By 1st Lt. Ryan HunkeAugust 28, 2012
FORT DRUM - It was just physical training as usual for Alpha Company (Immortals), 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, who hosted their first Immortal Mile August 17, which was a full-length marathon course running 26.2 miles around Fort Drum.
Alpha Company Commander Capt. Ryan David said that he organized the event to challenge his Soldiers. "I wanted something that would push them to their physical and mental limits, and give them a sense of accomplishment for attempting it. A marathon met that intent because it's is a milestone in physical fitness."
The race was strictly voluntarily and started with 35 runners, nearly a third of the company. While some Soldiers weren't ready to attempt the full distance, many ran a half-marathon or further to encourage their battle buddies who were attempting the entire length. Supported internally by volunteers, the race had checkpoints at regular intervals that offered water, gatorade, and snacks as well as medical support should the runners need it.
"My squad leader said I was crazy," said Private Duenas, 23 miles into the race. But he shrugged and kept running, "you just gotta keep moving. It's not that bad."
Alpha Company is no stranger to demanding physical challenges. The extreme has become routine. Alpha Company's physical training has featured events such as a swim across Remington Pond with poncho rafts, and an obstacle course with Humvee pulls and four mile casualty evacuation with stretcher.
Alpha Company's 3rd platoon leader, 1st Lt. Oleg Sheynfeld, said that the company PT events are "great morale boosters". But he remarked that initially he had difficulty convincing his Soldiers that they could run the full 26.2 miles. "At first, my Soldiers thought I was insane to do a marathon for PT, on a random Friday…but their competitiveness kicked in when they started seeing their peers from other platoons step up to accept the commander's challenge. It became a pride thing."
The marathon was finished by 12 runners, led by SPC Herrera, who completed the course in 3:50. The results for the "Immortal Mile" Marathon as follows:
SPC Herrera -- 3:50
CPT David -- 3:50
1LT Rago -- 4:28
1LT Sheynfeld -- 4:28
1LT Gonzalez -- 4:44
SGT Mathieu -- 4:50
SPC Short -- 4:55
SPC Jentz -- 4:55
PFC Higgs -- 5:05
PFC Mairena -- 5:05
PVT Duenas -- 5:10
1LT Hunke -- 5:15
In the end, Capt. David said the event was a success. "We're the only company I know of that has attempted something like this," he remarked. "And I hope it's something we can continue and expand." The Immortal Mile showed Soldiers that they can push far beyond what they thought they were capable of, and highlighted the importance of preparation, hydration and nutrition during endurance events.