FORT WAYNE – Run strong! Run Army strong! the PA announcer called out as our wave went off Oct. 12 for the 30th Army Ten-Miler.
More than 30,000 runners had registered for the race that started and finished near the Pentagon and went through the streets of Washington, D.C., near the Lincoln Memorial, the Watergate, the Kennedy Center and the National Mall.
I was running with Mike Godfrey, a retired Army colonel who had been my roommate in the late 1970s when we were both enlisted men serving in the First Armored Division in Germany.
Mike had contacted me about a year ago to see if I wanted to run in the Ten-Miler. I jumped at the chance to catch up with an old friend, to run a race distance I had never run before and to visit Washington once again.
As race day approached, I was apprehensive. My training throughout the summer was focused on this event. I ran the Fort4Fitness half marathon two weeks before the Army Ten-Miler in a less-than-stellar 2 hours and 35 minutes. I had hoped to run that race closer to 2:20. Toward the end of the half marathon, my calves protested the hills, and I ended up walking up even the slightest incline.
I ran three miles a couple days after the half marathon, then five miles a couple days later.
My plan had been to run about seven miles a week before the Army Ten-Miler. Work and family life conspired to prevent me from running that seven miles. I ran four miles the Monday before leaving for Washington.
When I got to the Godfreys’ house in northern Virginia, Mike informed me that we’ll be leaving at 5:45 a.m.
I set my alarm and was up in plenty of time to have a small bowl of oatmeal with applesauce. I grabbed a banana and a couple of snack bars and we were off to the Metro stop and the train that would take us to the Pentagon.
We made our way to the staging area and found our wave. The race was going off in waves, about nine minutes apart. I was assigned to the orange wave, and Mike, assigned to the green wave, decided to join me in the orange. Mike and I settled into a nice, easy pace as we warmed up the first mile as we ran past Arlington National Cemetery.
Then after we crossed the Potomac and ran past the Lincoln Memorial, we picked up the pace. I didn’t say anything, but I worried about holding that pace for the final eight miles.
It wasn’t until we started back across the Potomac at Mile No. 7 that I started to feel the stress of the pace. At that point, we were crossing on an Interstate 395 bridge.
The HOV lanes were closed to auto traffic, so the 26,238 of us running had a place to cross. The stretch from Mile 7 to Mile 9, mostly on the bridge and its approaches, was the most difficult of the race.
After we were back in Virginia and heading for the finish, I came to the realization that I was going to make it fine, though I joked to Mike that we ought to grab a couple of bikes and ride to the finish.
We crossed the finish line together in 1:44:18, a 10:25 pace. I doubt that I would have finished in that time without Mike setting a pace faster than I would have run.
I ran strong, though I’m not sure a 56-year-old veteran who last put on a uniform in 1980 can claim to be running Army strong.
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