Editor's note: Sgt. Calvin Gatch III, Platteville, has arrived in Afghanistan, where he is expected to serve for seven months. He submitted the following account of a recent marathon he participated in.
When I first got here to Camp Leatherneck, I asked to be considered as a participant in the Marine Corps Marathon here. I did not realize that the marathon was celebrated here at the base in Afghanistan and since I had run this marathon in 1993 and 1995 I definitely wanted to participate. The field had been capped at 380 runners and was full, but they did allow me to run. I also ran the Boston Marathon in 1994.
It has been 16 years since I have ran a marathon, but the honor of running here in Afghanistan could not have been more inspiring. I was also honored to run the race with my commanding officer, Marine Corps Capt. Robert Moore. He is a former Army Ranger and Iraq war veteran who decided that the challenge of the Army was not enough and that he wanted to be a Marine. He fought successfully to make the switch to the Marine Corps and is an amazing commanding officer. He is also a powerful distance runner and this was his 17th marathon.
I crossed the finish line at 3:48:40, which put me in 29th place out of 323 finishers. My C.O. finished 25th with a time of 3:45, but I know that he would have been in the top finishers if he had not held back most of the race to run with me. Before the race I had my doubts about my ability to finish at all because I have not been able to train with our mission schedule. If I did finish I was expecting to be in the mid to high four hour range.
The Marine Corps Marathon in Washington D.C. has become the most popular marathon in the country to run, attracting 30,000 runners this past Sunday (Oct. 30). This was the 36th running of the race. It has become known as the race to honor the service and sacrifice of our servicemen and women defending freedom around the world. It attracts many celebrities and has been nicknamed "The People's Race."
Since 2006, the Marine Corps Marathon "Forward" has allowed runners in Iraq and Afghanistan to participate in the race and for their finish times to be included in the official Marine Corps Marathon "Forward" results. This year it was held in Afghanistan at Marine Corps Base Camp Leatherneck, Helmand Province and for the first time this year in Kabul, Afghanistan at the headquarters of the ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) with 20 participants. Also this year for the first time, the race was held 6,000 miles away from Washington D.C. on the USS George Washington aircraft carrier.