BRYCE RESORT, Va. --
At an offseason ski resort in east Virginia, hundreds of athletes dashed to and fro, leapt and climbed up and over, and splashed, crawled and scrambled through mud and water. But a group of four held together from start to finish.
They are Marines, a small group from Marine Barracks Washington, representing “the Commandant’s Own” Marine Drum & Bugle Corps. The four entered the Civilian Military Combine, which served as the Barracks’ fourth 2012 Commander’s Cup event, as a team, even though the cup did not require them to compete as one.
Thirteen Barracks Marines participated in the mountainous 6-mile obstacle course race April 21, but only the D&B was represented by a team.
The idea to run this race came long before it was even chosen as a cup event. After the Barracks’ participation in Tough Mudder, a separate mud run, last year, Staff Sgt. Joshua Miles, D&B marketing chief, and Sgt. Lauren Schoener, D&B mellophone bugle section leader, decided to run the combine simply for the challenge.
"I would have never thought about doing a mud race outside of the Commander’s Cup,” said Miles, a veteran of last year’s Tough Mudder. “It did exactly what it was designed to do – it got us out and trying something we wouldn’t normally try.”
Eventually, the two grew to four and the D&B Marines entered as a team. The event started with a cordoned area referred to as “the pit,” where competitors performed as many kettlebell lifts, box jumps, “burpees” and clean and jerks as they could in the alternating intervals allotted.
“Coming out of the pit, you’re already tired and exhausted, then you start going the wrong way up a ski slope,” said Schoener. “It had a lot more to do with endurance than I originally thought. But running with a team, Marines especially, really pushed me to try harder.”
A general consensus was formed among the team that the ski slope was the most trying obstacle of the course.
Interspersed throughout the race were many smaller obstacles, ranging from short walls to climb or leap over to long hurdles to crawl or roll under. These served to slow and tire the team, but proved unable to divide them.
“If we’re going to be in pain, we should all suffer and get through it together,” commented Schoener.
Some obstacles tried the team more than others, including a 100-yard mud pit lined with trip and barbed wire. Yet even in this long and difficult crawl, the team moved as one.
“Crawling under the barbed wire in the mud was rough,” said Staff Sgt. Oscar Olive IV, D&B audio/video technician. “The whole combine was a fun and challenging way to test my physical abilities. It was a good experience for my first cup event.”
Despite their fatigue, pain and drying coats of mud, the Marines all ran through the finish line with smiles.
“Excited and relieved,” said Schoener. “That’s how I felt at the finish. At those last few obstacles, you could see the end, so you knew you had done it. It was really important to all of us to finish together, and we did.”
The team finished 7th out of the 21 coed teams to compete in the mid-Atlantic run.
“For this being the first mud run for three-quarters of our team, I think we did really well,” said Miles, a former Marine Corps combat instructor. “No one quit, fell out or skipped any obstacles.”
While some teams ran at individual paces and averaged their times, these Barracks Marines held together for all six miles and through every obstacle. This didn’t mean stopping to allow a slower member catch up, it meant pacing together and constantly motivating and encouraging each other throughout the run.
“Sticking together the whole way was important to us,” Miles explained. “As a fire team, as Marines, you stay together. That was kind of our mentality.”
The next Commander’s Cup event is the Raging Rhino, slated for May 31. The Rhino will require Marines to race through a combination of running and swimming.