Everyone has a unique story, and part of being in a group like MURCA, is getting to know one another. Each month we put two MURCAns in the spotlight, their stories are compiled here.

  1. Derek Dowell

    • Derek was born and raised in Monroe, LA. Growing up he played nearly every sport including football, basketball, baseball, soccer, and track & field. After HS, he floundered in college for two years spending more hours at the bars than in class. So he enlisted in the Marine Corps in May of 2003 and shipped off to Parris Island, SC to stand on the yellow footprints. He was stationed at MCAS Cherry Point, NC for his first enlistment and then was transferred to independent duty aboard Naval Air Station Belle Chasse, LA. He separated from the Marine Corps in late 2010 to finish his bachelor’s degree and after a semester of college, realized he missed the Corps so he joined a VMR squadron in New Orleans, intending to drill once a month while attending college. After finishing his degree he volunteered for a mobilization to Afghanistan. He has been mobilized and deployed every year for the last six years!Derek started ultrarunning in 2010 and since then has run 65 ultras including Badwater 135, Leadville Trail 100, Bear 100, Vermont 100, Bighorn 100, Cruel Jewel 100, Arkansas Traveller 100, and the Madeira Island Ultra Trail, to name a few. This year he is embarking on the Grand Slam, beginning with Western States next weekend!Derek graduated from Tulane University and is currently finishing his Master’s Degree there. He has also been fortunate to travel all over the world the last few years and recently married his high school sweetheart.Derek has some serious ultrarunning experience under his belt and this group is better with him in it. Lets get behind him as he prepares to head over to Squaw Valley for the WSER!And BTW, we’ll do these MURCAn Spotlights a few times a month, it’s a good way to get to know each other a bit.

      Semper Fidelis!


  2. Mosi Smith

    1. Mosi is the second MURCAn in the spotlight for June. As you will read below in his own words, Mosi has a strong running background and race resume, a 17hr PR in the 100mile is damn impressive. Mosi is a wealth of experience and knowledge in our sport, don’t hesitate to leverage his lessons learned to become a better runner. Enjoy!”I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia the first and last to a strong, single mother. I was never the biggest or the fastest kid on the block. But I knew I found something; from the first moment running a “cross country” race during an elementary school field day to know, I have enjoyed the variable degrees of a life-long relationship with running. I had the fortune of a recommendation from a high school football coach to go out for the track-and-field team. It sucked; I sucked. But I could see a tiny possibility of a “what if”—what if I put more effort in this? What if this could positively impact my life? What if I gave myself a chance to grow into a better runner? It provided an outlet and a measuring stick for personal development and growth. What I was gaining in the ways of discipline, goal-setting, and time management easily overlapped in other life areas. Through the lessons of diligence and work, I was able to earn a spot to the Naval Academy Prep School and eventually the U.S. Naval Academy.
      Forever I will remain appreciative of the individuals I was fortunate to work alongside, the experiences gained across the years, and the growth fostered during that period. From the beginnings as a young, second lieutenant with 1st Marine Division Truck Company to the closing chapter of service as a Company Officer at the Naval Academy, I would not do anything differently. Some of my fondest memories are from times with my Marines during our deployments in support of OIF.
      My running “career” started running back in the 1990s with the Peachtree Junior Road Race and Atlanta Track Club races. The namesake of current club of friends, the Lucas Moreno Running Club, served as an additional point of inspiration. I ran track and cross-country throughout high school. In college, I ran my first marathon in 2002 and qualified for Boston. I would run Boston x6 more times up until 2013. My PR is 2:56, but I have a feeling I can take that down. My favorite distance is the 100-mile. There is something intriguing about the distance that keeps me returning; every outing is different. My PR is 17:04. Some of the more notable runs I have enjoyed along the way: Badwater 135, Western States 100, Marathon des Sables, Conquer the (Great) Wall Marathon, Virginia Triple Anvil (Triple Ironman), Adidas 10k Paris, Grindstone 100, JFK-50, and the Annapolis 10-Miler.3 Rocks:
      1) Enjoy the run and don’t rush the process. One can learn a lot about yourself and the nuances of our sport from every event from the 800-meter to the ultras.
      2) Try everything. Staying open to different venues and disciplines will add to depth of experience. The aid station skills you develop in a fixed-time race (i.e., 24-hour run) could help you shave time off your 50/100-mile and crack that PR if so inclined.
      3) Plan your own adventure each year. What an adventure looks like will vary from person to person. But if it scares you, cool. If it requires a bit of time, plan for it. If it requires resources/teamwork, recruit friends and venture buddies. A new adventure offers a chance to explore novel grounds and ensures I stay in good, not necessarily peak, condition. These adventures keep the love of running alive and well.”Mosi
  3. Sarah Bergstrom

    • The first MURCAn in the spotlight for July is Sarah Bergstrom. Sarah and I attended the Naval Postgraduate School together in Monterey and her athletic prowess was impressive, particularly in the endurance arena. I am proud to share her quick bio with the group.”I grew up in northern GA and have always considered myself a runner, playing in the woods or chasing my siblings and friends around the neighborhood. I didn’t start running competitively until my freshman year of high school. In high school, I ran both cross-country and track. In cross-country, I placed 6th place in state as an individual my freshman year of high school and 2nd place in state as a team my junior year.
      After high school, I was accepted to the US Naval Academy and graduated with a B.S. in Political Science. At the Academy, I was on the Navy Women’s Rugby team and Rugby taught me the versatility of running to have both speed and endurance during an 80 minute game of non-stop physical exertion. This was how I trained for my first marathon in 2007 the Shamrock Marathon in VA beach.
      After the Academy, I was first stationed in Camp Lejeune, NC and graduated from Logistics Officer Course. Here I got a dog, my Golden Retriever named Rocky, and started running the trails on the weekends in the training areas. During my time in Lejeune, I ran my first trail marathon and Ultra 50K. From Lejeune, I was selected for the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA and started getting more serious about cross-training after a running injury. I started CrossFit Endurance (CFE) and since then have primarily used CFE to completely transform my running abilities to be a stronger, faster runner with better endurance. I ran my first JFK50 miler November 2017 using CFE’s training approach. I graduated from NPS in 2016 as a Data Management Officer with a M.S. in Information Science and am currently doing my payback tour at Marine Corps Systems Command at the Global Combat Support System-Marine Corps Program Office.
      As a runner, reading Born to Run gave me confidence in my ability to push the limits in ultra racing; after all, humans were designed to run long distances for survival. I also run purely for the pleasure of running and think this mentality keeps me going on those long trail runs. Lastly, running has been a great social activity and sharing my adventures with others is what makes running a vital part of who I am.”Sarah
  4. Gerry Hollis

    • The second MURCAn in the spotlight for July is Gerry Hollis. I have run with Gerry several times around KC and am always impressed with his charisma and energy. He and his wife have a healthy social following centered around trail running, and I am privileged to have met them. Hope you enjoy getting to know Gerry a bit, his bio follows.“I grew up in western CT, and was involved in sports from a young age eventually lettering in both football and wrestling. The Marine Corps was one of my earliest influences as the son of a Korea era Marine, and nephew to four other Vietnam era Marines. Following high school, I attended Wagner College with a wrestling scholarship and immediately entered the Marine Corps PLC program. I also participated in the football program, obtaining a varsity roster spot as a walk-on, going on to win a national title during my sophomore season.
      After completion of OCS and college graduation, I accepted a commission and attended TBS in summer 1990; becoming an Infantry Officer as Desert Shield and Desert Storm were underway. My Marine Corps service included typical company level billets, training exercises, 22nd MEU deployment, as well as a South-Com Spec Warfare MTT. Humorously, the most interesting characterization of fleet time was ‘almost deployments’. I continued service in the Reserves in MEF operations billets, concluding in 1998.I’ve always generally remained fit and active, even while raising a family and beginning a financial services career but didn’t begin pursuing endurance sports until the age of 39. My first endurance effort was a 24 hour adventure race covering over 100 total miles. Map and compass multi-sport in the woods was a blast. No worries about noise or light discipline, no heavy pack and no bad guys – this was a different way to experience outdoors! This event spurned interest in endurance sports of any kind. I’ve since participated in scores of running, bike, multi-sport events on both road and trail, including midwest favorites like Hawk 50, Free State 100k and Ozark Trail 100. In Sept, I’ll complete my first IM event – Chattanooga, with my wife who’s a pretty serious ultrarunner and endurance athlete.My thoughts and personal philosophy regarding running: Its naturally human, and we should all run. Watch a small child – they run, everywhere. Running trails – differently than roads, is substantially better for mind and body as there’s a different focus of mental and physical effort. Running far – Go do it. You don’t have a limit other than that you’ve imposed artificially. Ultra-Racing – a practice exercise for life. Set a big goal, prepare, adjust, execute in adverse circumstances. Learn lessons, even fail but persevere and you will reach your objective.”


  5. Micha Shines

    • icha was born in Busan S Korea and raised in Philadelphia. She played softball, karate, ballroom dance, tribal bellydance and earned a Psych Degree from University of PA. Micha was painfully shy and didn’t talk to anyone in school until 5th grade. In her own words:

      I took a leave of absence from college without telling my parents. My friend who was in the Reserves told me I should join the Marine Corps. I walked into his recruiter’s office and said I wanted to be a machine gunner and he laughed. I maxed out my flex arm hang and sit-ups on the spot. I took the ASVABs the next day and scored a 98. They tried to get me to go OCS at that point. I declined with my reasoning that I really thought Parris Island was so much more badass and knew I’d have to go back to school so I opted Reserves. My MOS was 6821 (weather observer) and went to Chanute AFB for 4 months. I was stationed at MCAS El Toro 93-94 then NAS Willow Grove for remainder of my reserve duty. ATDs in the summer at some really fabulous bases like Ft Dix, NJ. One year we actually had it at El Toro. Hahaha.

      Running was always my weak link. It was something I had to do to pass my PFT. My first inkling of wanting to run a marathon was hearing Oprah complete the MCM. My first registration was back in 2008 or so when urged by one of my dance students who was into running. I went to the local running store and got a pair of Brooks Glycerine, running tights and a tech tee. I had no idea how to train and after one or two runs, I abandoned the goal and I DNS’d, not that I even knew what a DNS was back then. Fast forward 4 years, post divorce, post closing my business of 10 years. I was overweight, smoking in the closet, and really depressed. I felt beaten down and defeated. I had 4 young children to take care of and after some horrible post divorce dating experiences, i thought I’d give running another go. At this point, I decided that I am my weakest link. And running was a weak link. I had started cleaning up my diet and lost a few pounds and tried running one day. I actually pulled out those old Brooks. I couldn’t even run a mile at that point. Then one day I ran 6 miles on a treadmill and it felt great. Then I decided to do a virtual half marathon to benefit Hurricane Sandy victims. I nearly died. But I was hooked. I did a couple of 5k races and then after running the MCM Historic Half, and a Diva Half Marathon, I signed up for MCM in 2013. Long story short, still had no real idea about training and after a long European cruise a week before race day, my then boyfriend and I both DNSd. I felt so shitty about this one bc I started getting involved w online running groups and I’d had some great running moments. I was determined to show up next time. My first marathon was 2014 MCM. I finished. Afterward, I got it into my head that I could do an ultra. What’s another 6-ish Miles I thought? I plugged the trigger on Jan 1, 2015 to run my first ultra. North Face in DC. Then came Altras, a partial tear in calf muscle, but I showed up and finished.2015. But I didn’t feel like a real ultrarunner until I finished my first 50 Miler. To train for this, I ran a self supported multi day 200k in Korea, the summer of 2015. It took me 5 days of running. Fell a little short of my goal, but still proud of myself. I wanted to do it in 4 days…a 50k every day. But one day was so hot and humid I could only muster a half marathon.

      Jan 2016 I finished Avalon 50 and I finally felt comfortable claiming I was an ultrarunner. April 2016 I returned to North Face for my second 50 Miler. I haven’t done much racing in 2017-2018 due to car accident last year. Got into cycling and triathlon but we won’t talk about that here. 🤣

      It’s been a wonderful journey and partly due to MURCA I’ve come to re-embrace my love for ultrarunning. This year, I’ll run MCM a 4th time if I don’t do Javelina 100k. If I run MCM instead, I’ll do Devil Dog 100k in December. My 2019 “A” race is the Zion 100. Bucket list races: Leadville 100, both mountain bike and foot race.

      Micha’s three nuggets of wisdom:

      1) Be resolved. Ultra happens in the mind first. Then train as consistently as possible. It matters.

      2) Comparison is the thief of joy. Great to be competitive with others and yourself but there does exist a healthy boundary. Don’t take yourself so seriously. Self-shaming is never productive.

      3) Mentor others along the journey. We learn so much by helping others. And enjoy


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