Kentucky qualifies largest group ever for All-Guard Marathon Team

Staff Report

Members of the Kentucky Guard Marathon team travelled to Lincoln, Nebraska in May of 2017 to participate in the All-Guard Marathon (photo submitted)

LINCOLN, Neb. –The Kentucky National Guard Marathon team showcased its unbridled spirit this year by qualifying its largest group of runners for the All-Guard Marathon Team at the 2017 National Guard Marathon in Lincoln, Neb., on May 7, 2017.

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Five Kentucky runners qualified for the Elite All-Guard Marathon Team.  This is the largest representation of Kentuckians ever on the Marathon Team, said Team Captain, Maj. Varinka Ensminger of the 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade.  Kentucky had nine runners compete and finished eighth among the states.

“The marathon is a tough race and it’s even tougher in the heat,” said Ensminger, who competed in the Boston Marathon a few weeks prior.

This is the fifth year she has completed this double. “It’s always a gamble on how your legs are going to feel afterwards. I am so thankful that we competed well and that I can share new experiences with these new Kentucky runners as part of the 2017-18 All-Guard Marathon Team.”

This year’s team consisted of Col. Christan Stewart, Joint Force Headquarters, Maj. Varinka Ensminger, 149th MEB, Maj. Derek Hart, 149th MEB, Chief Warrant Officer Allen Davis, 149th Brigade Support Battalion, Sgt. 1st Class Amy Parker, 149th BSB,  Sgt. 1st Class Michael Embury, 202nd Army Band, Sgt. Angela Sullivan, 201st Engineer Battalion,  Sgt. David Sullivan, 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry and Sgt. James Wallace, 202nd Band.

Kentucky welcomed a new teammate while saying farewell to another one. Wallace competed in his last Lincoln Marathon as a Guardsman, while Hart competed in his first. Wallace has served for 40 years and enjoyed a small roasting session during the weekend events. This event, though not his best performance, was one of the most memorable.

“The discipline required to run 26.2 miles is the same discipline necessary to fight and win on the battlefield,” said Wallace. “We had Soldiers ranging in age from their 20s to 60.  An event like the Lincoln Marathon creates teamwork and camaraderie; it profiles the best of the Guard to over 12,000 area athletes and thousands of local residents.”

“My first year on the Kentucky National Guard Marathon Team was a fantastic experience,” said Hart. “What stood out to me the most was the competitive, yet collegial atmosphere of the event. The Kentucky Team welcomed me immediately, with a truly team-first approach.  Although not performing my best on race day, it’s an experience I immensely enjoyed and look forward to participating in again.”

Over 14 years of trying to make All-Guard National team, dreams finally became reality for Davis. “The road to getting to All-Guard has been one of my greatest adventures of my life,” he said.

He attributes his success to the people that have positively influenced his running career to do more than he thought was physically possible and his Professional Education Center (PEC) instructors that led him to the Marathon program.  He said the experience of meeting other runners across the National Guard and the challenge of the marathon is what has kept him coming back.  The training involved for this one event has become a major part of his life and recruiting others to achieve what few will ever know.  He prepared for the marathon by competing in several races during the year, proudly displaying his Kentucky Marathon Team shirt as added motivation.

“I will never be able to repay what the National Guard Marathon program has done for me; the physical and mental benefits it provides; and the people and places that I’ve seen,” said Davis.  “Now the training starts all over to get ready for the next race against the clock.”

The race is held in the beginning of May annually in Lincoln, but this year’s weather was abnormal according to the participants. Temperatures rose from the 50’s to start the race into the 80’s by race end.

“We knew the warm weather would pose challenges from the beginning.  Hydration and smart pacing are the keys.  I consumed over 45 ounces of SWORD on the course, and I worked hard to hold back at the start of the race,” said Embury.  “For marathons in general, but especially marathons in conditions like that, the races really begin in earnest around mile 20.  The runners who have run smart races to that point usually end up finishing in line with their expectations.”

More than 13,500 marathoners registered for this year’s marathon making it the largest yet in its 40-year existence. Among those athletes, 150 marathoners from the Army and Air National Guard representing 40 states and two U.S. territories pounded pavement for 26.2 miles.  The National Guard Marathon Recruiting and Retention Workshop and Marathon Event serves as the national trials for selection onto the National Guard’s All-Guard Marathon Team. By qualifying, they gain the privilege to represent the National Guard throughout the year in various competitions nationwide.

Team members train independently with their home states and meet up at the duty location of the competition.  Their mission is to advocate for the National Guard through local and national media, host booths event expositions, support and offer advice to local athletes, and gain leads for future recruits and potential athletes.

2017 Kentucky National Guard Marathon Team

8th Place — 10:07:40 Kentucky (Average: 3:22:34)

2017 Lincoln National Guard Marathon Award Recipients

1st Place in the 35-39 Female Age Division

MAJ Varinka Barbini Ensminger, 149th MEB

2017 National Guard Marathon Championships Award Recipients

3rd Female Overall

MAJ Varinka Barbini Ensminger, 149th MEB

1st Male in 40-45 Age Division

SFC Michael Embury, 202nd Army Band

3rd Female in 40-45 Age Division

SFC Amy Parker, 149th BSB

3rd Male in 50-55 Age Division

CW3 Allen Davis, 149th BSB

2017-2018 National Guard Elite Marathon Team Qualifiers

COL Christan Stewart, JFHQs- Air

MAJ Varinka Barbini Ensminger, 149th MEB

SFC Michael Embury, 202nd Army Band

CW3 Allen Davis, 149th  BSB

SFC Amy Parker, 149thBSB

 

For more information about the Kentucky National Guard Marathon Team, contact Maj. Varinka Barbini Ensminger at varinka.t.ensminger.mil@mail.mil

 

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