Marine Marathon

By Tom Bartlett - Originally Published January 1977

Some people run for the physical benefits derived from the exercise. Others run because they must, "in accordance with the instructions..." etc., contained in Marine Corps or local orders and bulletins.

Still others run for the fun of it or a trophy.

And then there is the most dedicated runner of all...the individual who runs for personal satisfaction.

Whatever their reasons, an estimated 1,175 runners were at the starting line recently in Arlington, Va., to compete in "The First. Annual U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Marathon."

Major General Michael P. Ryan, Director of the Marine Corps Reserve, appointed Col James L. Fowler as "ringmaster" of the event, assisted by Capt Dorothy L. Edwards. All three were continually on the move, directing, suggesting and achieving from start to finish of the marathon.

Minor hitches arose as the starting time drew near, but between the general and his assistants, his reservists and the regulars of H&S Company, Headquarters Battalion, Henderson Hall, the wrinkles were quickly ironed out.

The thoroughness of prior planning was obvious on the day before the marathon. Tents were being erected for the press and for the runners to change into their racing togs. Don's Johns were being transported to the grassy areas surrounding the Marine Memorial, where the race would start and end.

The afternoon prior to the grueling 26-mile, 385-yard run, Marines and officials of the Amateur Athletic Union discussed routes, problem areas and double-checked details until they were satisfied that they had done all they could.

GySgt Jerry Calliec was Staff Duty NCO for H&S Co., but as Company Gunnery Sergeant, he was also overseeing the work of his Marines. Calliec and Capt L. D. Kane, the Battalion Executive Officer, were directing trucks and equipment to the properly assigned areas.

WO Bob Neely and GySgt Jerry Scoggins, of the Reserve Public Affairs Section, were checking with SSgt Dave Simon, of the Division of Information, regarding the press releases and marathon print-out sheets.

Dr. George Bogan (Chief Timer), Norman Brand (Athletic Chairman) and Arthur Miles (Chairman, Men's Track and Field), represented the Potomac Valley AAU and would officiate during the marathon.

GySgt Alex Breckenridge, of the Financial Systems Branch at Headquarters Marine Corps, was smiling as he surveyed the mass of marathon movement. He wore an American Olympic blazer that he displayed during the 1960 Olympics when he placed 30th in Rome, Italy. His time? Two hours, 29 minutes.

Breckenridge also represented the Marine Corps and the United States in two CISM Marathons, held in Belgium and the Netherlands.

During the famous Boston Marathon in 1962, Gunny Breckenridge was the first American to cross the finish line. "I wore a Marine Corps jersey, of course," he grinned. Then he frowned. "I'll not run tomorrow. Too old. My mind is willing, but these old muscles and bones will cramp up after about ten miles out. Still, I get a thrill watching the preparations and all. I get the urge to go, but I know better..."

2ndLt David M. Tulla, a student at The Basic School at Quantico, Va., smiled. "I've got the urge, Gunny, and I don't know any better!"

But age was not a factor in the Marine Corps Reserve Marathon, which was divided into a number of categories. By age, 19 and under; 20-29; 30-39; 40-49; 50 and over. Other categories included women, team competitors and an "open" division which accommodated all runners who didn't qualify for the others.

Entrants ranged in ages from 13 to 64, and included participants from Puerto Rico, Mexico and Canada as well as Americans from practically every state.

They would compete for the Middendorf Cup, presented by Secretary of the Navy J. William Middendorf II.

Some of the participants were well known. Kenneth Moore placed fourth in the 1972 Munich (Olympic) Games. George Marienthal is an Assistant Secretary of Defense. Peter Strudwick is a 46-year-old marathoner born without the front portions of his feet.

Strudwick is a junior high school teacher from La Palma, Calif. He has taken part in more than 30 marathons in his specially-made, padded track shoes.

After clocking his first marathon in 5 hours and 45 minutes, Strudwick worked on relaxing his back to relieve the pain caused by a length difference in his legs. He has since chopped an hour off his initial time. (In addition to having no feet, he has no right hand and only two fingers on his left hand.)

As the Marines, from snuffy to general, awaited the coming dawn, nearly all wondered..."What have we forgotten? Where will the problem area lie? Did we botch anything?"

General Ryan had a special interest in the race; a "favorite son" entry. His grandnephew, Kevin Fisher, was a participant.

Kevin, a 17-year-old student at El Segundo High School in California, had competed in three other marathons with a "best time" of 3 hours and 11 minutes. "Not great," he admitted, "but getting better."

Morning came on a soft frost. Coffee urns steamed. Lines formed as late registrants signed up for the run. The expected field of 1,000 runners grew to more than 1,500. (It was estimated that 1,175 actually began the race.)

General Samuel Jaskilka, Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps, and an avid jogger, was asked if he would participate in the run. "Only if I can do it in three-mile increments," he quipped.

It was an ideal day; slightly overcast and not too cold, with temperatures hovering in the mid-40's. Runners shed their sweat gear and began limbering up.

Youngsters (too young for Boy Scouts) and gray-haired or balding males sprinted and massaged leg muscles. Young women (and some admittedly not so young) did jumping jacks or ran in place.

The U.S. Marine Band entertained at the base of the Marine Memorial while Capt Dorothy Edwards held a final meeting with the AAU officials.

Randy Changuris, a local teacher, was looking over a large map of the marathon course while his infant son, Sammy, slept peacefully. Reserve Capt Michael Barnhart was not an entry but he had driven up the night before from Camp Lejeune to cheer on some of his friends. He held "Critter," a pet skunk, in his arms. A fast start was anticipated.

The band played the National Anthem and a hush fell over the Memorial grounds. Then the runners were called to the starting line.

Secretary of the Navy Middendorf signaled the start of the race on a bosun's pipe. AAU officials began the countdown.

A mass of humanity readied themselves, and the gun went off.

At first, in all the enthusiasm, it was difficult separating the spectators from the competitors. One group of runners were wearing shorts, T-shirts and sneakers. Another group wore jackets and carried cameras. Photographers and newspeople tried to stay in front of the massed runners until the joggers swept to a left turn at the Arlington National Cemetery wall.

The runners circled the Pentagon, then headed back and crossed the Memorial Bridge. At this point, Olympic Marathon runner Ken Moore had the lead and was pacing himself easily.

As the joggers passed the Lincoln Memorial, they ran singly or in small groups. A few (obviously Marines) gave an "Arrugh!" as they went past. A high school band from Maryland formed near the Reflecting Pool and played The Marines' Hymn over and over....

The runners circumnavigated the Reflecting Pool (parallel to Constitution Avenue in Washington, D.C.), down Ohio Drive and around the Tidal Basin, then through East Potomac Park (near Hains Point.)

Moore kept the lead.

They then headed past the Waterfowl Sanctuary, the Washington National Airport, and continued down the George Washington Memorial Parkway, into Alexandria, Va. Down Abingdon Road they ran, merging into Lee Street, Oronoco and Union, then up Royal and back to Abingdon, retracing their strides up the George Washington Memorial Parkway.

By this time, some runners had fallen out.

Marine jeeps, Park and State police cruisers and ambulances patrolled the Marathon Route and directed the runners.

Of the more than 400 military entrants (active, reserve and retired) who began the race, 383 finished; 10 were among the top 20 finishers. Of the estimated 1,175 starters, 1,050 (nearly 90 percent) completed the run!

Marine communicators, in contact with others at strategic points along the marathon route, signaled that the first runner was approaching the final half-mile. He had a motorcycle escort.

It was Kenneth Moore, and he crossed the line in 2 hours, 21 minutes, 14.2 seconds. General Jaskilka and Navy Secretary Middendorf extended their hands in congratulations, but Moore didn't stop. He couldn't....

Returning later, Moore explained that he had to keep on running. "I was sweating and I was tense. If I had stopped, even for a few minutes, my leg muscles would have knotted. I had to keep going, winding down gradually," he said.

Cadet Sam Maizel, a West Point cadet, finished second, winning the military competition in 2 hours, 25 minutes, .02 seconds.

Arriving a little more than a minute behind Maizel was Marine Cpl Frederico Builtron of "G"/2/5, Camp Pendleton, Calif. He had been running in marathons for only a year, but he had cut nearly 20 minutes off his best time during the Mission Bay Marathon.

Close behind Builtron were marathon veterans Jack Friel (13th marathon) and Brent Swanick (5th marathon) of the Toronto Track Club of Canada.

Both Friel and Swanick congratulated Builtron for his fine finish. "We ran about 18 miles together," Friel said, "and then Fred took off on his own."

"I enjoyed running with them," Fred explained, "but they began slowing down to do some sightseeing on the way. I figured I'd come back after the race and do my sightseeing," he said.

Other top Marine finishers included Maj Thomas Siggins (10th); Cpl William B. Eiler (12th); Capt Richard P. May (15th); and Capt D.R. Williamson (19th).

In team competition, the Toronto Track Club was first, followed by the Special Services team from Camp Pendleton, Calif., with Builtron, Eiler and Cpl J. B. Benham (who finished 23rd.) The Washington Road Runners finished third as a team.

Peter Strudwick, the runner without feet, finished the race, two hours behind Moore. But the fact remains, he finished...26 miles, 385 yards.

To qualify for the Boston Marathon in 1977, runners must complete a regulation marathon in less than three hours. In all, 155 men and eight women qualified for the Beantown Run as the result of their finish during the First Annual Marine Corps Reserve Marathon.

Other Marines who completed the race were the husband and wife team of Trisha and William Halsey of Camp Pendleton. Trisha finished 376th overall, and fourth in the women's division. William, who wound up in 580th place, was edged at the tape by Gary Solis, also of the First Marine Division.

Representing Quantico (in addition to Capt Richard May, who placed 15th) was LtCol Dave Seiler, 45th overall, and second in his age group.

One woman Marine completed the marathon. Maj Ruth Polaski, of the Public Affairs Office, MCAS, El Toro, crossed the finish line to receive her Marine Reserve Marathon shirt and a Marathon Certificate.

The marathon was a joint project, sponsored by the Marine Corps Reserve, District of Columbia National Parks, Arlington County and the City of Alexandria.

TOP 20

The top 20 finishers in "The First Annual U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Marathon" were as follows:

1. Kenneth C. Moore, Eugene, Ore.

2. Sam Maizel, U.S. Military Academy

3. Frederico P. Builtron, USMC, Camp Pendleton

4. Jack Friel, Toronto, Canada

5. Brent Swanick, Toronto, Canada

6. Max White, Alexandria, Va.

7. Glynn Wood, Washington, D.C.

8. Ron Redfield-Lyon, USAF, Bolling AFB

9. Peter J. Nye, Alexandria, Va.

10. Thomas R. Siggins, USMC, Little Creek, Va.

11. Richard Ivens, E. Lansing, Mich.

12. William B. Eiler, USMC, Camp Pendleton

13. Erik Quackenbush, Toronto, Canada

14. Dominec Machek, Toronto, Canada

15. Richard P. May, USMC, Quantico, Va.

16. James L. Graham, Army Reserve

17. Charles R. Wright, USNA, Annapolis, Md.

18. Gregory A. LeRoy, Pittsburgh, Pa.

19. Derek R. Williamson, USMC, Arlington, Va.

20. James M. Wolfe, U.S. Military Academy