By Chris Cantrell (aka Vinton Storm)
About six weeks ago, an acquaintance of mine introduced me to a relatively new Facebook running group: MURCA: Marine UltraRunners Club of America. This seemed harmless enough and even enjoyable. Marines sharing a passion for running farther than many want to drive. I’m broken in the same way as these guys and gals. I’d been through the meat grinder and earned the title as one of Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children, a leatherneck, a jarhead…you choose the title. I consider each of them a term of endearment. I had also completed a few ultramarathons.
This new online social circle was comfortable. These were my people, jaded and sarcastic. The wit was fast and sharp. I expected that. It was reassuring. However, there was a dark side. A consequence I did not foresee. It wasn’t a result of the group itself. It was the collective mindset of the individuals therein. It took me a while to recognize what was happening.
You see I’m just a knuckle dragging infantry Marine with a high school education. Additionally, I was preparing to run as many miles as possible on a treadmill in 48 hours to raise money to benefit medical research funded by the Alzheimer’s Association. These factors combined to obscure my vision of what was actually flowing beneath the surface of MURCA.
As I prepared for my challenge, I learned of Frank Bozanich as runner in his 70s who had won races at every distance he tackled in his younger years and was on track to run 4,400 miles for 2017. He had conquered the roads, the track, and the trails, and then went on to brave Alaska as a law enforcement officer after leaving the Marine Corps. Yet, I still didn’t see it.
After, I completed my challenge. There was a certain sense of accomplishment and relief. It was time to rest. I had run 118.55 miles in 48 hours on a treadmill, and raised money for a good cause. I had reached a new milestone in my, as of yet, brief ultramarathon career. Not a bad day’s work for a guy who had never been an elite athlete.
As I spent days in a recliner recovering, I began to learn more of the MURCA members. There is Butch Britton. By his own account, he’s no spring chicken. We chatted one night about that fact we had participated in the 2017 C&O Canal 100 mile race. Butch runs races with the photo of a deceased service member on his back. After completing each race, he sends the finisher’s award and a letter to the family of the deceased service member to let them know that their sacrifice is not forgotten.
Then it really ramped up: Darryl Peterson, 4th in the Triple Crown of 200s. Jeff Rock, Tuscobia and Arrowhead 135 finisher. Jimmie Barnes, 13th best 48 hour finish in the United States for 2017. And if all that wasn’t enough, I don’t even have to leave my easy chair to get “chicked.” Maggie Seymour ran across the entire continental United States last year. And then it hit me.
How did I not see this coming? Nope, not a game of one upsmanship. It is deeper than that. It is at the core of every Marine. It is more than just the sense of adventure. It is more than clearing one’s head in the middle of nowhere on a trail most won’t take. It is a drive to be the best. The best each of us can be. I had come home to an environment I left more nearly 24 years ago. One where the man next to you will berate you for fumbling a simple phrase, but pull you up by the boot straps two seconds later.
These hardnosed, uber driven members of our smallest armed force were no friends at all. They in fact were enemies: enemies of my contentment, enemies of settling for less than what is possible, and enemies of the ordinary.
I ran 48 hours on a treadmill. La dee freakin’ dah. That’s not all I’m capable of. It didn’t kill me. With each photo and post of an epic training run or race finish, I hear things in the back of my mind. Things like “Well, Nancy what are you waiting for? You haven’t run all the miles yet!”
I appreciate these new broken, intelligent, driven frenemies. Who knows what their example, encouragement, and accountability will inspire me to accomplish.
Run Far Be Safe-