Marine Team conquers 50-mile Rock Run
By Cpl. Wil Acosta
| | August 06, 2005
1st Marine Corps District, Garden City, N.Y. --
The Rock Run is a 50-mile, five-person relay run around Massachusetts’ Nantucket Island. This grueling race traverses a combination of soft, sandy beaches and rocky, shell-infested shores. Runners foreign to the island often find it difficult to train for these varied conditions, which have been known to render a pair of running shoes useless by weighing them down with water and sand. It’s the local lifeguards who traditionally dominate “The Rock,” running most of the home course barefoot.
But, Marines have a tradition of dominance all their own. And, one group of runners set out on a mission to prove just that by finishing the 18th annual Rock Run in 6 hours and 38 minutes … nearly 40 minutes faster than the second-place hometown favorites, Team Lifeguard.
This year’s Marine Team consisted of four Marines and one civilian. Together, they accomplished their mission in a manner familiar to the Few and the Proud. They did it with sweat, persistence and ingenuity. They came from behind to win against the odds, making home-field advantage irrelevant. But, perhaps most important was the fact that they did it as a team, utilizing each runner’s strengths to steadily advance throughout the race from 5th to 1st place.
Master Gunnery Sgt. Ken Granger, a 41 year-old operations chief assigned to 1st Marine Corps District, ran the first 13-mile leg of the race for Team Marine.
“The first leg is a challenge because it consists of the longest distance and the rockiest terrain early,” said Granger. “Additionally, we fought a strong headwind for the first 9-10 miles, slowing everyone's time down. My goal was to stay with the lifeguard running that leg. I did, keeping less than 2 minutes between the two of us. I came in 5th at the 1st relay point.”
Granger’s efforts were the result of adapting to overcome the terrain. As a veteran of the Rock Run, he knew that the wearing running shoes on wet sand would only slow him down. Going barefoot over a beach littered with jagged shells would only slice his feet into a pair of open wounds. So, Granger decided to split the difference between the evils by running in a pair of neoprene socks, or “surf booties,” which provided his feet with some protection while maintaining their lightweight function.
Capt. Ryan Walker, Individual Ready Reserve (IRR), who currently works in New York, refused to let his resourceful teammate’s hard work go to waste. Instead, he used his experience to overcome the day’s rising temperatures and best his own personal record.
“I had run the second leg two times before,” said Walker. “So, I was very familiar with the conditions and the distance. I felt great throughout the run and was able to take almost 5 minutes off my best time.”
Karen Lucas, a perennial runner of the Rock Run and a long time friend of Marine Team’s veteran members ran the next 7-mile leg. She was asked to run for the team
Marine when operational commitments made it impossible for other Marines to do so.
“We consider Karen and old friend and an honorary Marine,” said Granger. “She was the first runner we met 4 years ago at our first Rock Run race,” said Granger.
Lucas was eager to take the Marine Team up on its offer. She proved she was a worthy addition to the team by passing an opposing runner to secure third place during her leg.
“When Ryan made the transfer I took off hoping to not lose ground or our 4th place position,” said Lucas. “After 20 minutes on a mostly deserted beach, I saw footprints in the sand and knew that I was closing in on another runner. Ten minutes later, I could see him. I moved ahead and completed the third leg in third place.”
It was up to Cpl. Justin Lutz of the Selective Marine Corps Reserve of 6th Motor Transit Battalion, Providence, R.I., to help finish what his teammates had started. Lutz, a professional distance runner, was more than up to the challenge, finishing his leg of the race despite a minor injury.
“I was given the responsibility of the fourth leg, the second to last leg of the race,” said Lutz. “The terrain was extremely difficult, due to the slope of the beach meeting the water. After about 45 minutes of running at a hard pace, I felt my calf muscle pop. I had to finish the last 15 minutes of the run with a calf strain. But, I was able to hand off to my teammate with a lead, so it made all the challenges worthwhile.”
The combined effort of Lutz and his teammates provided Capt. Charles Baisley the lead for the final leg of the race, and he refused to lose it to anyone. But, losing the lead was nearly impossible at that point.
“I was handed such a huge lead that my leg was inconsequential,” said Baisley, a legal assistant officer assigned to Headquarters Marine Corps, Washington D.C.
“The caliber of runners in this year's Rock Run seemed to be better than some of the races in the past. This made the leg even more challenging and fun because it was a constant struggle, both mentally and physically, to push the envelope of my running ability regardless of the lead. I can not wait for the first weekend of August 2006 as I will get to run my favorite race of the year...The Rock Run.”