Brandon York and his running team, Redstone Arsenal, hopped in a rental van Friday for the trip the group has been making annually for 34 years — a drive from Huntsville, Ala., to Fort Belvoir in Fairfax County to take part in Sunday morning’s Army Ten-Miler.
Despite being cramped in the van with 15 teammates for nearly 14 hours, York surpassed his goal of finishing among the top 10 men by placing fourth in 51 minutes 26 seconds.
“There were three guys ahead of me from three miles onward, and I just held that gap the whole way to the finish,” said York, 33, who was running the race for the sixth time. “I guess I was doing pretty good, based on where they were. I thought at one point I could actually catch up to one of them. They were just too strong in the last couple miles.”
The Army Ten-Miler, conducted by the U.S. Army Military District of Washington, is a 10-mile race that starts and finishes near the Pentagon and takes runners through the streets of Washington. More than 35,000, from all 50 states and 19 countries, registered for Sunday’s event, making it the third-largest 10-mile road race in the world, according to organizers.
The three runners ahead of York were Spec. Frankline Tonui, Sgt. Evans Kirwa and Spec. Girma Mecheso, members of the World Class Athlete Program. Tonui edged Kirwa by inches as they crossed the finish line in 50:23.
“I was just trying to challenge Frank,” Kirwa said. “He has beaten me in a race before, and I thought something good might happen today. But I did everything I could, so he won it square.”
The World Class Athlete Program dominated the women’s race as well. Spec. Susan Tanui crossed the finish line first, smiling widely and arms raised high. She finished in 56:33, shaving 17 seconds off her winning time from last year.
“It was a relief,” said Tanui, 31. “You know you’ve done it. It’s an accomplishment — something that you’ve been counting days and you’re not in it and you’re seeing the finish line.”
The humidity slowed many runners, including the top finishers. York said it felt as if he was “breathing through a straw,” but that didn’t stop encouragement from the spectators and runners toward one another. Several ran the course with an American flag or signs and posters to support individual soldiers. During the race, Tanui couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed by the support as she saw fellow soldiers and Wounded Warriors participating.
“I was running along a soldier and just said, ‘Thank you so much for your service’ to him,” she said. “This is the thing that motivates me, especially with the crowd and their support. … I’m so honored to run around the streets in Washington.”
Retired Chief Warrant Officer Richard Williams also felt the love and said that’s one of the reasons he flew in from Coronado, Calif., to run Sunday.
“I love the camaraderie out in the course,” said the 82-year-old, who took part in his 23rd Army Ten-Miler. “A lot of the runners would see my gray hair and give me support. They help give me that boost I need to keep running.”