ARLINGTON, Va. — This year's 25th annual Army Ten-Miler running race Oct. 4 broke a record with over 30,000 registering. Part of the reason may have been the record 1,400 National Guard runners that officials said took part.
One of those was Army Guard Lt. Col. Kim O'Keefe, executive officer to the director of the Army Guard, who arrived at a dark Pentagon parking lot at 6:30 a.m.
She said the race showcases the Army to the general public. "[Civilians] get to see part of our world," said O'Keefe. "We actually have neighbors that have no relatives in the military who were excited about running it."
One of the reasons for that enthusiasm has to be the 50-plus hospitality tents in the Hooah Tent Zone showcasing various Army units and commands. They ranged from Fort Bragg in North Carolina to Fort Carson in Colorado to the Army National Guard and the Army Reserve. Some tents had bands like "Pershing's Own," the U.S. Army Band from Fort Myer, Va.
Others had Soldiers performing martial arts demonstrations. Along with Army culture, its history was on display with re-enactors donning uniforms from the Revolutionary War to World War II.
Like many, the National Guard Bureau's tent had food and drinks, activities for kids and a disc jockey. Guard members from states as far away as Alaska and Puerto Rico met there before heading to the start line.
It was there that Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Wiley Williams Jr., lead a pre-race prayer. Maj. Gen. Raymond W. Carpenter, acting director of the Army National Guard, then gave a pep talk recognizing various competitors and teams with names like "Rum Runners" and "Flying Pigs" and hardworking volunteers.
He admitted that he would have a hard time keeping up with his two son-in-laws who were also racing.
This race honors the sacrifice of men and women serving in the Army and the Army National Guard, Carpenter said. "Keep them in mind as you run today."
He recognized the children of Army Col. Paul Kelly, who ran the kids race for the third year in a row in honor of their father, who was killed in a helicopter crash in Iraq in 2007.
Carpenter reminded all that many Guard members serving overseas would be running in several "shadow runs" at bases like Camp Phoenix in Kabul in Afghanistan and Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo.
One of the Army Ten-Miler's big draws is the inspirational opportunity to run alongside wounded warriors — those courageous service members running with prosthetic legs or peddling special wheelchairs with their arms.
One of them was Army Maj. Tammy Duckworth, a former Black Hawk helicopter pilot who lost both legs in the Operation Iraq Freedom. She now serves as the assistant secretary of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and is still a member of the Illinois Army National Guard.
Proceeds from the Ten-Miler go to Army Morale, Welfare and Recreation, a comprehensive network of support and leisure services designed to enhance the lives of Soldiers and their families.
A former Miss Utah, Sgt. Jill Stevens-Shepherd, of the Utah National Guard competed, finishing in 1 hour, 11 minutes, 28 seconds.
But what's 10 miles to this marathoner who's got 17 under her belt? She's now the spokeswoman for the Army Guard's Decade of Health program, which had her manning the DoH booth at the race expo at the D.C. National Guard Armory over the weekend.
The Pennsylvania National Guard was represented well with their own tent and several teams. Their expectations were high, said a fit-looking Chief Warrant Officer Troy Zwirblia, an instructor pilot at the Eastern Army Training Site at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pa.
He teaches Army Guard, Reserve and active-duty Soldiers how to fly Black Hawks, Apaches and the Army's newest bird — the UH-72 Lakota. He was hoping for a sub-1:08 time. He settled for a sub-1:10.
Sgt. 1st Class David Pace, a master fitness trainer for the National Guard Bureau, set a lofty goal of 1:10 for his first 10-miler, but added that a sub-1:15 would be acceptable. He raced in a team that included Victor Angry, the command sergeant major of the Army Guard.
Pace's team strategy was simple: "Once we get going down the track we'll try to keep up with the guy in front of us." Along with long-distance group runs, he prepared for today by cross-training with cycling and hiking. He finished in 1:13:03.
Chief Warrant Officer Michael Piellusch of the Army Guard's Strategic Communications office, who was the Guard's race organizer, said their involvement in the race was been on a dramatic rise: 802 runners in 2006, 880 in 2007, 965 last year and 1,405 registered this year.
He said 47 Guard teams took part. The Utah National Guard Men's team won the team division and an "Eagle Trophy." The NGB female team named "Women Warriors" took first place in the women's team division.
The race was won by Alene Reta in 46:59; the top female was Samia Akbar in 55:25. Next year's race is planned for Oct. 24. This year's race sold out in six days.