PHOENIX — What started as a vision to honor the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshot Firefighters who died in Yarnell on June 30, 2013, became much more for Phoenix resident Michelle Teeling.
Having never met any of the brave men who on that summer day lost their lives battling the Yarnell Hill wildfire, Teeling felt an urge to do something that would carry on the legacy of the wildland firefighters who died and support the sole survivor, Brendan McDonough.
Days after that fateful day, she created the 19 + One Marathon team.
“It was all through Facebook, people reaching out — they were classmates, friends, family, community members of the fallen,” said Teeling.
The team was created after Teeling attended a celebration of life service for one of the Hotshots, Jesse Steed. Steed’s brother and Teeling’s husband were childhood friends. “It really left profound impact on me, ” she said.
“They had a board at the celebration for people to write memories,” she explained. “I started at that board for such a long time.”
Reading the messages friends and family wrote on the board left her with a desire to give back to the Hotshots and their families. She even left the following message on there.
Jesse: one often wonders what kind of footprint we leave behind. Being here celebrating your life I find myself soul searching. You have lived an amazing life; the impact you had is one that most of us dream of. I want to be a better person because of you. You are an inspiration and your footprint is forever left on so many.
The 19 + One Marathon Team will carry on that footprint on Jan. 19. A group of 42 runners will be participating as 19 + One members in the P.F. Chang’s Rock N’ Roll Arizona Marathon and Half Marathon in Phoenix and Tempe. They will be wearing a black t-shirt with the design of a wildland firefighter, inspired by a photo of Steed. On the back of the shirt is the list of all 20 members of the Granite Mountain Hotoshots, including McDonough, the survivor.
The team is made up of two groups: one in Prescott and one in Phoenix. The two train separately on their own during the week and meet for runs on the weekend. Five other members live out of state.
Some of the runners have ran races in the past, Teeling explained. “Others had never run a day in their life,” she added.
Teeling said the response from the community toward the team has been one of appreciation. “It’s a postive way to honor their loved ones and inspire a few to go out there and run,” she explained.
Along with running in both the marathon (26.2 miles) and half marathon (13.1 miles) races, the team has been fundraising for the Prescott Firefighter Charities to go toward the families of the fallen.
Teeling has a message for everyone who will be at the race on Jan. 19.
“Cheer loud, these guys are amazing and their families deserve it. Celebrate them.”
The journey of the 19 + One Marathon team doesn’t end at this race. The team plans on running more races in the future. “This is just the beginning,” she said.
To learn more and support the 19 + One Marathon team, visit their Facebook page.