News: Fort Bliss welcomes the El Paso Marathon
Story by Sgt. Jennifer Spradlin
FORT BLISS, Texas – More than 400 runners gathered in the early morning hours of Feb. 5 to participate in the sixth annual Michelob Ultra El Paso Marathon. Undeterred by the cold temperatures and fierce winds at the Trans-Mountain Road starting point, the mood was upbeat as they huddled together, each a little anxious to get started on the 26.2-mile course.
Maj. Gen. Dana J. H. Pittard, 1st Armored Division and Fort Bliss commanding general, was on hand to fire the official starting shot and participate in the race. Running in his second marathon, his first marathon the Marine Corps Marathon in 1998, the general had a special fitness-oriented message for service members, “I challenge all soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines from Fort Bliss to do this. That’s why I’m doing it, trying to lead by example, ‘Hooah!’”
Pittard said his training regimen had been impacted by shoulder surgery a few months earlier, but he had prepared by adding long runs to his weekend exercise plan, and while his goal for the race was to “finish alive,” he was excited to tackle the redesigned course, which featured a two-mile stretch of Fort Bliss.
“This marathon is cool! The relationship between Fort Bliss and El Paso is the closest relationship between any large installation and a city,” said Pittard. “The support we get from the El Paso citizens for our soldiers, our families, and our civilians has just been awesome.”
Entrance to the post began at mile 17 of the race, where soldiers, volunteers and well-wishers waited to greet the runners at three strategically placed hydration areas. Water stations throughout the marathon were entered into a competition to win best theme. At the disco-themed Freedom Crossing station, supported by AAFES, Fort Bliss MWR, the Fort Bliss Red Cross, Combat Veteran Bikers, and several local businesses, all winnings were to be donated to the U.S. Military Cancer Institute.
“Everybody is really excited to support the runners,” said Liz Calderon, Freedom Crossing event coordinator and office manager. “I thought we might only have five people because we had to get started at six a.m., but the ten or fifteen people we did have here at six a.m. were really motivated and ready to go.”
The upbeat station featured music, roller-girls, and volunteers decked out in polyester, beads, and big hair. Calderon said it was a fun way to introduce people to Fort Bliss and the Freedom Crossing Lifestyle Center.
“I wasn’t very big into Fort Bliss until I started working here, but now I encourage everyone to come here,” said Calderon. “I tell everyone, ‘it’s okay to be on post and work along with Soldiers and get to know their families. A lot of their spouses are deployed and they need support.’ It’s given me that opportunity.”
The sun finally made an appearance as the runners began to head downtown toward the finishing line at the historic Union Plaza. Passing beneath a giant American flag and soaking in the applause from the crowd, Sgt. Brittany Bradford finished first in the female 20-24 age group, with a personal best time of 3 hours and 47 minutes.
“I love to run, and I use my running to motivate soldiers,” said Bradford, an intelligence analyst with A Company, Special Troops Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st AD. Bradford is also a member of the Army Ten-Miler Team. “I try to get them to come out to all the events, especially at Fort Bliss, because I think when you get them all together running it really helps with esprit de corps.”
Bradford said running in a marathon is also a perfect way to learn a new city. For her, this was an expanded introduction to the city of El Paso. One she will never forget.
“I know coming in, I had never been this far west in my life,” said Bradford, a Myrtle Beach, S.C., native “For me, the best way to do it was to join races, to meet the people, and when everyone has a shared interest it makes it easier to interact with the community.”
To learn more about the Michelob Ultra El Paso Marathon and get all the race results visit elpasomarathon.org