MADISON, Wis. -- These people just love to run.

It is that love that kept members of the "85th Road Runners" running for 200 miles, non-stop for more than 24 hours, all the way to a finish line in Chicago.

"I just love this stuff, not necessarily for the race, but for the physical aspect," said Sgt. 1st Class William Keys, senior human resources noncommissioned officer for the 85th Support Command in Arlington Heights, Ill., about 30 miles north of Chicago.

Keys, along with several other Soldiers from the 85th Support Command and one civilian friend, participated in the two-day, 200-mile Ragnar Relay Chicago from Madison, Wis., to Chicago, Ill., earlier this month. The relay teams are typically made up of 12 people, each of whom runs three legs of the 36-leg course.

"It was great to build rapport with the noncommissioned officers who make this unit effective," said Maj. James Walton, financial management officer and former commander of the 85th Support Command Headquarters and Headquarters Company. "Taking part in this event was advice that I also offered to the current company commander as a way to build strong relationships within the unit."

Capt. Curtis Sampson, the current commander of the 85th Support Command Headquarters and Headquarters Company, took Walton up on his advice not only to promote team cohesion, but also to challenge himself. His personal goal, he said, was to finish and win in the team's division.

"I've never run a race like this, so it is a different type of challenge," Sampson said. "I have been running about six to eight miles a day, and I recently ran the Soldier Field 10-mile race event in preparation for this event."

The diverse 85th Road Runners team had runners ranging in age between 23 and 50, and with experience levels between two races and five marathons. Most team members ran two or three times a day while training for the Ragnar Relay Chicago.

This was the third year the 85th Support Command entered a team in this race, and the last year the team will be captained by Sgt. Jose Uriostegui, who was also race organizer for the team every year. Uriostegui, a human resources noncommissioned officer, and his brother, Staff Sgt. Miguel Uriostegui, found this race online three years ago in an attempt to get unit members involved in a quality race. Sgt. Uriostegui is transferring to a new unit across the country, so the team wanted to make this year a big success.

"This is Sgt. Uriostegui's last hurrah, and so we wanted to send him out with a bang," Keys said.

After losing two runners the week of the race, the 85th Road Runners found themselves having to quickly adapt to cover the six relay legs without runners.

Sgt. Uriostegui started the team's first leg of the race at 10 a.m. June 8, covering 4.4 miles, and then handed over the relay wristband to Col. Robert Rauchle, 85th Support Command chief of staff.

"I really looked forward to running with the team, and the race actually comes right through my hometown, so it's nice to have that hometown crowd cheering you on," Rauchle said.

Rauchle lives within miles of the course, so he and his Family offered their home up to runners for showers.

Along with getting as much rest as possible in between legs, the team coped with temperatures climbing into the mid-80s.

Although the team did not experience any heat injuries, one runner injured himself during one of his legs of the race during the night, forcing the rest of the team to quickly adapt.

Despite fighting a lack of sleep, navigating in an unfamiliar area, running at night, and running in high temperatures, the team entered the race's second day and their third legs as engaged and effective as the first day.

"I'm a little fatigued, but I can tough through it because of the way that the Army is moving into the CrossFit training," Keys said. "In this new direction that we're moving into, this should all come easy to us. If we can do (CrossFit training), this should be a breeze.

"But the morale of the team is good; normally, by this point, people should be dragging, but guys are still in high spirits, and we're going to make it."

Jessica Santana ran the last leg of the race, arriving at Montrose Park on the north side of Chicago at 2:11 p.m. June 9. The rest of the team joined her at the finish line, and they all came through together after covering a total of 198 miles in 28 hours, 11 minutes and three seconds.

"It was hard -- additionally losing two runners -- but we pulled the slack, stuck together, worked as a team and accomplished it," Sgt. Uriostegui said. "We did pretty good; we finished 15 minutes faster than our anticipated time."

The 85th Road Runners finished second in their category of "Public Service Men Regular." As the team wrapped up at the finish line, they were already making plans for next year's race.

"We're already discussing putting a team together for next year, and looking to incorporate team runs," Keys said. "We figure the best way to get everyone properly prepared is to train as a team and get a good program, nutritional and run-wise. "

It was a really grueling race, Keys added.

"It's 80-some degrees out here, not typical running weather. This weather was hot, and we had to dig down deep," Keys said. "Our team captain had to dig deep, and I appreciate his hard work and the hard work of the team. We made it. We started together and we finished together."

Members of the 85th Road Runners were Sgt. Jose Uriostegui; Sgt. 1st Class Ruben Soto, operations noncommissioned officer; 1st lt. Mario Contreras, auditor; Staff Sgt. Byron Tesen, supply noncommissioned officer; Sgt. 1st Class William Keys; Lt. Col. Michael Baron, branch chief; Col. Robert Rauchle, chief of staff; Capt. Curtis Sampson; Maj. James Walton; and Jessica Santana.

The drivers for the team vans were Sgt. 1st Class Susan Torres, telephone communication operations noncommissioned officer; and Master Sgt. Larry Fuller, senior healthcare noncommissioned officer.

"I would encourage everyone to do this, because not only is it a good race to see where you're at in your endurance, but it builds that camaraderie," Keys said. "Everyone is cheering for you. You get the guys together, you're stuck in the van with six, or 12, people for 30-some hours, and you learn things about them that you don't necessarily learn while you're at work. It's great. Everyone should do this!"

Page last updated Tue June 26th, 2012 at 16:43