Staff Sgt. Gregory Bontrager, 33, didn’t do anything special to train for the inaugural Army Marathon on Sunday even though it was his first.
Bontrager, a Harker Heights resident serving with the 3rd Cavalry Regiment, said his training consisted of a 5-mile run at least three times a week.
“I actually run all the time, I just never did anything more than 10 miles,” he said. “I would say I’m more of a pace runner.”
Bontrager said the weather was unpredictable Sunday, as he debated about wearing long or short sleeves for the run. Before hitting the pavement, he soaked up as much advice as he could from others at the starting line.
“The group I ran with had seasoned runners and other soldiers who were also first-timers,” he said. “The overall run was a great experience; even though I got a little slow in the middle, we stayed together throughout.”
The pretzels and sandwiches supporters handed out from the sidelines helped him finish the race, he said.
Bontrager made it to the 8-mile marker in Harker Heights, at the corner of Indian Trail and Veterans Memorial Boulevard, about an hour into the race.
Dozens of Harker Heights Parks and Recreation staff and volunteers — and Bontrager’s mother, Diane Fair — cheered him on. Fair, a retired Army veteran and marathon runner, traveled from Austin to watch her son run his first marathon.
“He is following the family tradition, as both my husband and I were in the military,” she said. “I think it’s fantastic, and I think next year we will see the crowd get much bigger.”
Volunteers created signs for the marathon two weeks ago, said Heather Cox, activities coordinator.
“It’s awesome, as we got people from Harker Heights to cheer on the community and people from out of town,” she said. “We showed that we are here for them.”
“It brings good morale and spirit for everybody to show support for the cause,” said Nichole Broemer, recreation and events coordinator.
Bontrager completed the marathon in five hours and 20 minutes. He plans to participate in the soldiers marathon at Fort Benning, Ga., later this year.
“I think what’s memorable is the camaraderie, that we always stuck together and no one was getting left behind,” he said. “Everyone that was coming past us also motivated us to keep going all the way until we got to the end.”