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Face of Defense: Retired NCO Runs Army 10-Miler on 80th Birthday

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Jon Soucy
National Guard Bureau

ARLINGTON, Va., Oct. 23, 2013 – More than 35,000 runners took part in the 29th annual Army 10-Miler on Oct. 20, marking the biggest turnout for the run in its history. But for one runner taking part in the event, it marked a different sort of milestone.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Army Command Sgt. Maj. Brunk W. Conley, center, the current sergeant major of the Army National Guard, and retired Army Command Sgt. Maj. Al Hunt Jr., with glasses, the first sergeant major of the Army Guard, run toward the finish line of the Army 10-Miler, Oct. 20, 2013. Hunt, who turned 80 the day of the race, completed the run in just under three hours, with Conley and other soldiers assigned to the Army National Guard Readiness Center running alongside him. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jon Soucy

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

For retired Army Command Sgt. Maj. Al Hunt Jr., who from 1976 to 1978 served as the first sergeant major of the Army National Guard, the day also marked his 80th birthday. To mark the occasion, Hunt ran this year’s course with Command Sgt. Maj. Brunk W. Conley, the current sergeant major of the Army Guard, as well as with soldiers assigned to the Army National Guard Readiness Center.

“Today is my 80th birthday,” Hunt said after the race. “I ran 10 miles, and I finished. It’s an experience that everybody needs to challenge themselves.”

Hunt finished the course in just under three hours, but it wasn’t his first time taking part in the 10-Miler. He ran the race in 1994, and also has taken part in a number of marathons as well over more than six decades of running.

“I started running in high school to become part of a team that could challenge you both physically and mentally,” he said. “It also provided individual measurements of one’s limits.”

And testing his limits was one of the reasons Hunt said he chose to run in this year’s 10-Miler. Age alone presented limits to test, made even more challenging by the fact that Hunt is visually impaired and legally blind.

“When you’re hearing-impaired or visually impaired you don’t ever let that stop you,” Hunt said. “You can overcome.”

Others kept him motivated, the retired sergeant major said.

“The people that really inspired me were the wounded warriors,” he said. “I mean, they’re coming back with limbs missing. It’s just a generation of “you can do anything.” All you have to do is just step out and do it.”

The Army 10-Miler also represented a homecoming of sorts for Hunt.

“My kids used to run with me. When I was stationed here at the Pentagon and lived on Fort Myer, we used to run these same bridges and around all these monuments,” he said. “It was a challenge to come back here and do it again.”

It was a homecoming in other ways as well, he added. “It means that I had returned and experienced running with a team and that’s what the Guard is all about,” he said.

For Conley, it was a chance to reconnect with the Army Guard’s past as a way to shape the future.

“The back of the [Army Guard 10-Miler] shirt says ‘A tradition of excellence,’ but excellence has to start with the first,” Conley said. “You can’t start until the first gets the ball rolling in the right direction. You’re looking at where excellence started. Everybody that has followed on since then has built on that tradition of excellence.”

And watching Hunt take part and complete the event, for some, served as a way to inspire that tradition of excellence in others.

“They say running is 90 percent mental, and I strongly believe that,” said Army Capt. Emilygrace Mate, who headed up the 10-Miler teams and the Army Guard’s participation in the event. “I think it’s a tremendous feat what he just did, and [it] gives us the motivation, especially for those of us that aren’t runners, to go out next year and run. I think it’s tremendous that he came out here and ran and set the standard for everyone.”

Hunt said it all comes back to preparing for and accepting the challenge.

“I started [preparing for the 10-Miler] in December, because you need to at least do 10 months preparation,” said Hunt, who previously coached both child and adult runners. “You can’t just go out and start running. Even at that pace and that amount of training, I still had muscle cramps, but that’s just normal. You get to a certain age and you just expect that to happen. But, you just don’t quit. That’s what this is all about.”

And Conley, the tenth Army Guard sergeant major, said he has similar challenge in mind. “I hope that when I’m 80 I can run with the 20th sergeant major of the Army Guard,” he said.

The chance to run with Hunt was an exceptional experience, Conley added. “It was a pleasure. It was an honor,” he said.


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