By James BrabenecOctober 10, 2019
FORT SILL, Okla., Oct. 10, 2019 -- An accomplished Army boxer having earned All-Army honors in 2013, Staff Sgt. Corey Gulley has the strength and determination to see a bout through to the final bell. But, now he's preparing to step out of the ring to go the distance.
A very long distance.
Gulley of Headquarters and Headquarters Support Company, 434th Field Artillery Brigade, is training to run 24 The Hard Way, an ultra running event Oct. 19 in Oklahoma City. Specifically, he will run 24 hours with the goal of surpassing 100 miles.
"My max goal is 120 miles," he said, "I want to always give a little extra, because I've always been raised like that as a Soldier."
The infantryman said his first team leader instilled that go-beyond attitude in Gulley when he first enlisted.
As a part of an infantry fire team, he said don't just do the bare minimum, don't be mediocre, because on a four-man fire team there's going to be times you have to do more to compensate for others who can't," said Gulley.
One could easily ask, why 100 miles? Why punish your body to that degree?
Gulley said he is entering to compete against himself, with a secondary intent to inspire, motivate and encourage others. "I'm not going to stop no matter what."
Actually the race format allows entrants to set whatever pace and goal they want to achieve. For Gulley that means averaging about 5 mph to reach his distance goal. How he does that won't necessarily be through constant motion. He said if he hits the 5-mile mark around 50 minutes that he will use the last 10 minutes of that hour to walk, stretch, grab something to eat or attend to other personal necessities.
Although he faces a grueling test, Gulley has only been running since mid-July. The first run he planned to go 5 miles, but given that "do the extra" mentality, "Once I got to the 5-mile mark, I was like … no … 10 miles" he said.
For those who drive Lawton's busy thoroughfares, it's likely you've passed Gulley a time or two.
"I run down Cache Road all the time; I run all the way to where Lawton High School is then turn around and run back -- that's 10 miles," he said.
However, 10 miles wasn't enough, so he went to the track on post and set off on a 25-mile tour. With four laps equaling a mile, that could get dizzying and confusing just keeping track of which lap he's on. But, Gulley uses a smart phone app to keep track of his running vitals. Already he's accumulated a couple hundred miles, good enough to cover four runs to Wichita Falls from Lawton.
In reality though he has logged one 52-mile run back from Wichita Falls noting that much of the return leg was uphill and a bit harder than what he expected.
Before coming to Fort Sill, Gulley served as a platoon sergeant, a sniper section leader, and a squad leader.
"I've been in charge of 64 lives, that's how I look at it, and I take a lot of pride in that," he said. "I haven't lost one, but I had one wounded during my second deployment to Iraq."
He said he's faced a lot of adversity since he was a child and into his military career, which includes two Purple Hearts for wounds he received in Iraq.
"I don't let anything stop me," he said.
Gulley found a lot of discipline when he started boxing along with greater patience and the ability to recognize when he needs to take charge or let the fight come to him.
"It's a very serious challenge trying to conquer another man's willpower, with your own mind, skills, and ability," he said. "But, I figure if I can run toward bullets on the battlefield, there's no reason why I should be afraid of a man with two hands in the boxing ring."
He also credited the book, "The Undefeated Mind: On the Science of Constructing an Indestructible Self," by Alex Lickerman. He's read it three times.
"Life is about how we respond to things. When something bad happens to me, I step back, I think before I act or speak and I ask myself how would I feel if someone did or said that to me. That book helps me stay composed no matter what happens to me," he said.
That mindset has a direct tie to the battlefield.
"I have to have an undefeated mind as an infantryman, if not, I could get someone else or myself killed," said Gulley.
Exercising his academic rigor, he is pursuing a bachelor's degree in exercise science.
With the possible end of his military career only five years away, Gulley said leaving the Army will be tough, because he's been an infantryman throughout his career. But, he has goals to apply his degree and train athletes, Soldiers, or youth. Whatever direction he heads Gulley intends to make a positive impact in his community.
However far he needs to go to reach tomorrow's success, he's already completed steps to get there.
"My future actions will define who I am, not my past failures," he said.