ST. PAUL, Minn. - “I really didn’t run until I joined the Army when I was 17,” said Army Staff Sgt. Jennifer St. Amand, a recruiter with the Minnesota National Guard’s Recruiting and Retention Battalion. “I was in basic training and the drill sergeants made a big deal about it; it lit a fire in me to continue to push myself more and more.”
St. Amand, who is originally from Canada, has served in the military for 17 years. She started with the Active-Duty component before taking a break. She decided to continue her service with the Minnesota National Guard in 2019.
St. Amand is also a member of the Minnesota National Guard’s Marathon Team. The team consists of four people selected to represent the state against 53 other state and territory teams every other year and compete for a spot on the National Guard’s Marathon Team.
“I didn’t just run the 2-mile in the Army; I kept going,” she said. “Now I run 100-milers. I love that as I grow older, I can keep challenging myself with it.”
Earlier this year, the Marathon Team — St. Amand, Sgt. 1st Class Adam Walton, Army Maj. Tim Gearns and Army Lt. Col. John Zimmerman — traveled to Nebraska to compete in the Lincoln Marathon. The Lincoln Marathon doubles as the National Guard’s qualifying marathon, where only 25 men and 15 women are selected for the following year’s National Guard Marathon Team. The Minnesota team placed 3rd overall. St. Amand and Walton qualified for the national team this year.
“When we go to the qualifying event, we represent the state of Minnesota,” said St. Amand. “If we make it on the national team, there’s different events throughout the year you can participate in, and everything is paid for.”
Walton, a member of the team since 2019, has been running since he was a kid.
“It’s a forever activity,” said Walton. “Be patient with yourself and continue to invest in your health. The marathon game is a long game. It’s not something you’re going to win when you’re 20 years old.”
Walton has qualified for the National Team three times.
Both St. Amand and Walton have big goals for the upcoming year. St. Amand just completed the unofficial rim-to-rim-to-rim crossing of the Grand Canyon, running nearly 50 miles and 11,000 feet of elevation gain. She plans to represent Minnesota and the National Marathon Team at the Boston Marathon next spring. Walton looks forward to competing in the Anchorage Marathon in Alaska this summer.
Outside of competition, both Soldiers say that running is a big part of who they are and gives them the space to think innovatively and creatively.
“Sometimes, you are there to enjoy the experience,” said Walton. “It’s fun to have those races, where you are just enjoying running and enjoying the experience because being competitive all the time wears you out.”
Running also allows them to promote the National Guard and fitness.
“Being in the Guard is more important nowadays than ever,” St. Amand said. “People want to serve the people they know, and that’s what we do here; we serve our communities, and we serve our families.”