Five veterans to be pushed in chariots for Novant Health Charlotte Marathon

(Kristi O'Connor | WBTV)
(Kristi O'Connor | WBTV)
(Kristi O'Connor | WBTV)
(Kristi O'Connor | WBTV)

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Thousands of people will be lacing up their shoes to run the Novant Health Charlotte Marathon in uptown on Saturday. Among the participants are five veterans who now live in Rock Hill.

You will see them taking off before the others, but not on foot. They have a special escort: the men of Speed for Need.

Speed for Need is an effort put on by the men of F3, which stands for fitness, fellowship, and faith.

"That's what we are, a group of men of all ages, fighting the battles of life together," Jamie Jones said.

The F3 group trains seven days a week and runs in races 50 weeks out of the year. What sets them apart from the other runners, is that they push people who cannot run themselves in Speed for Need chairs.

This Saturday, which is also Veteran's Day, they will be pushing five veterans 26.2 miles. They have yet to do this in a race this long. Wednesday, the men of F3 met with the five veterans they will be pushing along the route.

Frank Polito is 93 and he served in the infantry of the Army from 1943 to 1946 as a machine gunner.

"I wouldn't recommend it as a career to anybody, but I wouldn't give it up for anything," Polito said.

Jones, who also served in the Army, will be pushing Polito for six miles of the marathon.

Spencer Anderson was a cryptographer in the Army for nearly three years.

"I was there when Powers' plane was shot down, our spy plane that was spying on the Russians and the Russians brought him down," Anderson said.

Gene Blackmon served in the Navy, as did his chariot pusher Chris Barnes.

"I'm glad I've got you because I think we are going to win this thing," Blackmon told Barnes.

Don Hunt, another veteran being pushed, also served in the Navy. Derek Nichols, who was an aircraft mechanic, is being pushed as well.

The runners will have five leg shifts at six miles a piece. They plan to run between an eight minute and eight and a half minute pace.

"Don't run too fast, you'll get too much of a breeze going," Polito said to Jones.

Speed for Need is also pushing 15 kids with special needs in the marathon.

Copyright 2017 WBTV. All rights reserved.