The 26th Annual Army Ten Miler kicked off this past Sunday in Washington, DC. Almost 22,000 runners showed up to test their speed and endurance on a course that starts at the Pentagon. Army Chief of Staff General George Casey Jr. announced the start of the race with a group of Wounded Warriors leading the way.
The Army Ten Miler (ATM) is the third largest road race and the biggest running event for the Army. Both military and civilian runners were authorized to run with representation from every U.S. state and the District of Columbia. Participants also came from Brazil, Canada, Germany, Switzerland, Denmark and the United Kingdom.
The race starts near the Pentagon 9/11 Memorial and runs a course through our nation’s capitol, past the steps of the Smithsonian and across the Potomac River. This year’s race boasted beautiful sunny skies and cool temperatures. Spectators lined the streets yelling encouraging words, blasting motivational music and even served a few beers near the finish line. Every athlete that crosses the finish line receives a finisher’s coin and walks away with the satisfaction of completing the race.
In addition to the race in Washington DC, Soldiers serving in remote locations in support of the war on terrorism participated in Shadow Runs. The Army Ten Miler supported races at Bagram Airfield, Joint Base Balad, Camp Phoenix and FOB Union III. Over 4,000 runners registered at 10 different locations. This gave family members and friends stateside a chance to bond with their loved ones serving overseas. One Army wife I spoke with wore a shirt that read “Running together 7,000 miles apart.”
This was my first year running the ATM and it didn’t take long to realize this was more of an event to build camaraderie and boost morale than winning a trophy. Of course there were teams battling for the coveted Commander’s Cup but the majority of runners were just out there to have a good time. One guy ran the entire race dressed like Uncle Sam while others carried US flags. But for me, the most inspiring moment was seeing an amputee wheel up the hills and do it with a smile on his face. He not only motivated me but made me realize that despite all the negativity surrounding the war, the Army Ten Miler is a chance for Soldiers and civilians to live in the moment and forget about what’s going on in the world. For these 10 miles, optimism rules the road and encouragement waits at every turn.