Dec. 1, 2007

Virginia troops in Iraq tackle Marine Corps Half Marathon

From left to right- Spc. Jeffrey Jardine, 2nd Lt. David Leiva, 1st Sgt. Roy Lehew, Capt. Andrew Lequick, and Sgt. 1st Class Tony Elliott, all of Bravo Co,. 3rd Bn., 116th Infantry Battalion, after completing the Marine Corps Half Marathon at Al Asad Air Base in Iraq on Veteran's Day. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Hartman, B Company, 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry)

By 2nd Lt. David E. Leiva
B Company, 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry

AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq – In 1981, 1st Sgt. Roy Lehew was a 125-pound cavalry trooper about to enter the Fulda, Germany annual half marathon, a requirement by his then-Ranger troop commander.

“My goal then was to just not embarrass my command and finish,” said Lehew, then 18. “I had some doubt about making it, but was determined I could do it.”

He ran it in a respectable 1 hour and 58 minutes.

Twenty-six years and 50 pounds later, Lehew, on a whim, set out to complete the Marine Corps Half Marathon at Al Asad Air Base on Veteran’s Day. Except this time, he wanted to do it for himself.

“It’s nice sometimes just to do stuff like that for no other reason than to take pride in its accomplishment,” he said.

Lehew, of West Virginia, ran 13.1 miles in 1 hour and 59 minutes, nearly eclipsing the mark he set as a young man. He was joined by four other members of B Company, 3rd Battalion 116th Infantry, in a day neither one is likely to forget.

Of the 32,000 Marines and Soldiers stationed at this base, about 100 miles west of Baghdad, 65 runners started and completed the inaugural race, according to event organizer Jennifer Vess.

The race, which coincided with the Marine Corps’ 232nd birthday, was half the distance of the vastly popular Marine Corps Marathon, which takes place perennially in October throughout the Washington, D.C. area.

The race didn’t start without a hitch. In fact, because of security concerns, the event was delayed. Runners milled around the start line since 6 a.m. with bullet-proof vests, weapons and helmets awaiting the okay from base officials to begin.

“People were ready to run in the (protective) gear if necessary,” Vess said.

At 7:15 am, the race began, and 1 hour and 9 minutes later, the top runner, a Marine officer, crossed the finish line. The next runner came in at 1 hour and 21 minutes.

Spc. Jeffrey Jardine, a gunner on the Armored Security Vehicle, topped all Bravo Soldiers – along with most runners – with a time of 1 hour and 36 minutes, a 7:15 minute pace. Jardine, a Woodstock, Va., resident who weighs more than 200 pounds, usually scores the maximum on the Army PT test.

Sgt. 1st Class Tony Elliott, 45, a platoon sergeant in Bravo, had never run that distance before. Elliott, a state trooper who stays fit by running regularly at home in Staunton, Va., set out to “not fall out.” He finished in 1 hour and 46 minutes.

The company executive officer, Capt. Andrew Lequick, also hadn’t run a race of this distance. The Virginia Tech alum’s last race was a quick 3.1 miles in Lynchburg, Va. with his father.

“I wanted to see if I could complete 13.1 miles with little or no distance training,” said Lequick, age 28. “I knew I’d push through whatever pain to get to the finish line. I didn’t know how quickly I’d be able to do it.”

Part of the plan, though, was to team up with Lehew. It worked. The pair finished with the exact same time. Tired and fatigued, the two sprinted to the finish line, just skimping through under their goal of two hours.

None of the runners received a commemorative gift for competing in the race. And while admittedly that didn’t sit well with most, for Lehew, that was all fine.

“I don’t need a T-shirt or certificate to know I did it,” said Lehew, all smiles. “I did it.”

Click HERE to return to the top of the page ~ Click HERE to return to the news directory