Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

June 1, 2007

100th 1SG Volksmarch Marathon

1SG will be retiring this fall after twenty-one years of active-duty service to his country. During his years in the Army he has filled many key positions within the Battalion, including tours in Germany, Maryland, and Okinawa. However, the Soldiers of C Company, will remember 1SG for a different reason. Over the two years that he has been stationed here in Landstuhl, Germany, he has spent most weekends out on the forested trails of the German countryside as part of the German sport of Volksmarching.

For many of his weekend walks, 1SG has invited the whole company along by posting flyers in advance for a “1SG Volksmarch”. Anyone interested meets up in the company area on Saturday morning and carpools to the start of the walk. There everyone completes either the short three-mile or longer six-mile trail. Families and children are always welcome, and it is not a strange sight to see a couple of strollers being pushed along, as well as a dog or two. Hunger pains can be assuaged easily along the way with bratwurst, cheese-bread, sweet tea, and beer. Back at the start hall, there is even more to eat, including homemade cake, pies, and authentic German meals. The experience is one of friendship and camaraderie, as well as a great chance to enjoy the fresh air and get some exercise.

1SG has completed over 400 Volksmarches, and many of them have been part of his 1SG Volksmarch program. Knowing that his retirement date was rapidly approaching, he decided to make the 100th 1SG Volksmarch his last Company march. To go out with a bang, he also decided to make it a marathon distance of 26.2 miles. Now, this isn’t totally without precedence, as several of his Company Volksmarches have been marathons. In fact, C Company Soldiers are proud when their name gets added to the Marathon Club, and so far 24 Soldiers and family members have completed a total of 76 marathons.

Knowing this would be the last organized marathon encouraged maximum participation from the unit. Thirteen Soldiers and one family member willingly woke up early that Saturday morning to meet up and carpool to the start of the march. Four of those Soldiers would be completing their first marathon and adding the final names onto the C Company Marathon Club list.

After filling up on pie and pastries in the start hall, the group set off on the marathon. The trail was minimally muddy, running along single-track in the forest and winding through the German countryside. It seemed the weather would also cooperate, with the temperature about 55 degrees and no rain in sight. One member of the group was riding his bicycle, and kept in touch with everyone as the group spread out along the trail, digging out Gummy Bears, Oreos, and other snacks from his pack at the checkpoints.

Cameras, MP3 players, and some trailside antics helped pass the time along the way. At least, they did until we reached the biggest hill (or maybe small mountain), that 1SG said he had ever climbed on a marathon. With four hours of walking already under our belts, it seemed insurmountable. We all hoped that the trail would go around it, not up…but up it went, and with one foot in front of another, we slowly made our way to the summit. Everyone gathered together at the top for more snacks, and a few bravely climbed the lookout tower (did they really want to get higher?). Others bouldered on the rocks, and some removed shoes and socks to rest aching feet.

With yet a couple of hours left to walk, the aches and pains were setting in for everyone, and the Gummy Bears were in high demand. But the trail started heading downhill, and the dreams of bratwurst and beer kept our feet moving. 1SG said that he was focused on the marathon prize, which included a certificate and a patch. We all found our own motivations, and rolled back into the start hall at a time of eight hours flat. Not too fast, perhaps, but all fourteen people finished; and along the way, we shared stories, made friends, and wondered what life would be like without another marathon to look forward to. And yes, the beer at the start hall was worth every step.

Congratulations on #100, 1SG, and good luck after retirement!

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