By Staff Sgt. Jennifer Bunn, 2nd Brigade Combat Team PAO NCOICJanuary 24, 2013
FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- Running plays an important part in the life of a Soldier, from daily morning physical fitness and weekend fun runs to the annual Army Ten-Miler. Running builds stamina and endurance. It can also bring out the competitive spirit.
For one such Soldier, running has become a sort of obsession. A triumph over mind and body. A will to take on not only another competitor, but also the elements and obstacles along the way. A chance to become a Spartan.
Since entering the Army in 2010, 1st Lt. Elliott Megquier, distribution platoon leader in G Company, 210th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, has competed in three Army Ten-Milers, one Tuff Mudder and 23 Spartan Races.
For Megquier, the competitive spirit entered him in the second grade and has stayed with him throughout his school years until now.
"I was actually a soccer player from second grade, and all through college I played soccer," he reminisced. "And I was always competing with my sister over stupid stuff. I always like to win. I do not care what I am doing; I want to be the best."
Megquier attended the Basic Officer Course at Fort Lee, Va., where he was recruited to be a member of the post's Army Ten-Miler Team.
"I got recruited for the Fort Lee Ten-Miler Team competing down in (Washington), D.C.," he said. "(The team was) pretty organized. We practiced three or four times a week in preparation for the Army Ten-Miler, which is in October every year. I ended up being the top runner that year."
A week after the race, he moved to Fort Drum. Aside from PT, he continued to run on the weekend just for fun. One Saturday, he was flagged down on the side of the road by a fellow Soldier, who introduced him to the world of the Spartan Race.
"I always liked running, even for soccer I sometimes ran to train for it, so yeah, I was just out for my daily run, " he explained. "And this guy that was in my company was driving by yelling at me 'You want to do this race?'"
Megquier admitted he wanted to ignore the guy, but eventually he conceded. In May 2011, he participated in his first obstacle-type race called the Tuff Mudder.
"I was like 'yeah, sure, why not.' I figure if someone was crazy enough to yell at me on a Saturday morning while I am running, it is probably a good race," he continued. "So I did the race with him. That is how I kinda got into racing."
Megquier's appetite for competition grew from that first race. The following month he began participating in the Spartan Race that was being held in Tuxedo.
The Spartan Race is not only a run to the finish line; it is an intense competition that matches the wit and fortitude of each competitor. The races are based on running. There are three different distances: The Sprint, which is three to five miles; Supers are five to eight miles; and the Beasts are 13 to 15 miles.
After the competitor gets past the running portion of the race, there are various obstacles to maneuver past, including a barbed wire crawl, wall climb, rope climb, sand bag carry, cinder block drag, pugil stick gauntlet, tire flips and a spear throw.
Megquier explained that it is not as easy as it sounds. For instance, the barbed wire crawl can be all uphill or up and down hills with a wire only a foot to a foot and a half from the ground.
"You are going for speed, so sometimes you get cut, you bleed," he said. "I actually roll to go faster; it's not the standard Army low crawl, so you have to give up your body in the barbed wire because you can gain a lot of time."
Then there are the walls that are set at various heights and angles.
"Other than barbed wire, there are wall climbs. Some of them are inverted with rope that helps you climb up it; others are eight to 10 feet, some are shorter at six feet and some are four feet. It just depends," he continued. "Sometimes you climb under a wall, sometimes you go through the wall like in a hole."
The most difficult obstacle for Megquier to overcome was the spear throw. The spear usually consists of a broom handle or some sort of tool that has a nail connected at the end of it. The object of the spear throw is to get it to the bale of hay.
"You always have a spear throw," he said. "My first couple races I would always have to do penalties because I missed the spear throw. That cost me quite a few places (in 2011), but this year I only missed the spear throw once in 14 races. It has helped me become a better racer, my making that spear throw."
Megquier has competed in all three Spartan Race distances. In 2012 he ran in seven Sprints, four Supers and five Beasts. He placed in 12 of those races. The venues span across the contiguous United States and Canada. He credits his company commanders for their support in letting him attend the races.
"My commanders have been very supportive of me, letting me go on mileage passes every weekend," he said. "I couldn't do as well as I've done this season without their support, so it's been awesome."
The Spartan Race wrapped up its 2012 race schedule in December. Megquier finished well in the last two races and currently is ranked No. 1.
"I did very well. I finished fourth place on Saturday, beating two of my big rivals and won on Sunday by over 13 minutes," he said. "Currently I am ranked No. 1 in the nation for the 2013 season, (which) runs September 2012 through September 2013."
Capt. Ian Kent, commander of G Company, 210th BSB, has no problem letting one of his lieutenants go on long-range passes to compete in the races.
"None of his races actually impact training days, so I have no issue allowing him to go and represent himself, as well as the Army, in these intense races," Kent said. "I also want him to do well and place as high as he can. The more races he is allowed to compete in, the better his chances for that. He is embodying what it means to be a Soldier by pushing himself far beyond his own comfort zone."
Aside from command support, Megquier said his parents have always been there for him and continue to support his interests.
"I would have to say my parents (are my greatest supporters). Ever since age 7 they drove me to all my events," Megquier said. "They were always supportive. I really took for granted how much money and time they gave to my athletic achievements. They drove me all over the state of Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont and Canada."
"They always want to know how I have done. Whatever I do, they are behind me, and that is really special," he added.
This past October, Megquier competed in his third Army Ten-Miler. He said training for this race helps him run better during the Spartan Races.
"I really enjoyed running on the Fort Drum Army Ten-Miler Team this year. That speed work has helped me at some of the Spartan Races," he said. "The men's team finished outside the top 10, but it was the best team we have had in years at Fort Drum."
"I really enjoyed running with Sgt. Blaine Zimmerman this year. I finally had someone (who) was at my speed, so it was fun racing with him. We actually helped each other out a lot at the race in October in D.C.," he concluded.
How does Megquier prepare for his competitions? He does not have a set training regimen, per se. He does regular PT with his platoon, and then finishes by himself. He also does small workouts throughout the day.
"PT does help. I do not always get the best workout with my platoon, but afterwards I just crush myself," he explained. "I am very fortunate to have one to two hours in the morning to work out."
"I am always running throughout the day in between buildings or sometimes I will do pull-ups and rope climbs during the day to stay active," he added.
The new Atkins Functional Fitness Facility near Monti Gym has started to play a positive role in his workouts.
"I am really excited about it, because it has a lot of equipment that aren't in the other gyms. One of the ones that I think will help me train for the races is the Jacobs Ladder. We have to do a lot of climbing in the Spartan Races, so it simulates basically climbing up a hill, because you are moving your arms, your legs and even though you are not actually climbing, it seems like you are," Megquier said.
Through relentless determination to do the best he can during the Spartan Races, Kent said Megquier has led by example and inspired those around him.
"Every Soldier in his platoon can hardly believe him. He conducts platoon runs and carries a 25- to 30-pound rock so he can actually get a workout. Then he will go do burpees for 10 minutes straight in the company common area," Kent said.
"He motivates me also, because he beat my two-mile run time by almost two full minutes, which is just unacceptable," Kent continued. "He also holds the highest APFT score in the company and is therefore leading by example in the realm of physical fitness excellence. Elliott also placed second on the Fort Drum Army Ten-Miler Team this past October, so he is an inspiration throughout the 10th Mountain Division."
"I do not like to walk anywhere, so I am always running. I guess I like being active," Megquier quipped.