Nebraska National Guard marathon team deonstrates 'Fit to Fight' mentality during annual marathon

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Mary Thach
  • 155th Air Refueling Wing
LINCOLN, Neb. - Overcast skies and a chilly breeze greeted nearly 10,000 runners ready to tear up the pavement at the 36th Annual Lincoln National Guard Marathon, held May 5, in Lincoln, Neb.

   More than 200 Guard runners representing 44 states and two territories joined the thousands of other runners while hundreds more Nebraska Guardsmen helped provide additional security and aid to runners.

   Of those Guard runners, eight Soldiers and Airmen from the Nebraska Army and Air National Guard combined to form the 2013 Nebraska National Guard Marathon team. The top three Nebraska runners finished with an average time of 3 hours, 10 minutes and 21 seconds, good enough for 12th place. Of the eight team members, two men and one woman earned slots on the All Guard Marathon team with one more male named an alternate.

   Nebraska's National Guard marathon team coordinator, Army Sgt. 1st Class Bill Norris, said there was plenty of friendly competition between the different states during the marathon, but everyone showed good sportsmanship.
   "It's a cool event to have all these teams come in here and they all wear their state's jerseys. There is a lot of pride going on," said Norris. "We are lucky to have this program."
Norris said he's run numerous half-marathons, but the 2013 Lincoln Marathon was only his second full marathon. He said he decided to run the full marathon since he is the program coordinator and the Nebraska National Guard team captain.

   Norris said he was impressed with the Nebraska National Guard team's performance.
"I am proud of them," said Norris. "It's not easy doing this. Only one percent of the population runs marathons. I know their times have improved and I appreciate them being on the team."

   Despite the chilly conditions for spectators, Norris said the weather was perfect for running and he felt the support of the fans and Guard personnel lining the race route.

   Nebraska Army Sgt. 1st Class Tarissa Batenhorst, a personnel noncommissioned officer from the Kearney-based 734th Transportation Battalion, was the only Nebraska Guard female to qualify for the All Guard team this year with a time of 3:41:33. She said what inspired her to push forward during the race was her goal to make the team.

   "It means a lot, I have been wanting this," said Batenhorst. "That was what I was thinking about to keep me going: 'I really want to make this team. You want to make this team. You're going to make this team. Come on, you can do it.'"

   "You have worked so hard for it and when you make it, then it just keeps pushing you to still be competitive," she added.

   Batenhorst made the All Guard team twice before in 2006 and 2007. She said she is proud to be a part of the team again.

   "It's more than just about running, it's about representing the importance of why people stay fit to be in the military," said Batenhorst. "We are the small percentage that say 'I will, I do,' that join the Guard. We've got to be above, we've got to represent the rest of the world in every category that we can and this is just one aspect - fitness."

   Air Force Maj. Karl Duerk, a chief pilot from the Nebraska Air National Guard's Offutt-based 238th Combat Training Squadron, said he is a fairly new marathon runner, having only run in two other marathons. Duerk began training for the Lincoln Marathon in January by simply running the pace he planned to run during the race. His time of 3:05:14 qualified him for a place on the All Guard team.

   "The second half of the race, seeing the National Guard presence from all the guys - from all of the different states competing to make the National Guard team - really pulled me along and that's really motivating," said Duerk. "It was a really good feeling coming in to the Memorial Stadium knowing that I had a pretty good shot."

   Duerk said it was difficult to adjust to a slower pace at the beginning of the race because his body wanted to go faster. However, he was able to push through the second half of the marathon, thanks to the friendly competition from his fellow Guard members.

   "I was really excited just to wear the Nebraska state team shirt out there in the race on the course," said Duerk. "To hear all the people out there saying 'Go Guard' and seeing all the Guardsmen out there representing something bigger than yourself, it was really cool to represent good people you are proud of and proud to wear that shirt. It was a really cool day just to represent the Nebraska Guard."

   Army Capt. Robb Campbell, the Lincoln-based Detachment 2, Company A, 35th Infantry Division assistant operations officer, was the other male from the Nebraska Guard to earn a spot on the All Guard team finishing in 3:03:11. Campbell has run in the Lincoln Marathon for 10 years and bested his personal record set 13 years ago by five minutes.

   "It's quite an honor. I am really beside myself," said Campbell. "I can't describe how awesome it is to make the All Guard team and set a personal best by almost five minutes. I was on cloud nine, especially after crossing that finish line."

   "I was so overjoyed, I just could not believe that I ran that well that day," Campbell said. "It was almost like a dream come true. It was one of the best experiences I have ever had." 

   The Nebraska National Guard Marathon team had both experienced marathon runners and a few members who were fairly new to competitive running. But, the three who qualified for the All Guard team shared the same mentality.

   "You have to make the decision for yourself," said Batenhorst. "Do you want to do this or not? You can do it if you put your mind to it. "