By Ms. Kelly Field (USARIEM)April 25, 2014
As he crossed the finish line of this year's Boston Marathon race, Capt. Craig Thompson took a moment to look around at the thousands of spectators cheering him on and enjoy the moment.
He had accomplished something that six years ago when he was stationed in Balad, Iraq, he would have never thought possible. At that moment, he thought, it was all worth it.
In 2008, then 1st. Lt. Thompson was deployed to Iraq as a platoon leader in the 591st Medical Logistics Company. One day a friend encouraged him to run the Boston Marathon Forward, a shadow race of the Boston Marathon that would be run at Camp Taji that April.
Thompson, who had never run a marathon before, thought this would be a great opportunity to stay motivated while deployed, as well as provide an opportunity to check something off of his bucket list, running a marathon.
"This was something I planned on doing once and then sitting back and being proud of it for the rest of my life," said Thompson, now a medical logistics officer for the U. S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine. "I trained for two months and just remember the day of the race there was nothing to look at but dirt and sand and having to run over and over the same patches of land, as space on the post was limited."
After finishing the race in a time he now considers slow for himself, he felt a determination to do it again and do it faster. "This really kick-started what I am doing now and sparked my passion for running these races," Thompson said.
From then until Marathon Monday 2014, Thompson has gone on to complete eight marathons, two 50-mile ultra-marathons and an Ironman Triathlon. He said, however, from the beginning the ultimate goal for him was to qualify for and run in the Boston Marathon.
"It's been a goal of mine since the beginning," Thompson said. "Only the most elite runners qualify for the race, so to run in the actual Boston Marathon, to me, it's a big deal."
This goal became even more important after he witnessed the events of 2013's marathon bombing at the finish line. Thompson, who had regularly followed the marathon, remembers watching in horror as the day's events unfolded from Fort Detrick, Md., where he was stationed at the time. His resolve to qualify for the 2014 Boston Marathon became so much stronger.
"I knew I would be in Boston this year and was planning on running it anyway, but suddenly it became so much more special," Thompson said. "I wanted to be a part of the atmosphere this year that told the terrorists, you did not stop Boston. You made us stronger."
Thompson said he could feel that strength and energy from the thousands of racers and spectators who participated in the marathon this year. He said it gave him the boost he needed to finish the race with a qualifying time to run again next year "without a second to spare" at 3 hours, 14 minutes, 59 seconds.
"The atmosphere was amazing, nothing like the sand and dirt in Iraq," Thompson said. "Those last several miles starting at Heartbreak Hill take every ounce of strength you have. Even though I was so tired, the support I got from all the people cheering me on kept me going strong. That is a moment I will never forget."
As Thompson completed his ninth marathon, he said he felt very accomplished. He had achieved something that six years ago, he didn't consider possible. For now, Thompson said he will keep on running. He has his sights set on another Ironman competition in September.
"All of this is about facing challenges," Thompson said. "Being able to accomplish things that I once considered impossible is a tremendous feeling. I feel that if I am determined and work hard enough, I can accomplish anything."