. We met through her, and we started running together ever since.”
Most runners don’t stand out in a crowd, but Michael and Andy get a lot of attention. Not for how they’re running but for what they’re carrying.
“I get the honks and the horns; I get people saying thank you; people want to talk with me while I’m running; some people want to take pictures of the flag, because it’s not about me, it’s about the flag,” said Andy.
What started out as a yearly tribute to fallen soldiers in a run across New York State has now turned into a weekly tribute to those who’ve given their lives and those who continue to serve, as people stop them to share their stories.
On the day NEWS10 followed Andy and Michael, one man told them, “My grandson is in the Marines, and it changed his life.”
These encounters surprised Michael at first.
“What we didn’t expect was that they would also tell us about family members that were lost, or current family members that were actually deployed at that moment. It was almost like a sense of relief for them.”
When the coronavirus pandemic shut down businesses and schools, it didn’t shut down Andy and Michael.
“When everything was shut down with COVID, I felt like running with the flag it meant more for people to see that,” recalled Andy.
Including a Vietnam veteran, who took their picture.
“He was actually in tears the day we talked to him,” shared Michael, “because we were running with the flag, and it meant so much to him that we were running with that flag, and he took our picture, which we couldn’t believe it.”
You know what else they couldn’t believe? The connection that turned out to bridge an ocean. A soldier’s mom stopped Andy and Michael on their way through the city of Saratoga, and these two runners brought together by the friend now on her third deployment in the Middle East found another friend.
“Found out her son is from Troy and currently deployed in Afghanistan, and I thought I wonder if he knows our friend,” Andy thought. “I contacted Jean via Facebook Messenger. Sure enough she’s best friends with the guy. He’s a major, she’s a major, and they know each other. I wished I’d taken a picture with her so she could send it to her son.”
They may have missed taking that picture, but they don’t miss making their run every Sunday. The two men … running in unison with one purpose: to honor and remember America’s military men and women.
There are no medals or cheering crowds as they take these steps; their finish line begins another veteran’s story.
“Thank you; that’s what I got to say,” said Michael. “And if you do see us, give us a beep.”