Lonnie's walking now. He hasn't tried to do more than that for miles. His stump is so bruised that he'll be feeling it for a month. When he heard they had lengthened the course, he just about caved. Why not quit? What did he have to prove? After all, he finished the 2004 New York Marathon, all 26.2 miles, on a handcrank bike. He skied 28 days last winter. He raced an outrigger canoe 36 miles. Lord knows, he's had his fill of inspiring moments.
The stream of casualties from Iraq has provided "the most exposure America has had to amputees," says Moore, who's president of the board of directors of the Wounded Warrior Project. "I don't think I ever saw one until I was 28. But now it's a feel-good story. The amputees you see on TV or read about, you think, 'Hey, these guys can do anything!' I get that all the time: 'I saw a guy on TV do the Ironman.' But it depends on the injury. We can't all do that."
Today's lesson, then, may be that Moore isn't meant to run a serious distance. He can take that. Still, something keeps pushing him. Just finish. The course is nearly empty now, and the walking's not too awful. He passes the Lincoln Memorial, crosses Arlington Memorial Bridge. Why not keep going? It's such a pretty day. To his right he can see Arlington National Cemetery, endless rows of white headstones against the green grass. He nearly made it there himself: Two days before the grenade severed his leg and sliced off his gunner's hand, Moore had e-mailed a buddy whose face had been ravaged by shrapnel a few months before. "They're getting good," he wrote of the insurgents. "I don't think I'm coming home."
Moore did die, as a matter of fact. For a few moments on the operating table in Iraq he was dead, pulse gone, and after being resuscitated he needed nine units of blood. So, sure, he'll take these new limitations; yes, knowing everything, he'd even go to Iraq again. But the thought never fades, some days consuming him, some days not: "Life would be better," he says, "if I still had two legs."
The last mile, he begins to jog. The stump screams, and he eases up, but he can see the finish now: Pentagon to the left, the canopy of Army black-and-gold balloons over the finish line, the tiny viewing stand and ... wait. Are they pulling down the balloons? They're definitely moving. Yes, they're breaking down the finish area.
Moore begins to run. Damned if he's going to let those balloons come down before he crosses the finish line. Now he's running hard, sweat on his back, his prosthetic leg gleaming in the noonday sun. He's running, even though each step guarantees more pain tomorrow. Beat the balloons: That's the way to make a bad day good. All he has to do is get there first.