Virginia Guard Soldiers compete in Lincoln National Guard Marathon

The Virginia Guard Marathon team poses for a group photo in Lincoln, Neb. where they ran the Lincoln National Guard Marathon. (Photo Courtesy the Nebraska National Guard)

The Virginia Guard Marathon Team poses for a group photo in Lincoln, Neb. where they ran the Lincoln National Guard Marathon May 6, 2013. (Photo Courtesy the Nebraska National Guard)

RICHMOND, Va. – Six Soldiers from the Virginia National Guard Marathon Team competed in the Lincoln National Guard Marathon held May 6, 2013 in Lincoln, Neb., running 26.2 miles alongside National Guard Soldiers and Airmen from across the nation. The marathon acts as a recruiting tool for the National Guard while also promoting physical fitness and esprit de corps, and allows the National Guard’s strongest runners to compete for a spot on the All-Guard Marathon Team.

The marathon participants from the Virginia Guard included Capt. John Zimmermann, Capt. Justin Ririe, and Maj. Gavin Boyd, all from the 29th Infantry Division; Chief Warrant Officer 3 Gregg Whisler, from 91st Troop Command; Maj. Edmund Sabo from Joint Force Headquarters; and Lt. Col. Barry Davis, currently stationed in Nebraska.

Zimmermann took on the role of team captain for the first time this year and ran his 10th National Guard Marathon since 2001. He has also ran the Chicago Marathon a total of 12 times, including once by satellite while he was deployed to Afghanistan and the 26.2 miles he ran through Nebraska this year served as his 35th marathon.

Zimmermann says Virginia Guard participation in the event is important for a variety of reasons. “As a Guardsman, one of the things we strive to present is a physically fit condition and what better way to demonstrate that than the running of a marathon, both for our fellow service members and the community at large.” The marathon also aids with boosting awareness of the many unique ways National Guardsmen and women are active in the community and “serves as a great retention tool as many members of both the All-Guard Team and the state teams choose to stay in the Guard because of the relationships they have developed in the marathon program, as well as the opportunity to participate in competitions,” Zimmermann said.

Sabo competed in Lincoln for the third time this year and, since starting to race in 2000, has gone on to race in every distance up to and including the JFK 50-miler. He said the team’s time in Lincoln not only included the marathon, but also seminars on the importance of physical fitness and how to utilize something they love – running – to help their fellow Soldiers and Airmen. Staying fit can be a challenge for traditional National Guard Soldiers and Airmen who might only put on a uniform a few days a month, but “competitive sports are a great way to build esprit de corps and keep Soldiers active between [drill] weekends,” Sabo said.

The Virginia Guard Marathon Team comes together in the early part of each year when the team’s captain sends out a notice explaining the National Guard Marathon Program and listing the eligibility requirements. Runners submit qualifying times and compete for the available slots.

More from the Lincoln National Guard Marathon:

Photos: 2013 National Guard Marathon