FRANKFURT, Germany -- More than 15,200 racers lined up to compete in the BMW Frankfurt Marathon, including five U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Europe District employees Oct. 30.

When Michelle Rachel, a project manager and the final leg of a four-person relay team, crossed the finish line, it was the first time she raced as part of a team.

"Crossing the finish as part of a team gave me a little more drive when racing," Rachel said. "Normally, I'm only competing against myself, but with three others counting on me, it puts a little more pressure to perform and not let the rest of the team down."

For months, Rachel and rest of the team, Edward Argueta, a project manager section chief; Astrid Zervas, a management analyst; and Adewale Adelakun, an engineering intern, trained, planned and organized their participation in the marathon.

"Ed recruited us a few months back after he learned about the marathon," Rachel said. "I think we all decided, 'Why not, it sounds fun.'"

"I wanted to get colleagues involved in the marathon as a way to build camaraderie," Argueta said.

The relay is run on the same 26.2-mile or 42.165 kilometer course, with the legs broken down unevenly into 12, seven, nine-and-a-half, and 13.5 kilometer distances.

According to Argueta, the team decided who would run what leg of the relay based on the amount of previous race experience and speed.

Both Argueta and Rachel have more than 100 road races between them, but this marathon was a first for Zervas and Adelakun.

"I was the team member with the least amount of race experience. This was my first official road race," Adelakun said. "The atmosphere, the camaraderie, and the anticipation of waiting for your teammate to round the corner and hand off the timing chip are enough to convince me to participate in another race. Besides, I've never seen so much spandex in my life. That by itself is worth the price of admission."

Adelakun admits that looking back, if he could change anything about the race, he would train differently.

"I could have trained for a quicker time," he said. "Also, running in spandex can be uncomfortable at first, so training in my race clothes would have helped."

Zervas used the Civilian Fitness Program to ensure she fit training into her busy work and personal schedule. The program is designed to allow employees, with supervisor approval, to work out three hours a week for a six-month period.

"The program was a big help to me," Zervas said. "I take classes three nights a week. I wouldn't have had enough time to do many distance runs without this program."

After finishing his first relay marathon, Adelakun offered some playful advice to others wanting to start running.

"Put one foot in front of the other and simply start running," he said.

The team finished the race in 3:41:22, placing them 127 out of 999 relay teams.

Another district employee ran the marathon as an individual entry.

After the birth of her son, Rachel Goodspeed, a public affairs specialist, realized finding the time and motivation to get back in the gym was not easy. She decided to give herself a goal to work toward.

"I decided I would run a marathon this year," Goodspeed said. "Training for a full marathon requires time and commitment to a plan so you don't hurt yourself."
Since this was her first marathon, Goodspeed looked to the Internet, and people with race experience for a training plan.

"The plan I ended up using was a more advanced plan," Goodspeed explained. "It combined short and long runs with speed interval training, tempo runs, and goal-pace training."
According to Goodspeed, running was only one part of the plan. In addition to running an average of 30 to 40 miles a week, as the race neared, she had to change her diet to match her training.

"I don't eat a lot, but I had to make sure I ate enough pasta and protein to fuel my body," Goodspeed said. "When you're trying to go back to pre-pregnancy weight, pasta and more pasta seems counterproductive, but eating right and enough is an important part of training."

Goodspeed set a goal to finish the race in less than four hours, but she said by the halfway point all she could think about was finishing. She finished the race in 4:47:26.

"I'm a pretty stubborn person, which has gotten me in trouble at many times in my life but today it made me run 42.165 kilometers," Goodspeed said.