When you look at my race history on my Athlinks profile it may be easy to assume I’ve been running for 5 or 6 years (I started training for my first Marathon in 2008). However my true running roots didn’t stem from Marathon training.
In 1997 I was a 17 year old HS Senior. Earlier that summer I had met with a recruiter about enlisting in the Marine Corps; to prepare for the rigors of Marine Corps Boot Camp, the recruiter suggested that I join the delayed entry program (DEP). I’d participate in Marine Corps style training on the weekends to help get physically prepared.
While we did many different exercises, the main focus was the 3 areas of the physical fitness test: Sit-ups (crunches), Pull-ups (dead hang), and a 3 mile run. I was already in pretty good shape from my martial arts training and was able to max out at 100 crunches and
10 7 pullups* during my initial strength test (IST), the run though was half the normal distance at 1.5 miles, but it completely killed me! I initially felt confident about the running portion, but I must have under-estimated how far 1.5 miles was. With a half mile to to, I was sucking wind, and tending to a side stitch/cramp.
Aside from the common school yard games ie. freeze tag, man hunt, etc. I hadn’t done much running before, but on that day I learned my first lesson about pacing myself! Through 2007 and early 2008 I made progress as the DEP training runs got longer and longer. Determined to put my embarrassing IST showing behind me, I really took to these training runs and started to enjoy them. We ran through Staten Island singing cadences, climbing over any obstacle in our way!
Soon it was summer of ’98. 4 days after graduation day I shipped off to Paris Island, SC for Basic Training. This was the most brutal training I’ve ever experienced, but I was able to hold my own on the runs! I volunteered to run with the Rabbits**, even though I wasn’t originally selected for that group. No matter how tough things got, I prided myself on not dropping out of any runs, even in Red and Black Flag*** conditions. On my first Physical Fitness Test (PST) in Boot Camp, I managed 100 crunches, 13 Pullups, and 18:30 for a 3 mile run.
Though I never managed 18:00 or below on my 3 miler (for max points), I was always thought of as a strong runner. I did several races that you won’t find record of anywhere during my time enlisted, including The Camp Pendleton Mud Run (In Boots and Utilities), a 10k Ridge Runs in 29 Palms, and a unique race where Platoons had to finish together. I had some great running memories, though by my final year of enlistment I lost much of my desire to run! Being forced to run, combined with running the same routes over and over became too repetitive. In addition, I knew I was getting out soon and had little incentive or motivation to improve on my PFT Scores.
Following my Honorable Discharge from the Marines, I went an entire year without running. It was only natural for me to pick up running again. I can attribute that to many things: wanting to get back in shape, wanting to regain my military fitness, challenge to run a marathon, etc. I now have a desire and enjoyment of running that is more personal, but what my Marine Corps running experience has given me is the drive and mental toughness to continue pushing toward my goals!
Happy Veterans day to all who have served in any branch of the Armed Forces!
* Ask anyone who’s served about Pull Ups that “don’t count”!
** Rabbits were the fastest group of runners in boot camp.