Name: Dani Burton, Kim Gwyn
Ages: 37, 38
From: Newport News, VA, California, PA
Runs for: Team Red, White & Blue
The mission of Team RWB is to help veterans connect to their community through physical and social activity, and the organization certainly did that for four runners from Pittsburgh in 2015.
Dani Burton, an Army veteran, was training to run her first half marathon at the UPMC Health Plan Pittsburgh Marathon last year when her running partner had to drop out for medical reasons just a couple weeks before the race. Burton, who’d never run that far a distance before, was about to drop out, too.
That’s when a friend she’d met through Team RWB, Amber Miller, told her that her sister, Shannon Gillin, had also just recently lost her running partner, as well. Amber suggested that the two of them run together, then soon decided that if they were running, she’d come along.
Then they saw a post on Team RWB’s Facebook page that another woman, Kim Gwyn, was looking for someone to run with so they messaged her, too. Despite the fact that only the two sisters had ever met in person before race weekend, they all crossed the starting line together as friends and fellow veterans that morning.
“It kind of snowballed,” said Burton, 37, a former Butler resident now living in Newport News, Va. “It helped, because I’d never run more than six miles before that. I think Shannon had run a half before, and Kim had run the full. It helped. Amber and Shannon were a little faster than me but Kim stayed with me until mile 9 and I said, ‘Just go, I’ll see you at the finish line.’”
The four have stayed in touch and run a number of races together since, including the EQT Pittsburgh 10 Miler in 2015. For that race, since all four are veterans, they ran to honor the different branches of service. Burton wore an Army shirt, Miller represented the Marine Corps, Gillin wore an Air Force shirt and Gwyn represented the Navy. Burton served in the Army, Gwyn is a Navy veteran and spent six years in the Army National Guard, and Gillin and Miller served in the Air Force. All but Gwyn still serve.
“There was an instant connection, I believe due to our military background,” said Gwyn, 38, of California, Pa. “We all ran together and felt like a team. We helped each other along the course. We pushed ourselves to finish and motivated each other in the 10 Miler and last year at the starting line for the 2015 Half Marathon was a great beginning to a wonderful friendship. Team RWB is a wonderful organization to help veterans bond.”
Gwyn also runs in honor of a little boy named Luka McDonald, of Oil City, who is two years old and was born with half a heart. She dedicates all her miles to him and gives him all her medals after races.