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During the 39th Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) while runners were still streaming across the finish line, a special ceremony was hosted not too far away from the arch on the grounds of the Marine Corps War Memorial that celebrated those military members whose outstanding performances garnered stunning awards and esteemed recognition from military leaders and MCM sponsors. Just as most running events recognize top finishers and even age group winners, the MCM justifiably honors those runners who participate as representatives of their branch of service through a variety of competitions and categories.
Colonel Archibald McLellan, the Commanding Officer of Marine Corps Special Operations Support Group, presented the first male and female active duty Marine finisher a recon paddle.
“The recon paddle ties back to the days of the Marine Raiders,” McLellan explained. “In the old days, a recon Marine was issued a paddle. When the Raiders were doing small boat operations, everyone would have to get in and paddle. If anyone didn’t paddle or pull his own weight, the boat would get tipped.
“The first Marine finishers have shown they are pulling their weight,” he continued. “Each member of the Marine Corps team had to do their absolute best to make the team successful. Being the top finisher is a distinction all its own.”
Receiving the paddles at the 2014 MCM were Captain Luke Rodina, an intelligence officer stationed at Camp Pendleton, CA, who crossed the finish line in 2:39:38, and Captain Angelica Valdez, an intelligence officer stationed locally at Marine Corps Base Quantico, who took the top spot for the ladies at 3:05:15.
“The biggest honor of the day was wearing the Marine Corps singlet. You feel like you can’t slow down or stop at any point,” said Valdez, who, for the second time, placed first among active duty Marines. “I’m glad I was able to represent the Marine Corps again this year.”
The top runners from the United States Navy were presented custom crystal plaques courtesy of Navy Federal Credit Union.
Petty Officer Second Class Justin Turner, stationed at Naval Station North Island, finished the MCM in 2:25:05.
"This was the second time I’ve received this award,” said Turner. “It’s one of my favorite trophies because it means on that day I was the number one runner in the Navy. It’s such a prestigious award to receive.”
Turner’s impressive performance also earned him the third place overall male Armed Forces Finisher award.
Fellow sailor Lieutenant Gina Slaby, a Supply Corps Officer for the Navy currently deployed to Djibouti, Africa, placed first for the U.S. Navy women, and second overall female in the U.S. Armed Forces, by completing the event in 2:52:32.
“I was proud to be able to wear NAVY across my chest, especially at the Marine Corps Marathon,” said Slaby. “Throughout the entire race the crowds are supporting you and providing encouragement. It makes for a really nice event.”
Both the men’s and women’s first place Armed Forces runners are currently serving in the U.S. Army. Specialist Samuel Kosgei, stationed at Fort Riley, KS, (2:22:12) and Captain Meghan Curran, currently stationed at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, (2:51:47) stood on the top spot of the military awards podium on October 26.
U.S. Armed Forces Sports Secretariat Steve Dinote presented the top armed forces finishers with stunning medals. He also presented awards to the top military teams competing in the Armed Forces Championship, hosted annually during the MCM.
Military teams consist of five men and four women, with the top scores of four men and two women averaged to score the teams. The U.S. Army men, led by Kosgei, placed first in the men’s competition with an average time of 2:29:27. Slaby lead her Navy team to the championship title, averaging a team time of 2:57:19. Active duty military members were not the only military status to be recognized during the ceremony. GE awarded stunning crystal eagles to the top retired military members completing the MCM.
U.S. Marine Corps retired LtCol. Alex Hetherington returned to take this award for the fourth consecutive year.
“I still try to compete as a Marine,” said Hetherington, who has completed the event 20 times. “This award represents an opportunity to measure myself as I always have. It’s not about getting faster, it’s about not getting any slower! So far, it’s been a great experience.
“The retired military award combines two things that are important to me, running and being a Marine. Running the MCM gives me the opportunity to be a successful former Marine.”
Shannon Simon, Sergeant, U.S. Army retired, took home this award for the ladies.
“I had no idea the award existed, so I was really surprised,” said Simon, who was medically retired from the Army in 2004. “To run with my fellow service members was an honor, especially during wartime and within a month of Veteran’s Day. I’m thankful to be part of such an amazing event.”
The Paul Ice Award will be presented to the first USMC Reserve finisher by the Oklahoma City Running Club. The award is presented in honor of Marine LtCol Paul Ice, who was killed in the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.
Perhaps the most sought after military award celebrates the 38-year rivalry from across the ocean; the Challenge Cup Competition. Men and women of the U.S. Marine Corps and the British Royal Navy/Marines compete for the right to possess the coveted Challenge Cup Trophy, an 1897 Victorian silver cup that originally belonged to the H.M.S. Victory.
This year, Commodore Richard Allen presented the Royal Navy/Marine men with the illustrious trophy, while the U.S. Marine Corps women’s team kept the women’s Challenge Cup here in the states, finishing the event with a team average of 3:06:38.
Both foreign and domestic, military members of every grade and status are an important part of the MCM. From its origin as a reservist organized event in 1976, the MCM now receives support from 2,300 active duty uniformed Marines and Sailors. It is only fitting those in service to our country remain on the forefront of recognition through an awards program that commemorates the important role the military plays in the success of “The Peoples Marathon.”
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