The first Army Ten Miler (ATM) began in October of 1985 with only 1,379 registrants in Washington DC. The ATM is the second largest 10 miler race after the Broad Street Run in Philadelphia. Throughout the past 31 years, the run has grown exponentially and maintains a registration of 35,000 runners from across the nation. The Army Ten Miler’s mission is to promote the Army, build esprit de corps, support Army fitness goals, and to enhance community relations.
For the past few years, Fort Gordon’s DFMWR has had the honor of sending a team of elite athletes to represent the installation. The selection process utilizes MWR’s Fort Gordon Run Series Army Ten Miler Pre-Qualifier in order to select the most qualified. Once completed, the top 10-15 fastest runners are guaranteed a spot on the Fort Gordon ATM team. Curtis Dorsey, MWR Sports Specialist, stated “The qualifier gives everyone on the installation the chance to prove themselves by qualifying. Even with this being an ego booster, it’s an honor to make the team! Rank is not a factor here.”
After the 2016 team was selected and the participants were notified, training began under the supervision of Coach Ralph Gaines immediately. The rigorous training consisted of multiple ten (plus) mile runs which lead right up to the final day of the ATM.
As the editor of the FYI Magazine, I had the pleasure of joining the Fort Gordon team at the ATM. The trip was a whirl wind three days – approximately 18 hours in a vehicle, minimal sleep and all the excitement of 35,000 runners and thousands of spectators filling the streets of DC. Our schedule was hectic but thoroughly enjoyed by all.
Day 1 – October 7th: At 6am, the 12 man team showed up anxiously at Fort Gordon. We were Washington, DC bound! After loading the two 12 passenger vans, the team’s aspiration to conquer all they had trained for was evident. They talked of strategy, asked questions and joked with one another. It was obvious they all built friendships during training. For many, this was their first experience at the ATM. One had completed 15 ATMs, while another was competing in their 18th, and final, ATM. Upon arrival to DC, packets were picked up and the atmosphere was invigorating. The DC Armory floor was filled with vendors, demonstrations and even special appearances in the ATM Expo. After the excitement of packet pick-up/Expo, the team checked into their rooms and went to dinner.
Day 2 – October 8th: With an early morning wakeup, the team stretched and warmed up by jogging, sprinting and loosening up their muscles. Every step of the way Coach Gaines was with them, coaching, mentoring and capturing memorable moments. The runners were given the rest of the day to relax per Coach Gaines. “No matter how much I tell them to relax, there will always be those that feel as if they have to push a little harder, but we are ready. This team has come very far”, Gaines stated. While some visited the many sites of our nation’s capitol, others relaxed in their room or had visits from nearby family. During registration, everyone is given the opportunity to sign up for the ATM Pasta Dinner which is traditionally attended by the Sergeant Major of the Army, Sergeants Major of the Reserve and Guard, Wounded Warriors, and over 900 runners from around the world.
Day 3 – October 9th: The day the runners had trained for! Meeting time was at 5:45am in the hotel lobby. It was amazing to see the large crowd of people forming with team uniforms, unique outfits and even a few costumes. As the team made their way to the site, you could see groups of people forming in the “Hooah Tent” area; an area setup to motivate, inspire and promote teams and their brand. In addition, there was a youth area with special events to entertain the younger crowd. At approximately 8:00am, the Army 10 miler began. Each runner, divided into different waves, lined up at the starting line with intensity on their face while the crowd roared. By the time each runner approached the finish line, you could see a look of relief and pride.
The Fort Gordon team took 10th in the Men’s Overall Category out of 29 teams. The men’s combined run time consisted of 3 hours 57 minutes and 31 seconds. The women placed 8th in the Women’s Overall Category out of 13 teams. They came in with an overall run time of 4 hours 50 minutes and 59 seconds.
Those who decide to run/walk the Army Ten Miler do so for different reasons. This experience with the 2016 Fort Gordon team has definitely encouraged me to try the ATM as an individual. I would encourage everyone to get out and participate in the pre-qualifier if interested. Coach Gaines has high hopes for the Fort Gordon team to continue to improve and place higher next year. He’s very excited for 2017 and, frankly, so am I.
For more information on how to qualify, visit www.fortgordon.com/run-series
Photos Courtesy of Ralph Gaines & Crystal Tyson