Face of Defense: Marine Conquers 1,000-mile Challenge
By Marine Corps Cpl. Jeff Drew
2nd Marine Division
CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan, Jan. 30, 2012 Running is in his blood, so Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Raymond German Jr.’s passion for the sport began at an early age.
Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Raymond German Jr. exercises on an elliptical machine at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, Dec. 14, 2011. German uses physical fitness as a way to get out of the office and relieve stress. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jeff Drew
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The Detroit native began running with his grandmother at a local park while growing up and eventually found his stride running alongside friends on his high school and college cross-country teams. Eventually, his love for physical fitness found its niche in the Marine Corps, where a 1,000-mile challenge piqued his interest.
It began as the Leatherneck Challenge, a series of mile markers suited to test the endurance of any Marine. By running, biking, cross training and rowing, German could have chosen 236, 472 or 944 miles, but he decided to go the distance and push himself to 1,000.
“It became a challenge between me and one of the watch officers,” said German, the legal chief for the office of the 2nd Marine Division’s staff judge advocate. “He was only out for a six-month deployment, trying to reach 236 miles.”
The competition between the two became fierce as they constantly tried to one-up each other.
“When I'd see him come in off a casual five-mile run, I would immediately go do six miles,” said Melbourne, Fla., native Marine Corps Capt. James Morgan, a government prosecutor with the 2nd Marine Division’s legal services support Section. “When I would come in and boast that I just did seven miles in the 110-degree heat, he'd go do eight miles in the 115-degree heat at an even better clip.
“It was awesome,” the captain continued. “He is just an animal when it comes to [physical training]. Even when he was having a bad day because he wasn't able to talk to his daughter or he hadn't heard from his family in a while, he'd get out there and run his worries away. It was not only awesome, it was inspiring.”
On duty, German reviews and processes investigations within the entire division of 10,000 Marines. Running, he said, allows him to get out of the office and relieve stress. It cleanses his soul and it is where his mind can escape, he added.
“I think about my daughter – she’s about to be 7 this year,” German said. “I think about her starting to run and following in my footsteps. I think about things I could do to better myself. My thoughts are random – as I’m running, they’re running.”
For a long time, German used his runs as a way to train for Camp Leatherneck’s Marine Corps Marathon. With so many miles to go, he spiced up his many runs around the base by changing his routes frequently and challenging himself to break personal records on various courses to avoid monotony.
When he wasn’t hitting the pavement, he went to the cardio gym to work out on an elliptical machine, treadmill or bike.
“It’s very repetitive, but being able to get out there and not worry about where you are, just worry about your running – you kind of forget that you’re running in circles sometimes,” German said.
He finished the 1,000-mile challenge Jan. 16 with a morning run followed by three miles in the cardio gym, only nine months after beginning. His goals don’t stop there though, as he is training to beat a half-marathon time of an hour and 30 minutes.
“It’s about challenging yourself,” German said. “It’s pushing your body beyond its limits. As you get older, you always want to put a goal out there in front of you.”