ARLINGTON, Virginia (Oct. 8, 2017) -- The clouds settled like a fall comforter over the Pentagon, but it was warm for October, and threatening rain along a slow moving front fueled by the remnants of tropical storm Nate. It was the kind of early Sunday morning weather that would make most pull up the covers and go back to sleep. Not for 35,000 registered runners for the Army Ten-Miler, who migrated from cars, nearby hotels and the Metro and began assembling in the Pentagon parking lot about two hours before the official start at 8:00. a.m.
They came to defend titles, to join with others in solidarity, to meet the challenge, or to "Run to Honor" one of their heroes.
"I'm running and I have a team, and we're going to be defending the trophy that we won last year in the sergeant major category," said Sergeant Major of the Army Daniel Dailey, while attending the traditional eve-of-race spaghetti dinner hosted by General Dynamics, one of the race sponsors. "My strategy is to come up to speed and hold it as long as I can, and with all those sergeants major chasing me, try to keep them in the rear-view mirror."
Dailey's team successfully defended its title, finishing 741st overall with a cumulative time of 4:29:26. Daily's personal time was 1:12:17.
"I'm honoring my mother. She passed away a year and a half ago, at 82 years old," said Bryan Steele, a National Guard Bureau civilian employee, who wrote Millie Steele on his bib with the sentiment - "I Love You Mom" underneath. Steele works with Federal tuition assistance with the http://goArmyed.com, which Soldiers can use to pursue their college education goals.
Steele was more than 750 registered runners who stopped by the "Run to Honor" booth at the ATM Expo the day before the race. For the fourth consecutive year, Survivor Outreach Services invited runners to their booth to remember their heroes by wearing a second bib in their name, during the race,.
"I'm going to run steady and enjoy it," Steele said about an hour before the race. "I'm going to absorb the patriotism. I've never been in a crowd of 35,000 running. I'll enjoy the sights of the Washington, D.C. area. I'll have a good time and run relaxed for my mom."
Steele officially finished behind 3,807 other runners in 1:28:03.
The Army Ten-Miler, in its 33rd year, is the world's third-largest race at this distance, and participants can see the Washington Monument and the United States Capitol and other historic monuments along the course. The U.S. Army Military District of Washington produces the ATM, and proceeds from the race benefit the Army's Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs, part of the G9 department within IMCOM.
"I'm honoring Staff Sgt. Darryl Booker, he was stationed with one of my best friends," said Susanne Navis. "His Black Hawk crashed and he died. But he made an impact on my friend, and was a great friend and mentor. He always inspired her, so it was a great loss to her. The ATM has always been on my bucket list and we are planning to do this again next year."
SOS is an IMCOM G9 program that shows the Army cares about its heroes and those left behind.
"I'm running to honor Staff Sgt. Alex Dalida, who was injured and killed during training at Fort Bragg on Sept. 14," said Sgt. 1st Class Justin Jaccaud of Fort Lee, Virginia. "I've just been thinking about his family lately. It's still recent in my mind, and I know this is something I can do to show him and his family that we think about him all the time."
Jaccaud finished in 6,244th place at 1:35:03.
"I'm running for my dad, who just passed away in March. He was the biggest lover of our country -- a patriot, and he inspired me to join the military," said Gigi Ray, active duty Air Force. "He would always say 'keep your eye on what is important.' Dad, I love you. I'm going to keep running this every year for as long as I can. Thank you for your service to our country."
The first Army Ten-Miler in 1985 had just 1,379 runners. This year, the limited field sold out in just seven days. 650 teams were registered to run, like the All-Army Sports team out of Fort Carson, Colorado, which won the International Cup with a combined time of 3:20:44, besting the German Armed Forces team by more than 2 hours.
"It was a little bit humid but after seven miles, it started drizzling, so that helped to cool down, but overall, it was a good race," said Sgt. Samuel Kosgei, 33, who finished in 50 minutes, 13 seconds. "We all worked as a team, helping each other to push push to stay on pace. I feel good, a little dehydrated, but overall I did better than last year. We are one team, one fight, so we pushed each other and strived for the best, as a team."
"The goal was to run as a team, and the competition was great," said Capt. Robert Cheseret, 34, a member of the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program, who finished third at 50:17. "We pushed, especially at the beginning and that's what made [the leader pack] drop [from 10] to seven and then five. I think the secret [to success] was to stick together as a team."
"I think I got fourth or fifth, I'm not sure. I crossed with my battle-buddy, so I'm not sure," said Spc. Shadrack Kipchirchir, 28, and finishing fourth in 50:34 in a photo finish with Spc. Leonard Korir. "The goal was to run as a team as much as we can, so we tried to push and help each other all the way until almost nine miles. It's the best race I've ever run. It was amazing to cross the line with him. I am a team guy. I know I can't do it myself, but together we can accomplish a lot. I've gone to the Olympics, but nothing is better than the Army Ten-Miler."
"We've been training so hard together. The plan was to run together for half the race and then everyone on his own," said Spc. Horan Lagat, 34, and won the race in 49:23. "It was exciting. Shadrack said he was going to go back and help the other guys. I was waiting for them to come back, but they did not. It was hard waiting for them so forget about it, I'm going to keep the same pace all the way."
Stringing 10 consecutive sub-five-minute miles together is difficult, particularly in these conditions.
"It was pretty good starting out, but when it started raining and got so windy, [the pace] started to go to five minutes," Lagat explained how his strategy changed. "I was looking at 4:45, but with the wind, it was hard [to keep that pace] so that's why you see it so slow. It was going to be hard to run even a 48 [minute race]."
After the start, the leaders formed a pack of 10, including the number 21 bib 2nd Lt. Lucas Stalnaker, a 22 year-old Naval Academy graduate who twice took the lead away from the All-Army team. Stalnaker, from Tega Cay, South Carolina, is now training at Quantico to be a pilot with the Marines.
"I felt pretty rough going into this week," said Stalnaker, who ran for the Georgetown Running Club, Washington, D.C. and finished sixth in 50:38. "I haven't been able to train as I like to. Today, I started close and hung with the pack maybe through seven miles. They made a move and broke me off a little bit. I closed some of the ground, but at that point it was too big of a gap to [overcome]."
Stalnaker's Georgetown Running Club came in first place in the open men's team category. His time combined with the next three for a 3:31:33 finish, more than 10 minutes behind the All-Army Sports team.
"It's the Army and you're going to give it all," Lagat said. "Whoever comes next year, he has to come [knowing] it's not easy to win the Army Ten-Miler. I put a lot of work in this, at least 1,200 miles, just seeing all that work not to go to waste - it feels pretty good.
"I've gone through a lot, some injuries," Lagat said, offering advice to runners next year. "Be consistent, it is so important. If you are consistent and you are healthy, you're going to improve. I can't wait for next year to defend [the title]."
Men made up 53 percent of the runners registered, 47 percent were women.
"I'm so grateful to be here, and honored to be part of service members, veterans and civilians who came to run the Army Ten-Miler," said Spc. Susan Tanui, a member of WCAP and running for the All-Army team and finishing first among women and 48th overall with a time of 56:50. "It's so unique and different, but I'm hoping to continue running in November.
"Everything is possible. It's all in the mind," Tanui encouraged other runners. "You just have to focus, work hard and hope for the best. The most important [aspect] is to have faith. Believe in yourself and focus. Everything else will take care of itself."
Most of the runners could only dream of finishing near the front. After the ATM, some runners still felt good about meeting their goals and aspirations.
"Today I ran for Sgt. Simpson." said Jazz Dylan, a veteran who served at Fort Gordon, Georgia. "He's my buddy, Rich Simpson's older brother, who's in the National Guard. They're not here. I'm sure they wish they could be here. Their families wished they could be here today. This is for them, every single one of them. Keep the legacy going and stay strong."
"I'm running for my Dad, who we lost this past June," said Maj. Gen. Sean Jenkins, 51, and deputy commander of IMCOM. "He served in the Air Force way back when and this is a great way to honor him. I think he would've been cheering me on, telling me to move a little bit faster."
Maj. Gen. Jenkins finished in 1:37:38 in 7,306th place.
"I feel pretty good, surprisingly better than I thought I would," Jenkins said. "It's something I got to do a little better training for. The last time I ran 10 miles was in high school. I did train up, but it's not something I regularly do.
"Physical fitness is one big part of the foundation of everything we do." Jenkins said. "It's a great example for everybody else -- Soldiers throughout the Army.
"This race reaps many emotions, of running for my Dad, running the Army Ten-Miler for the first time, and wanting to finish. It's a signature event in the calendar. It's about your individual time, your team time, the Army's time. It's a unifying event."
There were 10 locations overseas hosting official ATM sponsored shadow runs with over 8,500 runners combined including Afghanistan, Iraq, Africa, Romania, Poland, Bulgaria, UK and South Korea.
"I shout out to all our Soldiers overseas, taking care of this country," Lagat said. "I pray for them and I wish them the best. We all love them."
With conditions deteriorating and temperature and humidity rising, race officials eventually rerouted the course, shortening it by a mile. Those who ran the nine-mile course were credited as a "recreational finisher" but did not have their time posted.
Running through the swamp-like weather, overcoming the change in conditions and giving it all the energy and emotion a runner can give -- was reward enough for most.
"The key to Soldier and Family Readiness is to make sure we take care of our teams," SMA Dailey said. "We have to [continue to] build our Family teams. IMCOM is essential to that mission."