Maria and Eduardo Marmolejo completed their first marathon together last year in Chicago. This year, Maria will run without her high school sweetheart, husband and partner of 17 years.
"I have my purpose, and my purpose is to run for him," said Maria Marmolejo. "He is not here, and if he were, he would be running it."
Last December, Officer Eduardo Marmolejo died in the line of duty. He and his partner, Conrad Gary, were responding to reports of gunshots on Chicago's Far South Side when they were struck by an oncoming train.
"Such a good person is gone," Maria said. "He was more than just a police officer. He was a father and a husband."
The couple had planned to run this year’s Bank of America Chicago Marathon to raise money for the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation.
Maria is determined to carry out her husband’s wish, wanting to give back to an organization who has given her so much.
"Just knowing who my husband was and how proud he was to wear that uniform, I have to honor those who are still here that are still taking care of us," she said.
The Foundation is providing complete financial support for the education of the Marmolejos' three daughters, Becca, Maddie and Sofie, from now until they are 25 years old.
"It is like a second family, it really is," she said. "They want to make sure these children are taken care of, that their fathers are never forgotten."
When Maria finished the Chicago Marathon last year, her husband was waiting for her, recording the big moment. He had finished an hour earlier but waited so they could celebrate together.
This year, Maria’s three daughters will be there as she crosses the finish line, ready to celebrate their mother’s resilience and purpose.
"I gotta make it count, make it count for my kids, make it count for myself and most importantly for him."