No one was there. No crowds of spectators cheering the 35,000 runners at the starting line. No volunteers were passing out cups of water. This year the Army Ten-Miler had a different view.
The ATM is a yearly event at the nation's capital near the U.S. Army Military District of Washington. The world's third-largest race went virtual to ensure safety precautions and minimize the risk of the pandemic.
Maj. Braden Hestermann, a medical director assigned to William Beaumont Army Medical Center, Department of Anesthesia, participated in the 36th ATM virtual race. Hestermann ran the straightaways of Old Ironsides Drive and Sergeant Major Blvd, on Fort Bliss, Texas and along the East Bliss route.
"I only ran competitively in 8th grade. I ran the 800 meter and 110 meter hurdles, and my senior year of high school I ran cross country. I also ran on an intramural cross country team in college and had the opportunity to represent Ft. Bliss on the 10-mile squad in 2018 with several others from WBAMC," said Hestermann.
Early bird registration opened July 21 to include individual and team.
"I ran a qualifying race in August to try out and qualify for the team. There are usually two qualifying runs held each summer but given the pandemic they only had one race this year," said Hestermann.
Hestermann explained that Brandon Gangstad, the Fort Bliss Army Ten-Miler team head coach, developed a training program for the team consisting of about three to four times prescribed runs per week rotating through sprint and speed workouts, hill workouts, and longer runs.
Hestermann also expressed how COVID had an enormous impact on training. He said the Bliss team would typically train together three times per week, but there were only a couple of group meetings or training sessions before the actual race this year. Everyone received a training plan, and it was on the individual to train up.
"I typically incorporate running or sprinting into my workouts and don't typically focus on just running. Outside of training for the ten-miler, I typically run to spend extra time with my wife who has been an avid runner for her entire life," said Hestermann.
This year’s race had an added feature which was the uses of Active Experience App as the official method for recording runner’s results. The app tracked the runner's progress and milestones and gave updates about the race.
"With the Army Ten-Miler held virtually this year, the weather was perfect the day of the race. It was in the 60s with 25 percent humidity. Meanwhile, it was about the same temperature in D.C., but it was raining and 90 percent humidity on the day the race would have been held making El Paso's conditions significantly better than D.C.'s. It was nice to be able to wake up in my own bed and follow a more normal routine before the race," said Hestermann.
Hestermann finished the race in one hour, four minutes, 57 seconds, his best time this year.
According to the ATM website, over 420,478 runners have run ATM since its inception in 1985.
"Additionally, there was always fear that the scratchy throat or vague viral-like symptoms could be COVID, and with data showing a significant occurrence of these symptoms, those with the coronavirus will have the fear of a possible unknown infection or potential long term injury. these thought were nerve-wrecking,” said Hestermann.
"Despite the challenges, seven members of the Ft. Bliss team set new personal records for the ten-miler with the men's team finishing sixth among active duty teams and the women's team finishing third place among active duty teams," said Hestermann.