HOUSTON, Texas – When Mimi Ferritti decided to pick up running in February, she never dreamed that eight short months later she’d be running a marathon in Washington D.C. And yet on Oct. 22, that is exactly what she did, in honor of her late husband, United States Marine Sgt. Shawn Martin.
Ferritti, a Mohawk-native and 1996 Jarvis graduate, and Martin married in 2002 in Mohawk. As a member of the U.S. military, Martin received numerous post assignments and so he and Ferritti moved here and there throughout the country eight times.
In 2005 Martin joined the bomb squad (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) and was deployed overseas. In June 2007, he was killed in action.
Living in California at the time, Ferritti soon returned home to the Mohawk Valley, where her mother, Cleo Adams, and brothers, Bill Thomes and Jon Thomes, still live.
“It was a horrible time in my life,” Ferritti recalled. “I loved him more than I can put into words, and then in a second, he was gone.”
And yet life must go on for the living, and so Ferritti continued to put one foot in front of the other and carried on. Eventually she met another EOD Marine, Billy Ferritti.
“We started dating and had a connection. It felt right,” Mimi Ferritti said. “He gets me. And he has a lot of respect for Shawn and is so supportive. I can’t imagine being married to a widow, but he is so understanding.”
The couple moved to Texas in 2010, and married in 2011.
After years of emotional highs and lows, the births of two children, bouts of anxiety and what turned out to be anemia, Ferritti, finally feeling a little better physically and mentally, decided to take up running.
“I’ve always been an active person,” she explained. “I played sports in high school. When I was living back home after Shawn died, I coached volley ball at Jarvis. And running was always something I’d wanted to try.”
So in February 2017, she went for a run from her Houston, Texas, home. More than an athletic outlet, Ferritti quickly found running to be an emotional outlet as well.
“Running is very cathartic,” she said. “It’s a great stress relief and clears your head.”
In March, as Ferritti was increasing her jogs to 2 miles in length, her mother heard about the wear blue: run to remember program, which was looking for applicants to run the annual Marine Corps Marathon in Washington D.C. through its Gold Star Race Program, and suggested Ferritti apply.
“I laughed and said, ‘Mom you’re crazy!’” Ferritti recalled. “A marathon is 26.2 miles. I run 2 miles.”
“But my mom said, ‘I know. But you can do it,’” she continued. “When your mom tells you you can do something, you
believe her. So I applied.”
In May, Ferritti received word that her application had been accepted. She would be running the Marine Corps Marathon in honor of Shawn Martin in five months. At that point, Ferritti had increased her runs to 4 miles, still a far cry from the 26.2 required.
“I told my husband, ‘I have to run a marathon in October,’” she said. “And he responded, ‘No. You get to.’ That really put it into perspective and grounded me.”
Through wear blue: run to remember’s Gold Star Race Program, a program that assists survivors of deceased military personnel honor their loved ones through running, Ferritti received personalized training. She trained hard all summer during the brutal Texas heat.
“When I’d get overwhelmed and think I couldn’t do it, I’d remember why I was doing this and all the men who never came home, and I’d push through,” Ferritti said.
On Oct. 22, clad in a blue T-shirt baring Martin’s name and date of his death, Ferritti stepped up to the start of the marathon, her husband, grade-school friend, Beth, and mother in the crowd. And she ran. During mile 12, dubbed the Blue Mile, competitors ran past hundreds of posters of fallen service members and flags held by volunteers.
“That was amazing,” Ferritti said. “Being able to run that mile, and seeing Shawn’s face on a poster – I can’t put it into words.”
After an impressive five hours and 47 minutes, Ferritti crossed the finish line, into the arms of her husband, friend and mother.
“I can’t tell you how great it was to have them there,” she said. “And my mom is so amazing. She flew down to D.C. just to see me at the finish line. She’s such an amazing woman. She told me, ‘I feel like this is a culmination of your grief.’ And I think she’s right.
“It’s been 10 years now (since Martin died),” Ferritti continued. “Ten years is a long time. And there was a time that I thought by this point it would be over. That I wouldn’t feel like a widow anymore. But he’s still gone. I’m still a widow. It still hurts and it always will. But that’s OK. Because I also know I can make it.
“Training for and running this marathon is a great representation of the emotional struggle I’ve gone through as a widow,” she said. “There are times you think you can’t do it. There are times you think you can do anything. It’s a hard path but you just have to push through and do it anyway. I’m grateful to have had this opportunity and for all the support I received along the way.”