Running Towards a Closing Gate
United States Air Force Marathon
By Officer Tom McMurtry CPT (RET) US Army Special Forces
*This is an article from the Winter 2022/2023 issue of Combat Stress
I saw what they were doing but it made no sense.
200 yards ahead uniformed men were pulling chain link fences on wheels
across the four-lane entrance to the base.
What was going on? Was there a change in the marathon route?
150 yards ahead the left side was closed while
several Air Force buses began arriving.
Four hours ago, we were a single mass of ten thousand runners.
Now a string of individuals miles long.
I was in the last third with six miles and
100 yards to go.
A Sergeant stepped into the road and held up a hand.
Everybody on the bus. The racecourse is closed.
Too many heat casualties and not enough transports.
50 yards to go.
It was hot. We had been running on asphalt without shade for miles.
MedEvacs had been picking up runners for hours, so I understood.
Deeply disappointed after months of training,
I slowed and turned toward the buses.
Then I saw them.
30 yards to go.
Runners were still going through the narrowing entrance.
I picked up my pace.
25 yards to go.
I passed the busses and the Sergeant trying to get my attention.
20 yards to go.
The lanes were closed leaving only a gap by the guardhouse.
15 yards to go.
The last two runners in front of me made in through.
10 yards to go.
I started pumping my arms to give the impression of sprinting.
5 yards to go.
I yelled “One more!”
The Airman pulling on the leading edge looked up and paused.
I slid behind him, brushing against him ever so slightly.
The gate was closed.
I was still running.