Runners, walkers, warriors honor warfighters despite cold

By John R. Bell

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Runners and walkers from agencies in Fort Belvoir’s McNamara Headquarters Complex braved wind chills in the 30s to participate in the “Honor the Warrior” 5K Walk-Run March 22.

The annual event, hosted by Installation Support and operated by staff from the HQC Fitness Center, began with a moment of silence to honor America’s warriors past and present, living and deceased. The route started and ended in the same location as recent 5K events, near the loading docks, with a foray into the woods just off Gunston Road in between.

Two participants carried heavy loads on their backs as they ran. Army Sgt. 1st Class Nikki Shaw of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency ran with an Army backpack filled with 40 pounds of books and other documents. “It’s basically my entire 14-and-a-half-year career on my back,” she said.

Shaw has been running with the ruck regularly the past three weeks, to prepare for the German Armed Forces Badge for Military Proficiency, which U.S. service members may earn and wear. That test for that award requires carrying 33 pounds at a pace of at least 10 minutes per kilometer, or about 3.7 mph, while wearing the combat uniform.

Her colleague, Air Force Staff Sgt. Oleg Samsonov, an English/Russian interpreter for DTRA, ran while carrying a rucksack packed with 45 lbs. of old uniforms, canteens full of water and a few weight plates. Like Shaw, Samsonov will also test soon for the German military award, although he began doing regular ruck walk-runs with friends a few years ago. "It's a way to stay in shape and build camaraderie," he said.

For this event, Samsonov said, wearing running shoes instead of boots meant he had to run on his tiptoes the whole way and stay on unpaved surfaces where possible.

As far as finish times, some familiar names took the top spots among the runners. Alex Cano of Defense Logistics Agency Energy was the fastest male runner, completing the 3.1 miles in 17:27. In second for the men was Navy Lt. Cdr. Ryan Stickel of DLA at 17:32, followed by Paul Buck of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, with a time of 18:56.

Army Chief Warrant Officer 4 Beofra Butler of DLA Human Resources again took first place for the women, finishing in 21:17. Butler has run nine road races so far this year — seven of them marathons and one a 100-miler she began on New Year’s Eve. In second place was Alina Haynes of DTRA, finishing in 22:13, followed by Carina Rankinen of Naval Supply Systems Command Energy, with a time of 24:30.

The fourth female runner, at 24:41, was MaryBeth Krob of the Defense Contract Audit Agency. She did so after recovering from surgery to two knee ligaments in 2015. Doctors warned her she might never run again at her usual pace, but she ran the March 22 event at a faster pace than she had run that distance before her knee surgery, she said.

The top walkers for the women were Janice Sypolt, Debra Seibert and Shari Fuzzell, all of DLA. The top male walkers were Marcus Young of DTRA and Mark Cremin of DLA.

A temperature of just above 40 degrees, combined with wind gusts of up to 30 mph, made the event a brisk experience, but even runners in shorts said the physical activity kept them warm enough.

This year's Honor the Warrior 5K Walk-Run was sponsored by PenFed Credit Union, Wegmans Food Markets, Geico, Sprint, First Command Financial, Purchasing Power, and Belvoir Square Apartments.