Against the wind:

Drill Sergeant battles self to fi nish marathon

06/08/2010  |  Spc. Joshua Flowers 95th Training Division (IET) Public Affairs
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Staff Sgt. Haywood Gordon fi nishes strong after the Cowtown Marathon’s grueling 26.2 mile run last February. Courtesy Photo.

A marathon is unlike any other athletic competition in the world.  Runners will describe it as a mixture of 26.2 miles of pure hell and absolute freedom.  It is a contest of wills that not necessarily pits the runners against each other but against themselves.  The winner is not always decided by the one with the best build, the best coaches or the best training aides.  To paraphrase legendary runner Steve Prefontaine, it’s not the fastest runner who wins the race but the one with the most guts.

A similar thought was creeping into the mind of Staff Sgt. Haywood Gordon, who serves as a drill sergeant for Bravo Company in the 108th Training Command’s Drill Sergeant School at Oklahoma City, Okla., as he neared the 20 mile mark during the annual running of the Fort Worth Cowtown Marathon this past February 27.  Struggling to maintain his pace and his focus through the final leg of the race, he continually thought about shutting it down.

“The mp3 player helped a little, but the pain superseded the false motivation.  I’ve never ran that far, and it gets longer as you run.  I wanted to stop after 18+ miles, but there was no where to go.” 

“So, I ran to the finish line.”

Crossing the line in a time 4 hours, 28 minutes and 24 seconds, Gordon finished 17th in his weight class and accomplished an impressive feat that few fail to even attempt.  Despite the mental and physical exhaustion of the marathon, Gordon felt the same post-race elation that so many runners talk about.

“You feel everything...every emotion...and your hair hurts.  I thanked God for giving me the physical and mental strength to finish and add another accomplishment to my list.”

It was an accomplishment shared by the 20,000 plus other runners participating in this year’s Cowtown Marathon, which is the biggest turnout the race has seen in its history.  The Cowtown Marathon christened its starting gates on February 17, 1979, during a blustery 22 degree day with only a meager 210 registrants.  Now one of the largest multi-race events in the United States, the marathon is one of the most anticipated events in the Lone Star State and plays a major role in promoting community health and wellness to North Texans of all fitness levels.

Inspired by the contestants on the television show The Biggest Loser, Gordon wanted to push the limits of his own physical fitness and consequently that of his co-workers as well.   

“Everyone needs to challenge themselves by pushing the envelope.  You have to be a very mentally capable person to finish strong.  This is what I tell my co-workers and military unit.  It is 50/50.  Physical fitness and mental tenacity go hand in hand.”

Though he felt the marathon’s toll for many days after crossing the finish line, Gordon exudes the Army’s Warrior spirit and urges every soldier to register and begin preparation for next year’s marathon.

“You hurt.....swear that you will never do it again......then prepare to do the next one!”

If you think you’re up to the challenge, visit the Cowtown Marathon’s website at www.cowtownmarathon.org.  Events include the Ultra Marathon, Marathon, Half-Marathon, 10K, Adult 5K and Kids 5K.  Online registration is not open yet for next year’s event but you can contact their head office at [email protected] for any questions you might have.

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