A Marine veteran who runs for his fallen friends: "Ballard, Hamer, Juarez"; An Interview with Micah Herndon
Name: Micah Herndon
Day Job: Underground Electrician @ Ohio Edison
Special Note: $5 of every hat sold will be donated to 03XX Foundation.
AER: I guarantee that in just a few seconds of someone looking through your social media channels, they will be inspired. "Don't talk about it, be about it", "Adapt and overcome". Who are some of your biggest inspirations and have they changed over the years?
Micah: If anybody stumbles across my posts on my social media profiles they will first notice I’m extremely boring and only post stuff of the family, my workouts, and/or What strikes the soul deep or really hits home with me personally with the demons I deal with daily. My biggest inspiration in this life is my mom. Having two husbands pass away unexpectedly, and a divorce while raising 5 kids pretty much on her own, working multiple jobs to make ends meet, while being present at every single sporting event me, my older brothers and sister had going on speaks volumes to the strength, kindness, dedication, and love she has displayed throughout our lives. She’s my role model, hero, and my best friend. If I’m able to be 1/10th the human she is, I’ve lived a successful life.
My older brothers and older sister are also my biggest inspirations. Being the youngest of five kids is a blessing and a curse. The blessing is your “the baby” of the family and your “mommas baby”. The “curse” if you will is that you get the blessing of growing up fast at a young age always being the guinea pig for your older siblings in anything they want to try themselves but want to see if it’s even possible. To go along with that is always competing against your older brothers and their friends. It toughens you up fast. At a young age you either continue to get “knocked in the teeth” or you stick up for yourself and give it back. Fight or flight was developed and established at a young age for myself. That being said, along with my mother working all the time to make ends meet, my older brothers and sister had to take on a role they didn’t ask for or should have to do. They watched over me, cared for me, and raised me to be who I am today. Without my mother, and my older siblings, I would be nothing.
AER: What's your favorite race you've run so far? What's your dream race?
Micah: I know this is going to be a general answer and not specific but every race that I have the ability to run is my favorite. Everyday I’m still breathing, blood flowing through my veins, and heart pumping is another day I’ve been blessed to have here on earth. I shouldn’t be here. Don’t mean to get all dark and everything and I apologize, (I’m just being real and raw) but after getting shot at in Iraq, getting blown up in Afghanistan, watching your brothers getting blown up and being a machine gunner on top of the vehicles over there for both deployments on over 400 missions, I shouldn’t be here. My brothers we lost on both deployments deserve and should be here not myself. At that time I didn’t have a girlfriend or wife or any kids. Each one of my brothers that died had all of those. For whatever reason I’m still here on earth and able to have another day. After going through those events over there I’m still able to be active, I have all my limbs. If I’m not moving or doing something physical everyday, I’m failing them, their families, and myself for being granted to still live.
AER: We were extremely happy to see you signed up for your first ultra in a few months. What race? What led to this? How is training going? Biggest thing you're nervous about?
Micah: I first was invited to run the JFK50 miler November 21st of this year back when ESPN ran the segment they did on me. I’ve always had an itch to run an ultra and get into that aspect of the running community. The mental, and emotional side of things have always intrigued me at a very young age. What makes us tick? What drives us to be competitive? What makes the human body, mind, and soul able to improvise, adapt, and overcome to any situation life presents.
Training for this is going great. Running the trails is a different beast and mentality than just running the road races though. Each and every step you have to be present. One step too short could end your day quick. Being in nature and being able to let your thoughts, and mind let loose is vital for the soul. It humbles and grounds the soul. That being said, being an extremely rookie runner only running 4 marathons, and 3 half marathons. I signed up for the burning river 50 miler August 22. Need to get at least one race further than 26.2 before I run the JFK50. Biggest thing I’m worried about is the nutrition.
AER: You have a young daughter that will grow up watching you run and will someday read about Micah Herndon the Marine. What do you hope that she takes from your history and applies to her own life?
Micah: Adversity builds character. Being able to improvise, adapt, and overcome to any situation life presents to her throughout her life. When things get tough and they will, when she feels like shutting down, quitting, and giving up. Head down. Push through. Find a way.
AER: The Boston finish-line. Everyone in the run community has seen the video footage but haven't had the opportunity to follow your story to where it is now. You were ready for redemption for Boston 2020, and then COVID hits. Were you disappointed that the race was cancelled and talk a little bit about how important is it for you to redeem yourself in that particular race?
Micah: Disappointed was and is still an understatement. Like with everything in life though, you try to be as fluent as the water is. The shock happened when the news broke. The anger set in. All the hours, pain, sweat, and mental space that race has occupied between my ears is never ending. Never ending is the grind. Never ending is pain, sweat, and training that will happen until I’m six feet under. Why? Because I’m still here and able to. Because their not able to anymore. I’m still here. I have my health and I still have the ability to. I will get my redemption at that race sooner than later, for them.
AER: Alter Ego Running was built on the concept of "find you balance". When we write that, it means something different for everyone, but you bring a whole new meaning to this. PTSD is something that you have openly spoken about and you attribute running to helping you cope with this. Can you tell us a little bit about how running helps you balance each day and how it helped you through tough times?
Micah: Getting out of the military you feel lost. They break you down and build you up to be able to be apart of the baddest military force in the world. To be able defend your family, friends, and your country. They teach you how to survive under any condition and against any enemy in war. The thing that they don’t teach you is how to survive life when you get out of the military. How to “fit in” with people that haven’t experienced, seen, or imagined the fog of war, the darkest hours. There lies the struggle. Being apart of hundreds of missions, leading and having lives in your hands heightens the stakes. After I got back from my 2nd deployment and the military I was just happy to be alive. We didn’t shower for the first 4 months of my Afghanistan deployment. I was just happy to have running water, ice in my drink, a mattress to sleep on and hot food to eat. When I got out of the military I met my wife. After you get out you have a “honeymoon phase”. Anything and everything will make you happy. Reality sets in about a 1-2 years after getting out. What you just went through, the sights, scenes, smells, and the death hits you all at once. That’s when me and my wife started having problems and shortly after reality hit we got divorced.
Rock bottom. I ruined relationships with her, my family, and my friends. I was alone. Tried dating other women and moving on but those failed as well. Why the hell was I failing at life when I have survived getting shot at and blown up? Took a real hard look at myself over the following days after the 2nd failed attempt at a relationship. What was the common denominator in all that has failed? Me. We are all flawed as humans. Some more than others but still fail at the most basic fundamentals of life. Yeah, rock bottom. Failed at leading my brothers over on deployment when I didn’t see the bomb that killed my brothers. It changed families. I caused hurt and pain to their families, and friends. I failed at my marriage and other relationships. Couldn’t get another lower than I was. The only way is up. I did some research and came across the “runners high”. I didn’t have nothing to lose so I started to run. Consistently running everyday. Everyday and every run I learned something. It gave me life again and eventually I was able to reconnect with my wife that I failed. A couple years went by and we got married again eventually and this past year gave me the greatest gift of all. Our little baby girl Harper. Running saved my life, gave me an outlet and reconnected me and Sarah. The outcome of us reconnected stronger than ever gave us our little baby girl Harper James. Blessed is an understatement. From the highest of highs and lowest of lows during war and handling life after service hitting rock bottom to where I’m at now. Yeah I’m blessed and forever thankful for this life. Being able to run in honor of my brothers is what oxygen is to the lungs, what blood is to the heart. It’s vital, it’s essential, it saved my life.
AER: "Ballard, Hamer, Juarez". Tell us a little bit about your hat and the names under the cap. What do these three names mean to you?
Micah: Everything I do in life is for them. I was the leader of that convoy in the front and I didn’t see the bomb that hit their vehicle. They trusted me and I failed them. I failed their families, their friends, and their communities. The world has seen their names and will continue to see their names and hear of their story. It’s the least I can do. To honor them, live for them, and dedicate the rest of my life to them.
AER: Why did you choose the 03XX Foundation?
Micah: I chose the 03XX foundation for what they stand for, their mission, the care and dedication they have to our returning vets. Without them thousands and thousands of vets would be in a lost, at rock bottom, or even worse not here anymore.