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Patriotic Article
Troops and Veterans
By USMC Cpl. Joshua Murray

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Marine Corps Marathon Stretches Beyond US Soil
(November 4, 2009)

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Sgt. Ryan Carle, intelligence chief with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 112, stretches in preparation for the 4th Annual Marine Corps Marathon (Forward), aboard Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, Oct. 25, 2009.
Sgt. Ryan Carle, intelligence chief with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 112, stretches in preparation for the 4th Annual Marine Corps Marathon (Forward), aboard Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, Oct. 25, 2009.
  AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq (10/29/200)

Men and women looking down an empty stretch of road, dimly lit by street lamps and emergency vehicle lights, anticipated their upcoming challenge. Not more than a few hundred meters of pavement stretched in front of them, but rounding the turn at the end of this road began a 26.2-mile test of willpower.

Service members from all over Iraq came to Al Asad Air Base to participate in the 4th Annual Marine Corps Marathon (Forward) Oct. 25, 2009, and every participant brought their own personal ambitions to the course. Some came to test their endurance, others to participate in their first marathon and a few even waved their unit's colors on the run to remember fallen comrades.

“The training was pretty tough, and the goal for my first marathon is to defeat the road ... No time; just in it to complete it,” explained Staff Sgt. Brian O'Rourke, system communications watch chief with 8th Communication Battalion. “My brother runs marathons, and he is the driving force behind this. I want to at least experience something that he has so we can relate on some things.”

Whatever reasoning brought them to the event, they took their inspirations with them as they dashed through the starting line when the shot rang out.

Out of the 309 participants, more than 200 ran their first Marine Corps Marathon during the event.

Other runners had past experience running marathons and were willing to give it another try, even if the last time they ran one was more than 18 years ago.

Col. Catherine Chase, the Multi National Force - West assistant chief of staff for administration said, “The last one that I ran was in 1981. I'm hoping I can do well and finish the marathon. It's kind of cool that there's that much time in between [my races] and it's kind of scary too.”

The racers' feet pattered down the street and up a hill, bringing them to a desolate stretch of road where every so often a water or medical station came into view. The remote scenery of this route, occasionally disrupted by a passing helicopter, bore the heaviest burden for some participants.

“It takes a lot of mental discipline,” said Sgt. Ryan Carle, intelligence chief with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 112. “On the way back, there was a long stretch that looked flat and unending and there wasn't a soul in sight, so it took a lot to keep on putting one foot in front of the other.”

Throughout the race, some smiles changed to expressions of exhaustion and their manners radiated unfaltering determination. At 3 hours, 5 minutes, 49 seconds, Army 1st Lt. Joseph Woodley, shop officer with 659th Maintenance Company, barreled across the finish line in first place, achieving victory in his first Marine Corps Marathon.

"I didn't plan to win it,” said Woodley, who has competed in three previous marathons stateside. “I usually finish in the top 10 percent of my races.”

This marathon quite possibly marks the last Marine Corps Marathon (Fwd) held in Iraq. The four races that have taken place have brought men and women across the nation together and given them goals to work toward during deployments. The runners will always remember what brought them to the event and that whether they completed their goals or not ... they ran.

Article and photo by USMC Cpl. Joshua Murray
Multi National Force - West
Copyright 2009

Reprinted from Marine Corps News

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