COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Linda Ambard of Colorado Springs runs to remember.
"I couldn’t imagine a day without him," she said remembering her husband.
But she says her days of running marathons are numbered.
"I need foot surgery and so I do have to wear good shoes, good feet inserts to make this happen," she explained.
Ambard has 220 marathons to her name. She runs to remember her husband, Phil. It took her a little while before she finally warmed up to dating him.
"He asked me out 19 times before I said yes."
Phil wasn’t an American citizen by birth. He grew up in Venezuela and got his U.S. citizenship by joining the Air Force in 1985. In January of 2011, he volunteered to serve in Afghanistan as an academy language professor.
"When Phil left, it was, ‘I'm going to a safe place Linda. Don’t be silly.'"
Three months later, the unthinkable happened when an Afghan military member in a NATO uniform turned on Phil by assassinating him and eight others.
"I think about him all the time," Linda said. "I wonder if he would be proud of me. I wonder what he would think of the journey I’ve been on."
Two years later, Linda’s journey brought her to the Boston Marathon where she was running to honor Phil. She was two-tenths of a mile away from the finish line when yet another tragedy struck: The Boston Marathon Bombing.
"That’s when I decided I was going to run all the continents of the world wearing a full American flag to cross the finish line to foot stomp [and say], ‘you know what? I’m not running in fear. While terrorism can take my life, it’s not going to make my spirit," she said.
Linda’s spirit has guided her through marathons on all seven continents, most recently in Antarctica.
"I wanted to be able to honor him in a positive way versus being stuck in grief," she said. "I’ve learned that I’m stronger than I thought I was. I learned I have a voice and I was so shy when Phil was killed. I’ve learned I can face my fears even when I don’t want to and I want to stay under my covers and not get up in the morning."
Picking her favorite continent she’s run on is always a hard decision.
"Oh gosh, that is so difficult," she said. "I always say it’s Patagonia because it is so rural and so beautiful like none other."
When Linda runs, Phil always is on her mind.
"All those finish lines I do, because this one’s for you honey. This one’s for you," she said. "As I carry that American flag, you know he chose America. He gave his life for his adopted country. I think about it every single time that flag goes up."
Linda says she has forgiven Phil’s assassin. Although there is still daily pain, Ambard is using her story to help others.
"We all have really bad things that have happened to us and we all have choices. And that tool to use that story has been the most rewarding when I look at how far I’ve been able to mentor people," she said. "How I’ve been able to utilize my own struggles and my own journey to encourage people to thrive versus just survive."
Linda Ambard runs to remember, with a flag in hand.
"Because he wasn’t American by birth, and he always said I am the flag," she said. "So this fight to thrive is all about loving and honoring him the best way I can until my final breath."
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