Unit member races for top spot on national team

  • Published
  • By Maj Nancie Margetis
  • 183d Public Affairs
For those of you who have not run a marathon, you can imagine the mental and physical challenges of completing one. Add yet one more challenge: the pressure of competing with the National Guard's top male runners for a spot on the elite All Guard Marathon Team, and that challenge becomes even greater.

Every year, the first weekend in May, National Guard runners from all states and territories meet to race for a spot on that team. The place: Lincoln, Neb. The event: the Lincoln National Guard Marathon.

The 26.2 mile race is the only National Guard sponsored marathon, and the only way to earn a spot on the All Guard Marathon Team. You have to be one of the 40 fastest males, or 15 fastest females in the Guard to be selected for the team.

This year, newcomer to the Illinois Guard Running Team and Lincoln National Guard Marathon, 2nd Lt. Andy Payne, Maintenance Officer at the 183rd, met and exceeded that challenge. He placed 14th overall for males in the marathon with a time of 2:50:37, earning him the fifth spot on the All Guard Team.

Payne, who is not a newcomer to marathons, has completed nine. When asked why this marathon was different he answered, "Lincoln was significant to me because I feel that the physical fitness of Guard members is a really important issue we are facing right now. Running in a National Guard marathon was a way to recognize the achievements and dedication of many of our members and promote fitness throughout the Guard. It really gives the Guard a positive image."

The 183rd helped Payne prepare for the race in addition to his typical training plan which consisted of speed work, long runs and running 45-70 miles per week. He said "he felt a sense of pride running not only for the Air Guard but the 183rd. I wanted to perform well and represent the unit. I really got a lot of support from my fellow 183rd members and appreciate all the good lucks and congratulations."

The 33rd Lincoln National Guard Marathon broke their own record this year, selling out at 8,000 participants, up from 6,500 in 2009. The race also includes a half-marathon; however, Guard members cannot earn a spot on the team unless they run the full marathon. Payne was joined with over 250 other Guard members who took on the challenge.

"We (Guard runners) were only about 260 out of 8,000 runners and it really felt like there was a large support structure for us," commented Payne on how this marathon was different than others he has ran.

He also enjoyed making friends with other Guard members from Illinois and meeting other Soldiers and Airmen and developing friendships. A total of ten Illinois National Guard members traveled to Lincoln for a shot at making the team. A first for the Illinois Guard Running Team included five members making the All Guard Marathon Team and three members running the marathon under three hours.

"Andy Payne definitely made the Lincoln National Guard Marathon more exciting for those of us from Illinois. Andy has invigorated the team with his youth and excitement for running. It is definitely a win/win for the Illinois Guard," said Chief Warrant Officer Rachelle McKay, Illinois Guard Running Team State Coordinator. "His efforts, added to the rest of the Illinois runners, made it a year for the record books for our running team," she added.

Payne, who is a civilian stockbroker and resides in Edwardsville, would like to recruit other Guard runners by sharing his experience this year and stressing the importance of improving overall fitness.

"No matter what ability level, the marathon is a test of our dedication and strength. People know that and respect all marathon competitors equally. I challenge anyone to test themselves and know that most people would get a great sense of pride and accomplishment when they cross that finish line," says Payne.

And if you don't like running, Payne encourages everyone to get out and find something that they enjoy doing and can improve their overall fitness. He feels that not only is it important to the mission of the National Guard that we take care of ourselves, we owe it to ourselves.

If anyone is interested in joining the Illinois Guard Running Team or competing in the 2011 Lincoln National Guard Marathon, please feel free to contact 2nd Lt. Payne or myself at our military e-mail or base extension.