Face of Defense: Surgeon Tops Personal Best in Marathon
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Paula Taylor
Task Force Bastogne
NANGARHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan, Jan. 31, 2011 After tossing and turning for most of the night, Army Maj. (Dr.) Patrick Smock finally rolled out of bed at 3:30 a.m. yesterday.
He’d trained hard for four months, and the day finally had arrived for the 745th Forward Surgical Team orthopedic surgeon to run the 26.2-mile Miami Marathon -- thousands of miles from Florida amid the concrete barriers and concertina wire that line the perimeter of Forward Operating Base Fenty in eastern Afghanistan.
Army Maj. (Dr.) Patrick Smock of Liberty Hill, Texas, runs the Miami Marathon satellite race at Forward Operating Base Fenty in eastern Afghanistan, Jan. 30, 2011. His brothers, also doctors, ran the Miami Marathon in Florida later that day. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Richard Daniels Jr.
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
As he arrived at the start line, a few stars still shone through the clouds and dotted the sky. Soon, the sun would begin to crest over the snow-capped mountains.
As Smock and the other marathoners took off down the dusty hardtop road, they soon came across a group of up-armored trucks getting ready to roll out on a convoy.
“That really puts things in perspective,” Smock said later. “You see that and you think, ‘This [race] is just for fun.’ By the second lap, those guys were already gone, doing their job.”
At the halfway mark, Smock said, he was doing well, but the going got tougher with about five miles to go. “I hit my wall about 21, 22 miles,” he said, “and started to need to take a break -- walk it out and make sure I keep fueling myself up. I used that finish line as my motivation.”
Smock, who lives in Liberty Hill, Texas, said he and his brothers, Michael and David, had planned to run the Miami Marathon together for almost a year
“We are all doctors, all went to the same school, and are all very active, but have never run a marathon together,” he said. “When I found out that I would be deployed and unable to run with them in Miami, it was disappointing, but I decided that it would not stop me from running ‘with’ them, even if it was from halfway around the world.”
Shortly after arriving at Fenty, Smock said, he contacted the Miami Marathon race directors and inquired about a satellite run. They were receptive and were happy to sponsor the run. “They also sent T-shirts, medals and several other goodies to pass out to all the participants,” he added.
Smock said he wore out three pairs of track shoes running laps around the airstrip to train for the event. The soles on the pair he wore for yesterday’s race, in fact, were starting to separate.
Though Smock missed an opportunity to be with his brothers when they ran the marathon in Miami just 10 hours after he finished his, he said he plans on running in future events together with them, barring another deployment.
“I don’t know if we will run Miami together in the future -- that will most likely depend on how our schedules work out -- but we are already tentatively planning to sign up this summer for the Ironman Triathlon in Lake Placid [New York] in 2012,” Smock said. “Hopefully, no deployments interfere with those plans. I don’t think I could find a place to swim in Iraq or Afghanistan.”
The 26.2 miles of the satellite course at Fenty comprised eight laps around the airstrip. Smock finished the race in 3 hours, 27 minutes.
“I crushed my goal,” he said. “I had run two marathons before, and I did each of those in just under four hours. I wanted to run 3:30 today. I think my official clock time was 3:27 and some change. I’m so excited right now!”