By Maj. Matthew DevivoSeptember 6, 2012
CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait (Sept. 6, 2012) -- On the first day of April 2012, a 10-mile road race was set to begin, while on the other side of the base, a lone runner pushed herself harder and faster around this desert outpost to finish her 24-hour quest: 100 miles in remembrance of fellow North Carolinians who have died in the war on terror.
That lone runner was Sgt. 1st Class Rita Rice from Sanford, N.C., stationed here with the North Carolina Army National Guard's 113th Sustainment Brigade. Rice carried her own water. Traffic wasn't stopped for her. No t-shirts or medals were handed out, and the only cheers and recognition along the way were a few high fives and pats on the back from Soldiers who took turns running with her.
Rice, a former member of the 82nd Airborne Division, joined the North Carolina Army National Guard in 2009. Every runner that ran a lap or two with Rice during her 100 miles said they felt honored to share the road with her.
"It's awesome," said Sgt 1st Class Lee Klimala, "her superhuman ability and can-do attitude is contagious."
Rice is an ultra runner, one who trains for and participates in endurance races more than 26.2 miles long, the length of a marathon; most are between 50 and 100 miles long. It took many years for her to become the runner she is today.
In 2006 she began to slowly pound the pavement and shady wooded trails of North Carolina to keep up with her twin daughters, who had started running track at school.
"It was a good excuse for me to get back in shape and to be with my girls and bond," Rice said. "It was hard at first, but well worth it. I had not run seriously for almost fourteen years since my days in the 82nd, but my family and friends kept me motivated."
Over the following months, Rice was able to complete a two-mile run, then four miles, a 10-miler, and before long she completed her first marathon in 2007.
Rice said the major change in her attitude toward running and her desire not to quit came when a close neighborhood friend, Special Forces Chief Warrant Officer 2 Scott Dyer, was killed in Afghanistan in late 2006. After the news of her friend's death, Rice wanted to honor his service, and decided that running was a healthy and challenging way to do it.
Rice said she was lucky to have a running mentor, Lt. Col. Mike McNeill. McNeill, a special forces officer, motivated Rice, helped her get past the mental challenges of running long distances, and taught her how to enjoy the experience of running.
Rice, now a veteran runner, has completed five marathons, multiple endurance races, and other fun runs that challenge a person mentally and physically. Rice said her personal mottos or "Rules according to Rice" are as follows: "Live life to its fullest. Set challenging goals for yourself and maybe it will inspire others to also 'go for it.' Dream big dreams. Never quit, and never forget those who gave their lives so that we may enjoy ours."
"Rice is the definition of a 113th Sustainment Brigade "Steel Soldier" whose determination to succeed inspires others and makes the whole unit "twice as strong," but above all else, she's proud to be an American Soldier, serving her country, and honoring our fallen heroes," said Col. David Jones, commander of the 113th Sustainment Brigade.