Pfc. Jesus Garcia never ran a 5k, let alone a marathon. But, when his unit volunteered him in December while he was on Christmas leave, the 25-year-old soldier started training for the second annual Army Marathon.
“They called me and told me I was running a marathon,” said Garcia, Operations Company, Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division. “I’m one of the fastest runners in the company so they assumed since I run two miles very well that I could run 26 miles just fine.”
Garcia left the Killeen Civic and Conference Center for his 26.2-mile journey early Sunday morning as temperatures dipped to near freezing.
At least 1,300 people from 38 states and four countries registered for the marathon, half-marathon and 5k. Only 394 people crossed the finish line of the marathon in Temple. The race is a qualifying race for the 2015 Boston Marathon.
“Once you’re out there, you’re running with a bunch of people and you have a bunch of people cheering you on so it feels great,” he said.
“It was actually a lot more motivating than when you’re training on your own.”
Marine Corps Capt. Eric Hovey flew down from Patuxent River, Md., where he is stationed at the Small Tactical Unmanned Air Systems Program Office.
Hovey has run three Marine Corps Marathons and participated in his first Army this weekend, finishing in four hours and 39 minutes.
“I like to try and see the different crowds and it’s a good opportunity to travel,” he said. “I haven’t really been to Texas very much.”
With just a few months notice, Garcia bought running gear, dieted and dedicated himself to running 30 to 35 miles every week to prepare for the marathon. He was the 55th person to cross the finish line in Temple.
“I feel great, tired,” said Garcia, after he finished the marathon in three hours and 43 minutes. “Everything hurts but it was definitely a great experience. ... (I) would definitely do it again.”