Army chaplain in waiting runs away with Marine Corps Marathon
November 18, 2011
As if a fresh master's in divinity earned him some sort of divine assistance, Army Reserve 1st Lt. Chad Ware ran the fastest Marine Corps Marathon in 14 years on Halloween Eve. He won with a time of 2 hours, 19 minutes and 16 seconds.
Competing for the All-Army Team in the Armed Forces Marathon Championships, Ware had set only one goal for the 26.2-mile run around Washington, D.C. He confessed afterward that winning it had not crossed his mind. He was not overly concerned about running his personal-best time. He did not even feel the need to run the qualifying standard to compete in the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for marathon, which he missed by only 16 seconds
All that mattered, Ware said, was representing the U.S. Army, and being part of something larger than him.
Still feeling strong around the 14-mile mark, the game plan suddenly changed for Ware, who went on to accomplish a feat hundreds of thousands of runners before him could not.
"When I caught up to the leaders around mile 14," he explained, "there were two guys who had surged around mile eight or nine, and I did not go with them at that time because they just went way too fast. They did like a five-minute mile and I ran like 5:09 or 5:10 for that mile, which was still faster than my average pace on the day.
"I thought they were going to be gone and I wouldn't see them again. But just after the halfway point, I realized I was catching back up to them and then caught them at 14. And then at 19, when I didn't hear the last guy's steps behind me, I thought, 'Hey, I might have a good chance at this.'"
Ware still had a long way to go. And he had to go it alone, a distance runner's toughest task.
"Yeah, it was still a long way, but I was feeling really good throughout the whole race," Ware said. "Until the last two miles, that's when I kind of started to feel it and that's when I needed a little extra effort to be able to go under 2:19 to try to hit the Olympic Trials qualifier, and I just didn't have it left in the legs at that point."
Ultra-marathoner Michael Wardian of Arlington, Va., also caught early leaders Emiru Mekonnen and Temesgen Ilanso, both of Ethiopia, and finished second in 2:23:46, four and half minutes behind Ware.
"That's the way marathon sometimes goes," Ware said. "Those guys I was catching up to in the middle of the race, they just had a really, really not so great last half. So they fell off."
Ware, on the other hand, knocked 1:31 off his previous personal best of 2:20:47 at the 2009 Chicago Marathon. Earlier this year, he considered taking a break from the distance.
"I've had some struggles in the last couple of years with the marathon -- just haven't put together a solid marathon," he said. "My training was there. Just on marathon day, things didn't go so well. After I did Grandma's Marathon in June at Duluth, Minn., I was pretty much set on not doing a full marathon."
But after helping the U.S. Army Team win the International Army Cup at the Army Ten-Miler just two weeks before the Marine Corps Marathon, Ware's competitive nature prevailed.
"When I realized there was an opportunity to run for the All-Army Team, I thought maybe I'll just go for place instead of chasing that Olympic Trials qualifying time and being an all or nothing thing," he said. "That might wind up being a better thing. And I get to represent the Army, which is something I've always wanted to do, and haven't had the chance to do until this fall.
"I was feeling like I was a part of something special with the All-Army Team. And I was really looking forward to getting that again with the team competition -- the Armed Forces Marathon Championships -- and knowing that if I had a good day, I would probably be towards the top.
"I really wanted to do well for the team and for representing the Army. It wasn't just for my own personal goal. It was something a little bit bigger."
Ware not only won the Marine Corps Marathon with the fastest time since Darrell General ran 2:18:21 in 1997, he also led the All-Army Team to victory against the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps for the Armed Forces crown.
Lt. Col. Keith Matiskella (2:27:21) of Fort Leavenworth, Kan.; Lt. Col. Liam Collins (2:34:34) of the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.; Capt. James Henry (2:40:00) of Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington; and Spc. James Cheruiyot (2:56:41) of Fort Stewart, Ga., completed the All-Army squad.
Civilian Jeff Scuffins of Hagerstown, Md., still holds the event record with a time 2:14:01 set in 1987, but the past three Marine Corps Marathons have been won by a Navy lieutenant commander, an Air Force lieutenant and an Army lieutenant.
"The Marines that were there were very, very nice and very supportive," Ware said. "My brother pointed out to me on the U.S. Army Facebook page, they put something up about it, and there were a lot of comments and jawing back and forth between the Marines and the Army. That was kind of funny."
Ware quickly retreated to Deerfield, Ill., to coach the men's and women's cross country teams at Trinity International University, just across town from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, where he received his master's last spring.
"It's been really neat to hear all the encouraging words from people and it's been cool to do some of these interviews," Ware said by telephone a couple days after his one shining moment in Washington. "But ultimately, it really puts things in perspective coming back here and I have a couple struggles that I'm dealing with my cross country team. It's actually a good thing because it helps me set my mind on the more important things in life rather than just coming back with the high of this time, knowing that I have something greater to live for."
Ware is determined to minister Soldiers, yet is willing to wait until the time is right.
"I think my faith -- knowing that I have faith in something higher -- no matter whether it's a good day or if it's a bad day, I hope that it doesn't change the way I am and what I live for, and I live for God and his glory," he said. "Whether it's a good day or a bad day, I hope I can be a good representative for him.
"It's become pretty obvious to me that the chaplaincy is not going to take me on active duty anytime soon, so I had to make the decision whether I wanted to be a pastor of a civilian church for a time period and be a Reserve chaplain or whether I wanted to go active duty in a different job in the Army," said Ware, 27, who earned his undergraduate degree in chemistry and will begin military intelligence work in January at Fort Huachuca, Ariz.
"My heart is to serve Soldiers in whatever capacity that may be. I'd love to do it as a chaplain, but if that's not possible, I'd like to go active duty doing something else for a time period and then hopefully come back into the chaplaincy down the road."
Meanwhile, Ware is debating running another marathon, or maybe even a half-marathon, to qualify for the U.S. Olympic Marathon Team Trials on Jan. 14 in Houston.
"I'm not ready to commit to that right now because I'm still recovering from this one," he said. "I definitely want to apply for the Army World Class Athlete Program. I want to compete for the Army as much as I can."
That, too, will take time. Soldiers do not enter WCAP straight out of college. The Army, meanwhile, can feel blessed by the day a Soldier ran the fastest Marine Corps Marathon in 14 years.
"I'm just very thankful and very grateful that everything came together, and I thank God first and foremost for that," Ware said. "It was something that I was hesitant to expect going into the race because I knew I had been capable of that kind of performance for the last couple years. But having four or five races that have not gone the way I wanted them to, I just was very hesitant to expect anything out of this race.
"So I was just really thankful that I was able to represent the Army well. I was able to finish a marathon strongly. And the fact that I won the race was just icing on the cake. It was a really neat experience."
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