Wednesday, August 22, 2018

The Best Military Running Scene in Hollywood Movies

 While running to prepare for an upcoming half-marathon, my mind drifted to running moments in Hollywood movies.  The usual suspects such as Rocky running up the stairs in Philadelphia or the opening sequence to Chariots of Fire where a band of runners race across a beach to some iconic music came to mind, but then I remembered a gem from my childhood, a James Garner movie called Tank. 

  In “Tank,” James Garner plays Command Sergeant Major (CSM) Zack Carey, and amazingly, I like his portrayal of a tough senior enlisted person.  He goes around the post, checking on troops and facilities within his division and there are some funny moments.  But the piece that takes the cake is when James Garner’s character wakes up at 4:30 in the morning and you next see him approaching a unit’s parade field while in physical training gear (back then, that outfit was unofficially called “the banana suit” due to its almost completely yellow color. 

  CSM Carey then proceeds to shout “Your division sergeant major is all alone on the battalion field.”

  And it’s after this moment, hundreds of Soldiers pour out of the barracks and from the parking lot, rush towards the assembly area, briefly do a dress-right-dress, and stand diligently in formation before CSM Carey.  The battalion’s Sergeant Major greets James Garner’s character, and all together, proceed onwards for a formation run.  A few seconds later, the formation runs by the commanding general’s house and wakes him up.  

  It’s this sequence that I absolutely love, and wish any of the Sergeants Major (yes, that is the plural of the singular noun “sergeant major”) who I have served with would replicate this phenomenon.  I’ve never seen anything close to this happening.  Instead, we normally got something to this effect:

  A battalion run would be scheduled for 0630.  The company commander or first sergeant would want the Soldiers to be in formation by 0615.  The platoon sergeant would dictate that his/her group of Soldiers show up at 0600 or 0610 (if they had some faith in their Joes).  The squad leaders in turn would tell their Soldiers to be ready to go 10-15 minutes prior to the platoon formation.

 In fact, I still remember a brigade formation run when I was at Fort Meade, and the brigade run was scheduled to start just after 0630.  By the time I, as a mere squad leader, got word on when to have my team there, we were told to be on the parade field by 0530.  That’s a whole hour before we were supposed to run.  Fortunately, that example is the most extreme one I have experienced.

 While the point is that we in the military had a tendency to have people show up early for just about anything, if someone pulled off a CSM Carey for a PT run, everyone involved would probably go bonkers in a good way and they would probably be pumped to do just about anything for the rest of the week.  I know I would.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

My review of the Hot Summer Night 5k

The Hot Summer Night 5k took place on a “famously hot,” muggy and humid, and almost rainy Saturday night in the Shandon neighborhood. It was in its 25th iteration but this was only the second time I’ve ran it.  As a former military guy, I love tradition and keeping history going, so when I read the article by Mark Bedenbaugh that this race started back in 1993, I was even more interested in giving this race another go around.  

 Last year, we started and finished at Hand Middle School, however, this year the course was altered and we began next to the gas station on Devine and King Streets.  At promptly 7:15 PM, 248 of us took off and headed south on King Street before turning left at the end of Hand Middle School and onto Duncan Street.  That first mile was very flat and easy.  Before every race, I always try to position myself towards the back; that really helps with video capturing with the GoPro, though back in my early military days it was to stay clear of the extremely fast runners.  On this night though, while I started almost as far back as possible, I ended up going much faster than I had wanted (a 7:47 mile according to Strava versus the 8:30ish pace I originally planned).  It was pretty crowded at the beginning, but that made it fun to weave in and around people on the course; of course, that lasted only the first half mile or so. 

  The second mile involved turning off of Duncan Street and onto Bonham Road before swinging another right onto Monroe Street.  But right before those turn sat the water stations which I sorely needed.  I sweated like a mob boss in a sauna out there and the cups of water were quite refreshing.  The weather was still so muggy and humid but the clouds didn’t break meaning no rain yet.  There were a lot less people around me, even with the water break, so my pace dropped to a 8:17 mile.  I guess I really need a crowd to keep moving.
  Pushing through that third mile was more of a chore than I would like to admit.  My right leg cramped up around the two and a quarter mark and it would happen two more times.  That leg of the race though is where the little mind games of seeing hills affected me, too.  It was definitely not my best running moment.  I should mention that I really love running through the entire area since it’s pretty well shaded and there are supportive groups of people who come out of their homes to cheer us on.  In fact, somewhere on Monroe Street was a family who had their hose on to cool off runners as they went by.  We eventually hang a right when Monroe Street crosses South Queen Street and take another right at Duncan Street.  Hand Middle School is in clear view, but we head back north and push through on King Street until swinging back to Devine Street.  That last turn was very welcoming and gave a nice small strip to do a final gather-all-your-adrenaline-and-sprint to the end.  I could hear the crowds and see people taking pictures as I attempt to propel and thrust my way to that finish line. 

  After crossing and finishing, I head to the back parking lot at Strictly Running to get my results, but I stay for a while to enjoy the food from PDQ, who had grilled AND fried chicken out in addition to their lemonade and three different types of cookies.  Pizza, hummus and pitas, sliced fruit, and chicken salad were also on hand as well as cups of water and Gatorade.  K3 Koala Bottles also had a stand set up; I have one of their bottles for my bicycle and absolutely love using it.  

  While this is the 25th anniversary for the Hot Summer Night 5k, this race took place on the same day as a particular race I did as a child 35 years ago.  That race, the Woodstock 5k, was then known as the Midsummer Morn 5k and was organized by the Alabama Shakespeare Festival before they moved to Montgomery, Alabama.  When that happened, the Anniston Runners Club agreed to take it over and eventually renamed it for the street it took place on.  That particular race has become the Anniston Runners Club signature race and according to the Anniston Star, the local newspaper, over 1200 people participated in that race this year.  It seems that race has grown significantly since I first took part back in July of 1983.  While I couldn’t make it to the then called Midsummer Morn 5k, I still like taking part in what I consider a Columbia tradition with the Hot Summer Night 5k.