Running down a dream: Top female runner in Baghdad logs 950 miles during deployment
December 10, 2009
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Olga Elliott has logged over 950 miles since touching down at Camp Victory, Baghdad, in March - the equivalent of running from Seattle to Los Angeles - and she has no plans to stop.
Elliott, a human resources technician with Multi-National Corps-Iraq's secretary of the combined joint staff, recently competed in the Seattle Marathon Shadow Run Nov. 29.
"I completed my first marathon in 3 hours, 20 minutes. For the shadow run I wanted to set that bar higher," she said. "So, I set my goal for 3 hours, 15 minutes."
The day of the race she surpassed her goal, coming across the finish line at 3:12:40. Averaging about 7 and one-half minutes per mile, Elliott was able to clutch top honors for female runners and place third overall in the race that more than 200 people participated in.
"I did a lot better than I expected," she said of the race. "I went into the race with a group of people, so it helped to have that support. Not thinking about anything helped, too. I was always focused on my goal."
In addition to running throughout the week, Elliott uses VBC's weekly 5 kilometer races to train. She explained that preparing for major races typically starts about two to three weeks prior to the event. Training involves strict dieting, running and getting an adequate amount of sleep.
"It's been a lot easier to train here versus back at home because there are fewer distractions. At home, it was easy to run in to get a coffee or to pick up something to go but here I don't have that. Granted, I do love to eat ice cream and I can get that here, but I am definitely a lot more disciplined," she said.
Although successful in steering clear of double mocha frappuccinos and burgers, Elliott wasn't prepared for one hurdle she encountered in October - influenza.
The flu left her quarantined for 10 days while her body fought the virus. For the first five days Elliott said she was weak and unable to eat. Once she regained strength, she feared being ill would pose a major setback to her training.
"I had four weeks left before the Seattle marathon when I was quarantined. People would tell me with good training and a good diet I would be OK but I didn't believe them," she said. "After the doctors cleared me, I went running the next morning. I still felt weak, but I kept running. It took about two or three days, but I bounced back."
Even though she has competed in 28 races on Victory Base Complex, Elliott said the Seattle Marathon Shadow Run is the one she is most proud of. Elliott has been the top female racer in 27 of the 28 events she has raced in.
Elliott said she took it easy during the 5K Turkey Trot on Nov. 26, because she had another race two days later.
"I wanted to save myself for the Seattle marathon because I knew it was going to take a lot out of me," Elliott said.
She had always maintained a running regimen as a way to stay in shape, but she wanted more from it. In 1994, as a private at Fort Bragg, N.C., Elliott said she had dreamed of being on the Army 10-Miler team.
In June 2006, she was determined to make her dream come true. Elliott arrived in Korea and quickly realized that it was her chance to try out for the team.
"The seed was planted at Fort Bragg, but I never did anything about it until Korea. It was a 12-year aspiration," she said.
To prepare for tryouts, Elliott ran 10 miles to make sure she was capable of completing the distance. She continued running between four and seven miles about two or three times a week. Once she secured a spot on the team, Elliott ramped up her training schedule with the help of her "coach and running icon," now retired Command Sgt. Maj. Patrick Noble. They ran between five and seven miles each morning, logged another 18 to 20 miles each Saturday and would race once a month.
She has progressed very much in her running, he said. "She is one strong lady," he added.
Elliott competed with the team for two years, and raced twice at the Army 10-Miler in Washington, D.C. Elliott was a team point scorer, Noble said, and contributed to the team's 2006 third place finish and a first place finish in 2007.
Upon her return to the United States, she relocated to Fort Lewis, Wash., and joined Fort Lewis' 10-Miler team. In 2008, Elliott returned to Washington, D.C., with the Fort Lewis team and played an integral part in their second place finish.
"The most rewarding part about running is the people you meet. We all come from different backgrounds and are different ranks but we come together for one common goal - to finish. None of the other stuff matters, just whether or not you can keep up," Elliott said.
The trophies and medals that line her desk are evidence that she is certainly able to keep up. With three months left in her deployment, Elliott continues to run daily. With only 112 miles to go, Elliott will log enough miles to make it from Seattle to her hometown of San Diego before the end of her tour.