TEMPLE — On Sunday morning, arms raised high, Ruel Sword, 48, of Waco, finished the Army Marathon III with tears in her eyes. 

She had earned a gold medal, finishing as the fastest female runner with a time of 3 hours, 28 minutes and 6 seconds.

Ten minutes after concluding the 26.2-mile Killeen-to-Temple course, Sword said, “I absolutely felt a lot of emotion as I finished the race: I just couldn’t believe I was the first female.

“It was very emotional. It was very overwhelming. It’s a huge blessing and huge honor. And I’d never been the first female before in a marathon. It’s a great feeling. I’m still overwhelmed.”

At the start of the race, Sword wasn’t thinking about winning.

“I’m coming off a two-week cold,” she said. “So I wasn’t thinking about winning this at all. I haven’t been training for two weeks. I’m still congested. I did not have high hopes for this at all. I’m pleasantly surprised.”

Sword was concerned the conditions (rainy, windy and cold) would affect her ability to compete.

“But the first 10 miles I felt really good,” she said. “And, surprisingly, the whole race I felt good. There were a few real windy parts. Running uphill

through wind is not my favorite thing.”

Sword wasn’t sure where she stood with regard to positioning for most of the race.

“I was listening to music,” she said. “And I saw some people holding up their finger to me, ‘You’re No. 1.’ But I’ve had that happen to me before in races when that wasn’t true, so I wasn’t sure.

“At the very end, the last 2 miles, is when I realized I was in first place.”

This was Sword’s first entry in the Army Marathon.

“It’s a great cause,” she said. “I’m all about the veterans. They are the heroes. My dad (Joseph Calabrese) was in the Air Force. He flew in Vietnam. He flew B52s. He passed away in 2001. I was thinking about my dad when I was running, and three of my friends have passed away recently. I was running for others. A lot was going through my mind.”

In April, Sword will compete in the Boston Marathon.

“I am excited for that,” she said. “And, absolutely, I will be back here for next year’s marathon.”

Contact Allan Mandell at amandell@kdhnews.com or 254-501-7566 and read his column at KDHPressbox.com

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