By Lynne Bermel
For the past 23 years, the Army Ten-Miler has brought thousands of runners to Washington, making it the largest 10-miler in the U.S. and second largest in the world.
For many, the Army Ten-Miler is a tradition. Part of the appeal lies in the course, which winds its way from the Pentagon across the Potomac River, passing several national monuments before the finish line back at the Pentagon.
It’s also the rigorous organization, the crowd support and the distinct military flavour – from the U.S. and Canadian Army skydiving teams who “jump start” the race to the carnival-like atmosphere at the finish line with the 50 tents, bands, food and prizes in the “HOOAH” zone - which causes the race to sell out within days of opening.
“The Army Ten-Miler is a unique experience,” said LCol Doug Martin, a Canadian officer serving with Canada’s embassy in Washington. “It’s the whole Army spirit and chance to run with the soldiers that sets it apart.”
Despite this year’s unseasonably warm temperatures, the race was one for the record books. It was the closest finish in the event’s history, with Private Jose Ferreira of the Brazilian army out-sprinting teammate Reginaldo Campos Jr. in the final 50 m to win by one second in 49 minutes and 21 second. Brazil claimed the top four places to take top individual and military team honours.
Firaya Zhdanova, 46, a former Russian soldier who runs for Atlanta-based Foot Solutions team, took the lead from six miles and never looked back, cruising to a cushy 40 second victory over Susannah Kvasnicka of Washington. Zhadnova’s time of 58:31 broke Alisa Harvey’s master’s record of 59:00 set last year.
Behind them were 17,600 finishers, half military and half civilian, including deployed US and allied forces racing in 10 mile “shadow version” runs in camps in Iraq.
They not only had the heat to contend with, but the ever-present possibility of mortar attacks.
Lieutenant Ivan Castro, a survivor of a mortar attack in Baghdad a year ago, was the top finisher among the record number of military amputees racing this year on the “Missing Parts in Action” team. Castro, who lost his right eye and was blinded in his left eye during the attack, ran tethered to his training partner to finish in one hour 25 minutes. He also ran with a wrist band bearing the name Sgt Ralph Poras, one of his soldiers killed during the mortar attack. “I carried him with me today and I crossed the finish line for all those other guys who didn’t make it.”
Major David Rozelle, who lost his right foot to an anti-tank mine in Iraq in June 2003, said that the Army Ten-Miler gave amputees recovering in the Walter Reed Army Medical Centre and other centres in the U.S. something to look forward to during their months of rehabilitation. “We’re running to show America that we aren’t beaten. We’re very proud of our robotic parts and shiny metal attachments and we don’t try to hide them.”
Record field starts 2007 Army Ten-Miler
Brazil leads the way in the men’s race
Russian Firaya Zhdanova cruises to victory
Record number of military amputees in this year’s race