By Ben Cottrell | Norwich Guidon | Norwichguidon.com | November 19, 2011
Crossing the finish line, runners from across the United States completed the "People's Marathon," the Marine Corps Marathon held every autumn in Washington, D.C. With long deep breaths, sighs of relief and a quick trip for a free massage, all of these runners have one thing in common: they had the satisfaction of finishing a challenging 26.2 mile race.
On Oct. 20, 21 Norwich midshipmen and cadets went to the Capital City to run and cheer their teammates at the annual Marine Corps Marathon. The team also raised more than $13,000 for the Semper Fi Fund, a nonprofit organization that assists wounded Marines, their families and service members.
The runners and supporting midshipmen were accompanied by Marine Corps Major Jose Verduzco Jr. and Navy Lieutenant Christopher Nuttall, members of the Norwich NROTC naval science staff.
Four of the 21 team members are Army ROTC cadets at Norwich, and wanted to play a role in the "People's Marathon," regardless of branch. "I wanted the challenge of not only running the marathon, but raising money in support of the Semper Fi Fund," said Weston Rinehart, a 20-year-old sophomore business management major from Flora, Ind., and an Army ROTC cadet.
The students from Norwich were Nicholas Losapio, Frank Halstead, Sean Scales, Geoff Shimp, Zachariah Wetzel, Robert Cottrell, Mark Loyd, Ezekiel Cary, Weston Rinehart, Michael Hiltunen, Josh Plumadore, Alex Baumgardner, Tyler Frizzell, Matt Armbruster, Tim Meyer, Michael Papamihail, TJ Costello, Jonathan Ferris, Brian Strohmaier, Erika Schueler and Megan Moran.
Many Norwich team members had been training to prepare for the event: "I trained four days a week, and I ran between four and eight miles. One day a week I ran 15 to 20 miles, with one day of cross-fit workout. One day I rested, and I trained for a total of about four months," said Zachariah Wetzel, a 22-year-old senior accounting and financial economics major from Woodstock, Conn.
Wetzel was a member of the Norwich team that ran the marathon last year.
The Norwich team was a leading fundraiser for the Semper Fi Fund this year, and was treated with a Marine Corps Museum tour, lunch and a casual dinner with the entire Semper Fi Fund staff. The former 29th commandant of the Marine Corps, General Alfred M. Gray, was present at the Semper Fi Fund dinner, and had his picture taken with the Norwich cadets.
At the dinner, injured Marines offered their thanks to the Semper Fi Fund for changing their lives for better. Some of the veterans present were missing limbs, and others received significant burns in combat.
"Hearing (the injured Marines) point of view really hit home, and brought us down to earth on how special the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund is; especially for me, because I have a brother, and numerous friends, who are deployed right now, who may need these funds," said Wetzel. "If not them, then their close friends in the fleet, too."
Gray made specific mention of the Norwich cadets' efforts during the Tropical Storm Irene flooding, and announced the accomplishment of the cadets to everyone at the dinner. General Gray is a former member of the Norwich Board of Trustees.
The next day, the runners rode the Metro rail to Arlington, for the start of the race. Over 30,000 runners participated in the race. The morning of race day was cold, with below-freezing temperatures nipping at the runners' legs, most wearing short running shorts.
Before the race began, an MV-22 Osprey aircraft flyover received cheers from the crowd. Drew Carey, a former Marine and television star, fired the starting pistol.
The Norwich team split into groups based on skill, and all completed the race in good time.
"The day of the race was cold, but energy was high. Everyone was excited, and could not wait to begin. The run was a little more painful than expected, but I am looking forward to running another marathon, and trying to top my time of 3 hours and 22 minutes," said Tyler Frizzell, a 20-year-old junior criminal justice major from Hampton, Conn.
Geoff Shimp, a 21-year-old senior history major from Fort Worth, Texas, said, "A vast majority of the course was covered with people cheering on the runners, and pushing them to go harder. The crowds, combined with the injured veterans on tandem bikes, and running with prosthetic limbs, pushed me to finish the race."
Shimp ran the marathon last year.
The race looped through historic Washington, D.C., crossing the Potomac River multiple times, circling through the National Mall, and ending at the National Marine Corps Memorial. Bands played every few miles, while signs displayed both empowering messages to continue or humorous remarks.
One sign, held by a young woman, read: "I hear you runners have stamina, when this is over, give me a call!" Other signs read: "Run like you stole something," "Chuck Norris never ran a marathon," and "Your feet are hurting because you're kicking so much butt!"
"Race day was a great time. Running a Marathon is a great experience, and the fact that it was in our nation's capital made it even better," Rinehart said. "It was a challenge, and a painful experience for the last five miles, but now that I have done a marathon, I cannot wait to do another one."
Writer Robert Cottrell also raced in the Marine Corps Marathon with the Norwich team.