By By KRISTIN MOLINARO, Special to The BayonetOctober 11, 2011
ARLINGTON, Va. -- It was a grueling race to the finish for the five Fort Benning Soldiers competing in the annual Army Ten-Miler race Sunday. The active duty mixed team came in third with a combined overall time of 4 hours, 7 minutes, 19 seconds, a little more than 5 minutes behind the first-place finishing Fort Bragg team.
The race is the Army's premier running event and one of the largest ten-milers in the world. The course begins at the Pentagon and takes the thousands of runners on a path through the nation's capitol, past sites including the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.
Rather than disappointment, the Fort Benning team felt pride in exceeding last year's sixth-place performance.
Aaron Totten-Lancaster sped through the course in 54 minutes, 33 seconds, finishing in 46th place overall. Team captain Derek Telleson shaved a minute off his personal best with a time of 59 minutes. Jon Knoedler was not far behind at 59:48. Antje Thomas rounded out the top four with a time of 1:13:59. Team alternate Erin Thompson ran 1:26:06 and her time was not factored into the team results, which only combine the first four finishers' times.
This was Telleson's second time running on Fort Benning's ten-miler team. A student in the Maneuver Captain's Career Course, he is set to graduate in three weeks and will head to Fort Bragg. Telleson said this year's team drew from five different units on post so finding time to train together was difficult. Most of the long-distance training was individual, with several group sessions at Lakebottom Park focusing on speed workouts and shorter distances.
Thomas, a parachute rigger with the Airborne School's E Company, 1st Battalion (Airborne), 597th Parachute Infantry Regiment, pushed herself to a 6:35 pace for the first six miles in a strong show of endurance.
Thomas, 31, is from Bavaria, Germany, and joined the military in 2009.
She said the Country's Midnight Run in Columbus, Ga., helped her prepare mentally for the ten-miler. With hordes of runners racing through town, the German native said the risk is always that someone will fall in front of you, as they did during the midnight race.
"The natural instinct is to pick people up but it's not possible. It's heartbreaking, but you have to move on, otherwise you will fall too," she said.
The toughest part of the ten-mile route came at mile 8. As energy waned, team captain Telleson, 28, said the focus became on the runners around him.
"You're not quite to your last kick, can't quite see the barn yet, but you've already run 6-7 miles at your race pace. You're past most of the fans so you're on your own. By this point, you know whose going to stay with you and who won't so you're focused on the guys running around you and who you want to catch."
In overall results, Ethiopian runner Tesfaye Sendeku Alemayehu finished at the top of the men's division with a time of 47:51. Tezata Dengera led the women with 56:35. The overall team award went to runners from the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program and All-Army Sports, who defended the International Cup with a 3:16:05 finish.
For more information on the race, visit www.armytenmiler.com. For photos of the Fort Benning team and race day, visit www.fortbenningphotos.com.