Marines attack streets of DC

9 Jul 2005 | Cpl. David Revere

Tourists wandering through the museums and monuments of our national capitol region may be treated to a privileged sight this year -- a motivated “Few” United States Marines running in the heat of the day. “Oorah!” shouts Staff Sgt. Josue Santoyo to running partner, Staff Sgt. Jennifer Mills. “Get some!” Sporting a motivated high-and-tight, Santoyo, like the rest of his teammates, is just having some fun in the sun. Why else would he be running in D.C. at high noon on a summer day with 90-plus temperatures and humidity to match?Santoyo and Mills are members of the Marine Barracks running team, a group of athletes from every skill level with one thing in common – they’re all rough-and-tough, United States Marines. “This team began not just as a way for Marines to become more proficient runners, but so we can have fun and get to know more people,” said Gunnery Sgt. Robert T. Kruger, the team’s founder and coach. “We’re not elite like many running teams. We’re just a group of people out having a good time. We’re from all walks of life and all levels of experience.”Kruger said the team’s foundation in the Marine Corps has set it apart from others when it comes to challenge and motivation.“Every one of us really pushes each other to improve,” he said. “As a result, each person has taken minutes off their five-kilometer and 10-kilometer runs.”Mills, who said she was a complete “non-runner” when she joined the team in the spring, boasted having gone from barely jogging three miles to running nine miles proficiently.“I’m not a runner naturally, but I’ve been pushed to my limits by my teammates,” said Mills.She’s not talking about any pansy-pants, feel-good encouragement, mind you. “You run slower than my grandma,” Santoyo likes to scream, according to Mills.“It’s a bonding experience,” Santoyo explained. “Running as a team has been great incentive for all of us to improve, not only because we are pushing each other, but because we get motivated as soon as we see all the people watching us.”He’s referring to the highly visible training courses the team runs from their Capitol Hill location at Marine Barracks Washington. The runs give the public a rare, up-close look at Marines and their behavior, according to Santoyo.“We bring something extra to visitor’s experience when they come to see the sights,” he said. “And it’s basically what we’re here for at Marine Barracks – to present a positive image of the Marine Corps.”Positive and slightly left of center, according to Cpl. Zoraida Rodriguez. “I see some of the looks we get when we’re running out there during lunch hour when it’s the hottest. People think we’re crazy.”Then there’s the yelling. When the team arrives for a race event, the volume level instantly goes up, Mills said. “We’ll all show up in our team uniforms,” she said. “Someone will say, ‘the Marines are here!’ There’ll be ‘oorahs’ and cheering from the crowd. I think just being visible and interacting with other runners like that really helps our relationship with the community.”Whether challenging themselves or others, the team is well aware of the strong, competitive image many people attach to a United States Marine.“We love to outperform those around us,” Kruger said. “We are consummate professionals, and it should show in our determination to achieve success in any mission. As long as each member gives 110 percent of effort, we will consider that a successful race.”Also true to the Marine Corps spirit, this team sets itself apart by leaving no one behind.“Those that finish faster always cheer on the remainder of the team members until the last one crosses the line,” said Kruger. “This is something that you don't see alot at organized races, and I think that it is something that sets us apart from other teams in the region.”“We’re always shouting and motivating each other,” Rodriguez added. “And it always works. The team is so competitive.” Asked what motivates her to run the fastest, Rodriguez’s eyes gleam. “Beating certain individuals.” It’s a sentiment familiar to all devil dogs; an overdeveloped compulsion to be the best. It’s why Marines are Marines and why these warrior athletes keep attacking the streets of D.C. -- where all eyes are watching. “Even when we don’t feel like running, we’ll run faster when we’re out there,” said Rodriguez. “We represent the Marine Corps. We want to look good.”Kruger and team said they look forward to hearing an enthusiastic “go get ‘em” or a “thank you” from spectators as they run down Pennsylvania Avenue or past the Lincoln Memorial.“For a lot of people, we’re the only Marines they’ll see,” said Kruger. “Hopefully, our running team is generating awareness that we are approachable – we’re people just like them.”Look for the whole team to make an impression at this December’s All-Marine Cross Country Championship held in San Diego, Calif.