The Army Marathon – Afghanistan “Race” Report
Last year when I registered to run #TAM-III (The day after TAM-II) I knew that I would not be running it. Like last year’s marathon I was expecting to volunteer again this year. Even going in with the expectation of volunteering for the event, I still registered to show my support for the event, the community, and the Race Director. I would simply go out after the fact and “earn my bib” like I did last year. During the summer of 2014 those plans changed and I would not be volunteering OR running…I was going to be in Afghanistan. My arrival in Afghanistan was planned for only a week before the actual Army Marathon was to take place so there wasn’t even a way for me to coordinate a shadow run in theater. Even though I was deploying I still volunteered to support this years Army Marathon and do everything I could to help the RD put on a successful event!
I had talked with the RD prior to my deployment and we decided that I would simply run my marathon in Afghanistan. I am honored that Ed Bandas, the Army Marathon Race Director, supported me on my shadow run and was back in Texas cheering me on. I would have not done this without his support and am extremely grateful!
My wife picked up my race packet for me and secured my marathon bib and “Veteran” bib and sent it to me. The plan was as soon as it arrived I would plan my race the following Monday (It is an odd day but with scheduling… Monday just works better).
Running a marathon in Afghanistan is not difficult; what is difficult, at least for me, is coordinating that run around an already busy schedule that has me working 14 hours a day, 7 days a week.
On March 12th I received my bibs in the mail which means my marathon would take place the following Monday on March 16th. Leading up to my marathon I wasn’t really training for anything, I was just looking to maintain my base. I was still getting at least one 15-18mi run per week and running 7-days per week to maintain the streak. The week before the marathon I actually had an 18mi run so I knew my body was ready.
Prior to receiving my bib I had also registered for a St Patrick’s Day 5k which took place on 14 March. Every part of my was planning on going easy on this run since I had the marathon shortly there-after… Needless to say when they said go my mind had something else planned. Ended up getting 3 PRs on the 5k! (1k, 1mi, 2mi) Since the course was not “exactly” 5k I missed the 5k PR though!
On March 15th I began getting everything ready that I would need. Luckily I am at Bagram Airfield so I have a fairly large loop to do my run on. I know some people that have done 100k and 100mi runs out here on a 1mi track. I was EXTREMELY thankful for my big loop! I plotted out my course through Suunot’s Movescount in advance so I knew when/where I would need to refuel on my Tailwind. Based on the course I was planning 2 locations that I could refill bottles as needed. One was my office and the other was my barracks. My course would have me stopping at both of these locations at least twice. This will have proved to work PERFECTLY!
Fuel on my run was the same as always; I would be running with Tailwind. I prepared my Tailwind bottles conservatively and actually prepared enough bottles/baggies to drink one bottle every 5mi. While I was closer to 7-8mi I would rather have the bottles ready and not need them. Since the temps were going to be in the 60s (first “warm” day this season) I wanted to be ready.
There were a few things I was looking for out of this run, which are probably nothing what most people would be planning (go figure). Since arriving I haven’t taken the GoPro out on any of my runs. It is the Army Marathon… What better time to take pictures!
Since I work nights in Afghanistan that meant that I would have to adjust schedules slightly so I would be able to run the marathon during the day and still make it into work by 2000 (8pm) that night AND have enough energy in the tank to still work a 12-14hr shift. The morning of Mar 16th I left the office around 5am (EARLY) with the hopes of getting at least 7 hours of sleep before the run. Being that I average about 5-6 hours of sleep a night, this would be a gift! Once I arrived in the barracks I looked over “Flat John”, verified that I had everything ready to go and hit the sack…
3hours later I found myself still looking at the springs of the bunk bed above me. My 7 hours of sleep was now down to 4 hours. Around 9am I finally drifted off to sleep and my alarm was set for 1:30. That worked great until my eyes opened at 12:45 PM. 45 min before my alarm went off and my body decided it was time to wake up. Who’s to argue!
I got up… Drank 1/2 a bottle of Tailwind while I got dressed, and headed to the office to begin The Army Marathon! The reason I started at the office was to give me an opportunity to take pictures and then drop my GoPro back off at the room (6.5mi into my run from the office).
At 2PM I said my goodbyes to everyone in the office and started running down Disney.
My plan was to treat this as an “easy intensity” run. I still have work in 6 hours and need to be able to make it all night! I spent the first couple miles taking random pictures. There wasn’t anything special I was looking for. I just wanted to take some random pictures so people could see where I was running. Of course I did make sure that I stopped and took some pictures of the SKORA Tempos and my bib! Now since I had arrived at Bagram, one of the things that I really wanted to do was get a photo of the F16th taking off. My first few deployments out here, taking pictures of F16s would have been EASY. They were always taking off for missions. This time you were lucky if you heard them taking off every other day. Today was my lucky day. Just as I rounded the end of the runway the 1st of 2 F16s came screaming down the runway and took off across the perimeter road. I was THRILLED to say the least. I knew at that point that no matter what happened on the rest of my run…I had pictures of the F16s! To bad I couldn’t figure out a way to get the SKORA Tempo in the shot! Now that would have been AWESOME!
I finished the first 6.5mi, dropped the GoPro off in the room, swapped Tailwind bottles, and set back out again. The rest of the run was really relaxed and laid back. I fell into a real easy 10:30 – 11:00 min pace and just enjoyed the run. I stopped and talked to some people along the way and just enjoyed my time running. As I circled around past the office at the 1/2 waypoint I skipped my planned fuel stop. I was carrying a baggie of Tailwind with me so I wasn’t overly worried. I felt good and really didn’t need anything so I kept pushing and did another full lap around the airfield. I finally came back the office around the 20mi point to swap out bottles and use the “facilities”. I probably wasted too much time here (walking with my coworkers to the office) and just BSing, but it was ok. There was no goal time here… 🙂
By this point the sun was starting to go down and a storm front was moving in. I took back off onto Disney Dr to complete the last 6 miles. The original course had me doing a 3mi out and back at this point but decided that I was going to change it up. I set out running and headed for the barracks. While there was nothing there that I “needed” there was something there that I wanted. Since dropping my GoPro off, all I could think about was whether or not the pictures of the F16s came out! The only downside to this strategy is that with the front coming in I had a headwind for the last 6mi of the run. Along the way back I made a few stops to visit two boxes (what I call porta-potties) and finally ended up back at the barracks. Even with my slow easy pace and the lengthy break at the office and room I still managed to finish right at 5hrs. I ran into my room, grabbed the GoPro, and headed back to the office on the bus… My Army Marathon was complete!
This turned out to just be a great run. Had no body issues at all. The legs, feet, back…everything felt great! I think the best part about the run was walking around the office afterwards having everyone say, “Are you feeling ok”, “Your legs don’t hurt?” etc. I couldn’t have felt better! The next challenge was going to be making it all night long with only 3 hours of sleep and a 5hour run! There was actually a lot going on that night so I had things to keep me entertained.
The following morning I had a massage scheduled at 8:30 and that would bring a close to my Army Marathon Marathon!
All of my gear was spot on for the run. While I had over 200mi on the new SKORA Tempo, this was the longest road run. These shoes have far exceeded all of my expectations. Whether it is on the road, trail, mud, sand, or rock. They have been PERFECT! I can’t wait for the official release of the shoes (coming soon)!
As far as my fueling goes, Tailwind Nutrition provided me exactly what I needed to get me through this run. I ended up going through approx. 250 calories per hour and felt great the entire time. Since I prepped a few extra bottles for the run I had an additional 250 cal bottle that I drank post run throughout the night. Not only was it a perfect endurance fuel DURING my run, but it was also an even better recovery drink after! I can’t imagine a run without it!
Just wait until next year’s Army Marathon! The details are already coming together and we are going to be “celebrating” something even bigger at next year’s marathon! Stay tuned 😉
Until next time…