A Fort Bliss Soldier runs the final straightaway of the Army Ten-Miler course at Fort Bliss, Texas, Oct. 11, 2020. To help the fight against the novel coronavirus, U.S. Army Military District of Washington (MDW) made the annual run a virtual event. (Photo By David Poe)

Bliss runs virtual Army Ten-Miler

By David Poe, USAG Fort Bliss Public Affairs Office

"The 'Hooah tent' is just how it is in D.C.,” said Brandon Gangstad, the Fort Bliss Army Ten-Miler team head coach, while his team communed around the protein bars and hand sanitizer, Oct. 11, 2020.

But this year, instead of once again joining 36,000 runners and countless more supporters two-thousand miles away in Washington, D.C., for the 36th annual Army Ten-Mile Race and Expo, the tent instead stood alone on Victory Circle at Fort Bliss, Texas, for Bliss’ virtual running of the fall event.

Touted as the world’s third-largest road race of its kind, the Army Ten-Miler went virtual in 2020 to encourage social distancing in the continuing fight against the novel coronavirus.

Registered runners were wired into Washington via the ten miler’s Runner Experience app, and could run anytime between Oct. 11 and Oct. 18, 2020.

The ATM is usually held in the nation’s capital by the U.S. Army Military District of Washington (MDW). The mission of the race is to “support Army outreach, build morale, and promote physical fitness” and race proceeds benefit Army Family and Morale, Welfare, and Recreation programs. To date, the ATM has generated more than $7.3 million for Army FMWR.

201010-A-KV967-1006-WEB.jpgTo support the team at Bliss, FMWR Sports had the grounds around Soto Physical Fitness Center race-ready Oct. 11, along with road assistants along the route for the team and other runners. The course extended along the straightaways of Old Ironsides Drive and Sergeant Major Blvd. along the east Bliss route. DJ KB, Fort Bliss’ resident DJ, was in person on Victory Circle to play run-ready music to keep runners energized as race time neared.

Gangstad credited the team’s ability to rise to the occasion and represent Fort Bliss well, despite the recent Covid-19 setbacks.

“We had short notice -- we only had 10 weeks to train when we usually have four-and-a-half to five months, which really gives us a good amount of time together to get everyone proficient on a ten-mile road race,” he said. “We did a lot over the phone, we let them write their plan themselves, and we met only once a week.”

This year’s team, coached by Gangstad and wife Dee Gangstad, was: Sgt. Maj. Billy Atkinson, Majs. Amanda Tooke and Braden Hesterman; Capts. James LeCraw, Spencer Hampton, and Roxanne Wegman; Staff Sgt. Andrew Miller, 1st Lt. Kristin McDaniel, Pfc. Abraham Alvarez, Seaman Apprentice Jennifer Parker, and Spcs. Osman Reyes and Mark Kimo. The service members qualified for the Ten-Miler during an FMWR road race at Bliss in August.

“Showing a good, quality event, ran well with Covid-19 restrictions,” Gangstad said of FMWR’s support of the Ten-Miler at Bliss, “this will help keep events going throughout the rest of the year.”

Gangstad, who ran his first ATM almost 20 years ago, said he was glad the event was held virtually, rather than canceling it outright, because traditions matter.

“They wanted to keep it going,” he said. “This is the thirty-sixth year. If big events like this don't do something virtual or something to that effect -- if it just dropped off and came back one or two years later -- it's a lesser thing. It's important to keep it going.”

To keep up on the Army Ten-Miler, visit armytenmiler.com

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