Headon honors heroes during virtual Marine Corps Marathon

RTHS graduate Aubrey Headon (middle) crosses the finish line held by her parents Cass (left) and Lance Headon (right) after completing 26.2 miles of the 45th Annual Marine Corps Marathon, which she performed virtually at Helms Park on Sunday. (Photos by Russell Hodges)

RTHS alum completes 26.2 miles in memory of U.S. Marines

ROCHELLE — Twenty-five miles for the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines. One mile for U.S. Marine Corps veteran Angela Madsen and two-tenths of a mile for her late grandfather Sgt. John Kevin LaRue. Those precious souls weighed heavily on Aubrey Headon’s mind as she pushed herself to complete her first-ever Marine Corps Marathon virtually at Helms Park on Sunday.

Whether it was through walking, running, wheeling or handcycling, Headon knew she needed to do whatever she could to finish all 26.2 miles of her virtual marathon. Headon arrived at the Helms Park track at 7 a.m. Sunday morning, and after 5 hours, 37 minutes and 38 seconds, Headon successfully crossed the finish line held out by her parents Cass and Lance Headon.

“All I was focused on was finishing the marathon to honor the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines and the other Marines who have served this country,” Headon said. “Finishing the marathon was an extremely meaningful achievement because of the men and women I was honoring. I had friends and family cheering me on and I knew I had to keep going. The support I received from my family, my friends and the community was awesome and they helped push me through.”

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Headon dedicated the first 25 miles of her virtual marathon to 25 U.S. Marines from the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines who lost their lives 10 years ago in October. One of those men was LCpl. Alec Catherwood, whose parents have been close friends with Headon since meeting in 2014.

Headon’s 26th mile was dedicated to Angela Madsen, a U.S. Marine veteran and former Paralympic athlete who passed away earlier this year while rowing across the Pacific Ocean. As Headon entered the final stretch of the virtual marathon, her grandfather, U.S. Marine veteran Lyle Headon, walked beside her as she hit the finish line, where friends and family awaited.

Both Aubrey and her grandpa Lyle presented each other with medals afterward, as he had completed the required distance for the virtual marathon throughout the month. Lyle awarded Aubrey her Marine Corps Marathon medal, which included a small capsule containing sand from the Battle of Iwo Jima. Aubrey then gave her grandpa Lyle the medal that her other grandpa, Sgt. John Kevin LaRue, received when he ran the Marine Corps Marathon in 2010.

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“One of Angela’s best phrases was, ‘When things get hard, you just have to keep rowing,’” Headon said. “Finishing with my grandpa Lyle was great. The moment we exchanged medals was priceless. I could see the look of accomplishment on his face when I presented him with his medal. I know that my family and I, as well as others, will forever appreciate his service.”

A U.S. Paralympic standout and former Rochelle Township High School student-athlete, Headon began training for the marathon during the summer. She trained on her handcycle nearly everyday on the backroads of the Hub City, and although she was bummed to learn the marathon would be going virtual, she knew she had to continue training and earn her medal.

“I decided to do this marathon to honor the 10th anniversary of the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine deployment as well as my grandpa Kevin,” Headon said. “I have to thank the Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Association for allowing me to borrow a handcycle. The training wasn’t easy. Training on the roads was difficult, but it helped prepare me for the flat track surface. I was motivated to race around Washington D.C., but once the marathon went virtual, I really wanted that medal due to its significance it carried. So I pushed myself to continue my training.”

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