By T. Anthony BellMay 1, 2013
FORT LEE, Va. (May 1, 2013) -- As if the academic rigors of an Army Logistics University course weren't enough, a group of students decided to further challenge themselves with a bit of physical training over the weekend.
Thirty-six Combined Logistics Captain's Career Course students and assorted ALU faculty members completed the annual American Odyssey Relay Race, a 200-mile charity event that began April 26 near the battlefields of Gettysburg, Pa., and ended the following day among the monuments of Washington, D.C.
The event, described as an adventure footrace, attracted roughly 1,800 runners and was beneficial to two charities, one of them a veteran's organization that serves to reintegrate military members back into civilian society.
"We, in addition to the fees we paid (to enter the race), did a charity event on our own and collected $3,000 for Team Red, White and Blue," said Maj. David G. Walker, an ALU faculty member, coordinator and participant.
Team RWB is a non-profit based in Ann Arbor, Mich. Its mission is to enrich the lives of America's veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity
For the competition, the Fort Lee runners were divided into three teams with two sub-teams each, said Walker. Each participant was required to run three legs of a 36-segment course that ran through battlefield dirt roads and pavement in several towns to include Boonsboro, Smithsburg and Keedysville in Maryland and Shepherdstown and Harpers Ferry in West Virginia, then along the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal to the nation's capital.
"Each runner ran an average of 15-17 miles," said Walker. The race ended at the Southwest Washington waterfront. Walker's team completed the event in 29 and one half hour.
Capt. Jennifer Ernest, an ALU small group leader, said several factors made the race a memorable experience.
"The AOR was an amazing opportunity." she said. "It was not just a chance to challenge ourselves physically, but also mentally. The race seemed to spread a sense of teamwork that surpassed individual efforts and bread a spirit of camaraderie amongst all participants.
"The amazing course wove itself through some of our nation's most historic and hallowed sites," Ernest continued. "The most memorable moment of the race for me personally was our transition at Antietam battlefield in the middle of the night. With a full moon illuminating the fields, I couldn't help but reflect on the sacrifices of our forefathers who forged this great nation. Representing Team RWB and all those who have sacrificed for this nation was a privilege. I would absolutely do it again!"
Walker, now a two-time American Odyssey veteran, said the race offers an opportunity to create camaraderie among the runners around a framework of competition, teamwork and goodwill.
"It's a chance to bond," he said. "I think that's what the students enjoy. It's physically challenging, but it's so rewarding. It's so memorable. For some of these guys, it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience."
At the finish line, Walker said the scene was festive as runners were treated to meals and refreshments and the music of a disc jockey.
"There's a sense of accomplishment and relief that you're finally going to get the chance to shower, nap and get some food," he said.
Walker also enjoyed the finish of this year's relay for one other very significant reason. He proposed to his fiancée and fellow participant Capt. Hannah Leadbetter at the finish line. His offer came in the form of a banner that read "I ran all this way to ask you one question: Will you marry me?"
"She said 'Yes,'" exclaimed Walker.
With this race behind him and his tenure at ALU coming to a close, Walker said he hopes the American Odyssey event continues at the school.
"I think the chain of command is convinced that this is a phenomenal thing to do," he said, "I do believe it will continue."