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Seen and Heard: This family sticks together in the long run

December 2, 2018

John Mann, center, and his wife Diane, second from right, were joined by their children, Tom Mann, Theresa Faustini and Karla Mann, in running the Marine Corps Marathon last month in Arlington, Va.

The Marine Corps Marathon is no ordinary 26.2-mile race. Nor are the Manns an ordinary family.

Last month, John and Diane Mann, of Zumbrota, and their three adult children, Theresa Faustini, of River Falls, Wis., Karla Mann, of New Prague, and Tom Mann, of Lonsdale, all ran the marathon.

Their first hurdle was “winning” the lottery, as the Marine Corps Marathon caps the race at 30,000 runners. But luck was on their side and all five got in.

The family’s running history dates back to 1986, when John, then serving in the National Guard, ran his first marathon. Diane, who described herself as John’s running “cheerleader,” joined the army in 1996. With a required annual fitness test, she herself began running regularly and ran her first marathon in 2003.

Did the Mann “kids” grow up as runners? Theresa said, “Definitely not!” and Karla added, “I avoided it at all costs.” Tom was on the high school track team and ran sporadically after that. Karla began running in 2011, and Theresa was the last to join in, beginning when she was nearly 40. In 2015, the entire family signed up for the Twin Cities Marathon and all three children completed their first 26.2-mile race.

Three years later, in October of this year, the Mann family headed to Washington, D.C., for the Marine Corps Marathon, all with a common goal, but distinct personal stories.

John had served as a Marine in the Vietnam War and Diane’s brothers, Bradley and Bruce Banitt, were Marines and Vietnam veterans who lost their lives in 2014 and 2015, respectively. And the Mann children wanted to honor their father and his service and remember their uncles and others who had served our nation.

The Marine Corps Marathon is an intensely emotional, personal race, particularly along the Blue Mile, a section of the race lined with American flags and images of fallen military members.

For John, it “was truly an emotional run for me due to relatives and friends that are no longer with us because of the Vietnam War. The MCM will be the biggest highlight of my life.”

Describing the Blue Mile, Diane said, “I walked most of that mile and looked at all the photos of past fallen soldiers. Everyone was quiet. It was a good time to pray for all the families who lost their loved ones due to wars.”

Karla said, “This race was so difficult for so many reasons. When you throw in the Blue Mile, you have to stop and look at all those faces, all those men and women who died for our country. I couldn’t run during this, I had to walk, out of respect for those who had passed away, the only thing I could do was look at the faces and names on the posters and have a heart full of gratitude for their service and sorrow for their sacrifice. Some were so young, younger than my son, it was really heart-wrenching.”

“It was something I wanted to do to honor my dad and uncles. It’s the least I could do, as I wasn’t able to serve the country myself, “ said Tom.

“Around mile 22,” Theresa said, “I started to feel like I couldn’t go on, but it was the thought of my dad, my uncles, and all the other veterans that motivated me to keep moving forward. I was running for them.”

While each family member ran his or her own pace, they felt they were together in spirit for all 26.2 miles.

Karla said, “We never race against each other; it’s never a competition. It’s always about everyone finishing. We couldn’t do this without each other.” She added, “My dad, in true Marine fashion, ran an amazing race! We are so proud of him for so many reasons, but he did great and smiled ear to ear the rest of the day, not because he beat all of us, but because we all did it and his dream came true.”

John, 68, the family’s original runner with 22 marathons under his belt, mused about future races, “When everyone crossed the finish line they said that would be the last, but I think some of the kids may rethink that. After the pain goes away, it starts to be appealing again.”

Diane summed up the family’s experience: “Before the race, we were all discussing how tough the marathon was going to be. We soon came to the conclusion, running a marathon is minor compared to Marine boot camp and going to war.”

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