Jamie Summerlin knows how Forrest Gump felt on his cross-country running spree, having people running alongside him as he took step after grueling step while taking in the scenery and culture of Americana.
"You do think about things like that," Summerlin said Friday during a stopover at the Mountaineer Military Museum in Weston on Day 89 of his 100-day, 3,400-mile run across the United States to raise money and awareness for veterans' issues.
"All of your demons come out. You remember all of the struggles you fought through to get past those obstacles."
The Inter-Mountain photo by John Wickline
Jamie Summerlin, left, autographs the shirt of Drew Duffield during a Friday stop at the Mountaineer Military Museum in Weston. Summerlin, a Marine Corps veteran and Braxton County native, is running across the United States to raise money and awareness for veterans’ issues. His trek, which began in March in Oregon, will finish July 4 in Annapolis, Md.
His obstacles have included steep inclines, blistering heat, snowstorms during which he couldn't see where his next step would land and injuries to his feet, knees and shins.
"This is just 100 days of temporary pain for me," the Marine Corps veteran and Braxton County native said. "Some of these (veterans) have scars - mental and physical - that will last forever. I continually remind myself of those folks. I never thought about quitting. I had to keep moving forward. Quitting lasts forever."
As Summerlin and his wife Tiffany walked up the sidewalk to the front steps of the museum, he was saluted by aging veterans and applauded by those who gathered on the small lawn outside.
"I take that very personally," he said. "To know what some of these men and women went through, it's very humbling to me."
Summerlin, who now calls Morgantown home, began his journey on March 26 in Oregon, and has averaged running 34 miles a day since. His "Running for Wounded Warriors" trek will end July 4 at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. From there, he said he plans to jog the final 106 miles just to say he ran from sea to shining sea.
"It's one step in front of the other," he said. "It's the toughest thing I've ever done. It isn't about me, though. It's about the men and women who have sacrificed for our country. They're my heroes. They are the ones I did this for.
"I wanted to do something that would make a statement," the 39-year-old man said. "People have run with me. They've wanted to be a part of this."
Summerlin said he will have gone through 10 pairs of running shoes by the time his journey ends. Those shoes were donated to him by Two River Treads, a Shepherdstown business. In the spirit of the run, those shoes will be donated to Soles for Souls at the finish of the run.
"I want to keep paying it forward," he said.