Get set, GO!
Army Sgt. Ricardo Ortiz Espada, a member of the Puerto Rico National Guard Headquarters and Headquarters Company with Joint Task Force Guantanamo, has been an avid runner since he was eight-years-old. Espada's running ability allows him to encourage service members who struggle with running. (JTF Guantanamo photo by Army Staff Sgt. Emily Russell)

GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba (July 15, 2009) - Running is a requirement for everyone in the military service. However, running as a favorite pastime for 40 years - to include several marathons - is something out of the ordinary.

Puerto Rico Army National Guard Sgt. Ricardo Ortiz Espada, a transportation non-commissioned officer with Headquarters and Headquarters Company Joint Task Force Guantanamo, sees running as a benefit to everyone able to participate.

Espada began running at the early age of eight, and at 14, he participated in the 1982 Central America and the Caribbean Summer Games - held in Havana, Cuba.

Espada runs just because he enjoys it.

"I came in 3rd place winning the Bronze Medal," Espada said.

After the success at the Caribbean Summer Games, Espada continued with his passion of running by competing in track and field events in the 100-and-400 meter races. By the time Espada joined the military, he was such an accomplished, disciplined runner that in basic training he ran the two-mile course in nine minutes, five seconds. Because of his ability, he was invited by the Puerto Rico National Guard to run in a 10K where he finished first place with a time of 30 minutes, 17 seconds.

Espada joined the PRARNG marathon team and dedicated himself to staying in the best physical shape and achieving the highest scores on the Army Physical Fitness Test. Espada continued his excellence by running a 42K marathon in Nebraska where he finished in seventh place with a time of two hours, 42 minutes.

Currently serving with JTF Guantanamo, Espada assists HHC with their physical fitness program.

"He always helps Soldiers who are struggling with physical training by running alongside them and being an encouragement," said Army Spc. Damaris Quintana.

Espada runs four to five miles every day, except Sundays. Even on rainy days you will find him in the gym on a treadmill. He encourages everyone to run for the benefit of their health and says it is so easy these days because of technological advances with machines and gyms.

Due to the high temperatures and humidity in Cuba, Espada runs early in the morning or late in the evening, just as he does back home in Puerto Rico.

Espada has used his time in the service to improve life skills such as running, his use of the English language and learning about computers.

When asked about how to avoid leg and foot injuries, Espada explained the importance of changing running shoes often and insoles even more often.

Espada's advice to anyone who wants to improve their running performance, or become an avid runner, is to use your time wisely, run often and be disciplined about it.

Page last updated Thu August 6th, 2009 at 12:25