CLEVELAND — On race day, everybody’s goal is the same: crossing the finish line.

If it’s your first time running a half or full marathon, though, it can bring up doubts and fear.

Gregory Wetzel and LaRaun Clayton are choosing to channel energy from their life experience in the military to pull them through.

“Coming from the Marine Corps, where you have thousands of individuals there for one purpose and everybody is there to help each other, it's the same mentality for race day," Wetzel said.

He served eight years on active duty, so it was somewhat easy to take the first step to signing up for his first half marathon.

"I had the realization of hitting register on the website and then I kind of realized, ‘Oh boy, what did I get myself into?’" Wetzel said.

It was similar to the thought that crossed Clayton’s mind.

"I said jokingly that maybe one day I'll run a half marathon, I won't do a full but I'll do a half,” Clayton said. Ten years in the Army Reserves for him, so he’s also used to physical activity.

What is different for both veterans was what inspired them to hit the pavement for 13.1 miles.

For Wetzel, it was the unexpected death of his coworker, friend and a fellow veteran.

“She would travel to different places to run races, and that is dedication,” Wetzel said. “The year that she had passed away, we were running the relay in Akron and we had some shirts made and we kind of have adopted that driving force."

For Clayton, he’s inspired by the veterans he serves on a daily basis at a residential treatment facility.

“Some of them are fighting for their lives,” Clayton said. "The motivation comes in, seeing them leaving the program and they're ready but sometimes they're fearful.” 

"I'm challenging myself and I'm doing this and just letting them know that they motivate me every day."

It’s mind over matter, gaining confidence and trampling fear with every stride.

"In the military, we're all there,” Clayton said. “Regardless if you're Army, Marines, Navy, Coast Guard, we're all family and in that moment, literally everyone's family."

WKYC will have full coverage on the marathon starting at 6 a.m. on Sunday.

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