After a long, hot 26.2-mile race, Army and Air National Guard marathon runners from across the nation gathered in the Embassy Suites in downtown Lincoln, Nebraska, May 6, for an award ceremony honoring the National Guard winners of the 40th Annual Lincoln National Guard Marathon and Half-Marathon.
The crowd was eager to hear the results of the marathon and to learn who had earned a spot on the elite All Guard Marathon Team. Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Sterns, National Guard Marathon coordinator, announced each first, second and third place winner by age group, followed by an announcement of each member joining the 2017 All Guard Marathon Team.
Out of about 13,500 total runners who participated in the marathon and half-marathon, 150 were National Guardsmen who represented 39 states and two territories. Along with the individual races, the Guard runners were also seeking spots on the prestigious All Guard Marathon Team, which consists of 60 to 65 runners: 40 males, 15 females and five masters runners, aged 40-years-old or older.
In order to qualify for the All Guard team, males must have a run a marathon with a time of 4 hours or below, while females must have a run time of 4 hours and 30 minutes or below within 12 months of the Lincoln marathon.
According to Sterns, the individual Soldiers and Airmen are extremely motivated to make the All Guard.
“For the runners, it’s very prestigious; they love the yellow jacket,” said Sterns, referring to the yellow windbreaker only members of the elite All Guard Marathon Team get to wear. “One guy is retired and wants to buy one of them, that’s how important it is to them to be on the All Guard team and to get that yellow jacket.”
The All Guard Marathon Team participates in races across the country, while also helping with National Guard recruitment and promoting physical fitness awareness.
“We go all over the United States,” Sterns said. “Last year we had 10 different races. We went to Hawaii, Rhode Island, North Dakota, Kansas, Missouri; we go all over the place. The way we pick our races is we take a snapshot in the middle of the year of how recruiting is nationwide and then we usually pick the bottom 10.”
At each race, the National Guard will have a recruiting booth set up allowing All Guard Marathon Team runners to talk to potential recruits about the National Guard Marathon Team and the National Guard in general.
“Our overall purpose is recruiting and retention,” Sterns said. “The other thing that we do is health and fitness welfare. So, one of the things we require if you’re on the team is in your local state, you go to colleges and high schools and you talk about the health and fitness of the Guard and why they run, while they recruit.”