BASRA, Iraq – While 30,000 registrants prepare for Sunday’s Army Ten-Miler in Washington, D.C., the third largest 10-mile race in the world, more than 200 runners crossed the finish line in Basra a week earlier during a 10-Mile shadow run Oct. 16.
Sgt. Maj. Bill Sutton, the 1st Infantry Division protection sergeant major and a native of Hardtner, Kan., organized the race and finished first overall with a time of 1 hour, 4 minutes and 51 seconds. He said the story of the run wasn’t who finished first, but who just plain finished.
“There are people I never thought would enter,” Sutton said. “There’s a specialist, not a runner at all, but she started the deployment with the goal of running a half marathon and here she is on track after finishing a 10-miler.”
Sutton was speaking of Spc. Termika English, a native of Burlington, N.C., and a human resources specialist for the 1st Inf. Div. English has had more to battle than just the miles of pavement between her and the finish line.
“I had surgery on my left shoulder and immediately after, I had a severe case of pneumonia,” English said. “It took me down for two years. All I could do was walk for a long time.”
Despite having a portion of her collar bone removed, continuing respiratory problems, and pain she has to live with, English said she wants to do more.
“I feel the pain when I run, but not as much as when I’m doing push-ups,” English said. “We had one [Army Physical Fitness Test] here and I didn’t pass, so I worked on it and worked on it.”
“As I kept doing the run, I started to do better and I passed the next test, and now it’s just a matter of building up and I don’t want to barely pass.”
When English arrived in Basra in January, she signed up for the Basra Running Series, a series of monthly road races that are getting progressively longer throughout the year, culminating with this month’s 10-miler and a half marathon in November.
Sutton, who organized the series along with the 1st Inf. Div. Equal Opportunity Office, said the races were started to get people to run and occupy their off duty time in a positive manner. Some soldiers, like English, have surprised him.
“I see her out there when I run about five in the morning, running alone, and she has come a long way,” said Sutton. He added that if he’s helped English and the other Basra soldiers develop as runners, it’s been through motivation and not formal teaching.
“I am definitely not the … model of how to train, because running just comes natural to me,” Sutton said. “I don’t know if it’s just genetics or growing up with three older brothers, running for my life from them. I am just using the gift given to me.”
“It’s motivating, showing these younger soldiers, if I can still get out there and do it, there is no reason they shouldn’t be able to do the same,” Sutton said. “I honestly believe everybody has the potential to run.”
English said her hometown bishop has also helped her along the way.
“She always told me I can do anything I set my mind on,” English repeated the bishop’s encouragement, “’You’re just as strong as anyone else, and you need to tap into this strength.’”
“Whenever I can finish a run, I always think about what she saw in me.”
English said she was overcome with emotion as she neared the finish line.
“When I got to where I could see the finish, oh my God, I wanted to cry,” English said. “I had made the 10 miles. For someone who didn’t think she can run at all, that’s a blessing.”
“For me, it’s never about a time, it’s about the finish.”
English said she intends to run the half marathon in November.
This work, Crossing the line: A tale of two runners, by SPC Raymond Quintanilla, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.