By Jon Barrett

Originally published on Advocate.com October 07 2009 5:00 AM ET

Writing this letter is often my last task as we close each issue of the magazine. And there’s been many a month when, after I finish writing, I feel like I need a vacation; deadlines are nerve-racking, and like most journalists, we at The Advocate push them as far as we possibly can. So I’m happy to report that as soon as I turn off my computer tonight, I’m packing my bags for Maui. I won’t be going for vacation, though. Instead I’m heading to the 50th state to run the AIDS Marathon—26.2 miles in support of AIDS Project Los Angeles.

If you were to ask me six months—and 25 pounds—ago about the likelihood of me running a marathon, I would have laughed before returning to my large Pepsi and Nachos BellGrande. But something about turning 40, something about my friends’ triumphant tales from AIDS rides and breast cancer walks, and something about the all-too-real horror stories of the decimation of HIV/AIDS funding here in California turned my attention from Taco Bell to trying to make a difference.
 
Training hasn’t been easy—my knees are shot and there’s a blister on my left heel that keeps coming back—but I’ve finished every training session amazed by the power of my decision, along with the decisions of the hundreds of others running the race with me, to make this commitment. Together we’ve raised more than $1 million for APLA (my friends alone very generously donated almost $13,000).

Running is a very individualized sport, but I never could have achieved this kind of success—and by success I mean raised that kind of money—on my own. It’s something I was reminded of as I was reading this month’s cover story (“Straight Guys Tell,” page 54) by Michael Joseph Gross. We, as a community of like-minded gay people, have campaigned against the military’s ridiculous policy of “don’t ask, don’t tell” since it was first conceived in 1993. But as is the case with nearly every civil rights cause we’re fighting for these days, we won’t get anywhere until we partner with others—with people like Pennsylvania congressman Patrick Murphy, a straight Iraq war veteran who has become the lead opponent of DADT on Capitol Hill.

I can’t tell you that I’m not a little bit afraid that I won’t be able to finish the whole 26.2 miles. But if there’s one thing that will keep me going until I cross the finish line, it’s the encouragement I’ve received from friends and family since I started training. I’m hopeful Patrick Murphy’s support will serve the same purpose: that extra push we need—after our marathon fight against DADT—to finally get rid of the discriminatory policy once and for all.