BOSTON (CBS) – A smile spreads across Lt. Colonel Rodney Freeman’s face as images of Shadow Marathons flash across a screen.
“I didn’t realize how big this event had gotten,” he said.
Freeman started the Shadow Race when he was stationed in Iraq in 2005.
“I was training to qualify for runs in Boston in 2005. My unit got called and we went to Iraq and that was the end of my chance of running,” he explained.
With that goal seemingly on hold, Freeman decided to run the race in Iraq. He enlisted a few buddies to run around the base with him.
That’s when he emailed the people at Boston Athletic Association. They encouraged him to find more runners.
“It became this great event that ballooned from three or four of us to 350 people running.”
The B.A.A. sent supplies like t-shirts, medals and certificates for the first Boston Marathon Shadow Race.
The event got so big, Freeman didn’t get to run because he was too busy organizing.
The day before the race there was a sandstorm. At the starting line it was 60 degrees but by the time it was over, it was 130 degrees.
But what started as one man’s dream – wound up fulfilling hundreds of others.
Since then, more than 3,000 men and women have received Boston Marathon medals in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Thursday night as Marathon weekend kicked off, Freeman was honored with the Patriot Award, a title he’d earned with his service but now lives on with his legacy.
“What I found after the race, was people would say that was great because I got to share a positive with my family back home,” he said.
Freeman finally got to finish the Boston Marathon by crossing the finish line on Boylston Street in 2006. He said it was a pinnacle moment in his life.