The First Sergeant (1SG) of C Company, has been organizing Company Volksmarches on the weekends since he arrived over a year ago. There have been 61 company Volksmarching events at C Company so far, and they usually revolve around the shorter trails of 5 or 10 kilometers to keep them family friendly. However, about once a month, 1SG likes to challenge the Soldiers to join him on the marathon distance of 26.2 miles. Sixteen Soldiers and one spouse have taken the challenge and completed at least one marathon.
In the most recent marathon challenge, 10 of us carpooled to the city of Koblenz, Germany. A few early-rising volunteers served us coffee, cake, and sandwiches at the hall before the start of our big walk. Then, carrying an assortment of snacks, water bottles, Band-Aids, and backpacks, we set out walking as the sun was coming up. The trail took us along the banks of the Rhein and Mosel Rivers, and then incorporated a ferryboat crossing of the Rhein River. On the other side, the trail went from very flat to very steep, and our views of the river valley became a lot more expansive. At one overlook high above the river, we counted the castles that we could see up and down the valley. What goes up must come down, and we eventually made our way back across the Rhein River, where the trail canted steeply upwards again (a few groans were heard this time), but this time we were treated to close-up views of the beautiful castle of Schloss Stolzenfels.
At eight checkpoints spaced along the trail, we took short breaks and snacked on tea and cheese bread. Our goal was to finish as a group, so we made sure everyone made it to each checkpoint before the group started again. The pictures we took at the beginning of the day showed smiling faces, which by the middle turned into grimaces as a few blisters and steep hills took their toll. Yet by the end, we were all smiling again, excited that we had gone the distance and proven ourselves capable of a marathon. We were just as excited to feast on German food and beer at the start hall to celebrate the fact that we were sitting down and no longer walking. We counted a few blisters, rubbed aching muscles, and exchanged injury stories, but for the most part we had come through unscathed. A few intrepid souls even had the courage to ask on the drive home, “So when is the next marathon, 1SG?”