For one running enthusiast who serves with First Army, the first few strides are usually the toughest.
“Sometimes, I’ll be sitting in my house, especially on the weekend and I’ll think, ‘Do I really want to go out in 20-degree weather and do this seven-mile run,” asked Maj. Zachary Hitchcock, a medical logistics officer.
But he has learned to appreciate the delayed gratification.
“I never regret it once I’m done,” he said.
Hitchcock added that by the time he’s half a mile in, he’s got the rhythm and enthusiasm that helps carry him the rest of the way.
His consistent running prepped for a whirlwind series of races Jan. 6-9 at Disneyworld. Each day featured a run that increased in length each time. First a five-kilometer run, then a 10-kilometer run, followed by a half-marathon, and finally a marathon. Hitchcock reported that he was at or near his personal best in each event.
“Right around 20 or 21 minutes is my usual 5K time, I run the 10K right around 45, which is what I ran it in at Disney,” he said. “Then I set personal bests in both the half-marathon at an hour and 45 minutes, and in the marathon at 3:54.
Nearly a year of training prepared him for the series of races.
“I averaged 100 to 120 miles a month through most of last year,” Hitchcock recalled. “Starting around September, I started adding longer runs into my workouts, about seven or eight miles, then worked up to half marathon-type distances. My longest training run was 18 miles in December, where I tried to mimic what it would feel like for the race.”
While the hard work paid off, there are still aches and pains to work through.
“The first couple of days weren’t too bad,” he said. “But after finishing the 10K and finishing the half-marathon, I did 20-minute ice immersions. You sit down in a bathtub in cool water and you slowly add ice. It helps recycle your blood through your legs and gets all the lactic acid out of your legs that builds up through the races.”
He added that the immersions made such a difference that he “felt like I could go run right away and felt great going into the marathon the next day.”
Also helping was his nutrition plan.
“I made sure I ate right and kept up my caloric intake. My go-to evening meal was a chili bread bowl, which had a lot of carbs, he said. I also made sure I wasn’t eating a lot of low-nutrient food or sugar.”
Hitchcock started running as a middle school cross country athlete and has kept at it ever since. Joining the Army provided an additional incentive to stay with it.
“It’s definitely given me a reason to run more, given that we have a physical fitness standard that I try to adhere to,” he said. “I’ve always prided myself on being able to max the run. It’s always made it easier to get out there and get a few more miles in.”