VNG Soldiers compete in All-Guard Marathon trials

(U.S. National Guard photo by Sgt. Lisa Crawford)

OMAHA, Neb. — Three Virginia National Guard Soldiers competed for a spot on the elite All-Guard Marathon Team during National Guard Marathon Time Trials, held during the Omaha Marathon Sept. 20, 2020, in Omaha, Nebraska. More than 125 National Guard runners from 34 states and territories competed in the race. 

Master Sgt. Ramon Abreu-Perez, the Virginia Army National Guard master fitness coordinator, competed in the time trials, as did Staff Sgt. Michael Martin and Spc. Jason Ames. Ultimately, the VNG trio did not make the All-Guard team, despite Ames and Martin both notching personal record finish times during the race. 

“I was able to finish the marathon despite a recent hamstring injury,” said Abreu-Perez. “The other two athletes from the team did very well.”

The annual team trials are usually held in Lincoln, Nebraska, during the Lincoln Marathon and Half-Marathon. That event was originally scheduled for March 2020, but was canceled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

For Martin, being able to represent the VNG at a race with with runners from across the Guard and the county meant something special. 

“To represent the Virginia team was on a whole other level,” said Martin. “Words honestly cannot describe the feeling of representing the Guard and our state doing something I’m truly passionate about. It was not only an honor, but very humbling as well.”

Martin, who ran cross country and track in high school, only recently accomplished his life-long goal of completing a marathon. 

“A long-term goal for me was to run a marathon before I was 40. I am currently 41,” said Martin. “I turned 40 in August of 2019, and I ran my first marathon in March of 2019 at Shamrock Marathon here in Virginia Beach, with a time of 4:03.

“Funny thing is I thought it was going to be one and done. Boy was I wrong,” he said. Though it was just his second full marathon, Martin ran a personal best time of 3:14. 

Both Martin and Abreu-Perez are hoping more VNG Soldiers and Airmen get involved in the marathon program. 

“I am really hoping that we can increase the awareness of the existence of this programs and get more participation,” said Abreu-Perez. “We have a lot of hidden talent within our organization.”

“This program allows you to showcase your talent and hard work. We need more soldiers to get on board,” added Martin. “Some states had 10-15 runners, and it would be nice to do the same with Virginia.”

Martin said any Soldier on the fence about starting marathon training should take the plunge and get started. 

“Running was a part of the old PT test and still is a part of the new ACFT,” Martin said. “I know 26.2 miles is a lot longer than two miles. The gratification, accomplishment and proving to yourself you are capable of doing a marathon is life-changing. 

“Being part of a team, being challenged and encouraged every step of the way. We need you and want you, come run with us. You get paid to travel and run.”

Abreu-Perez said the VNG Marathon Team is in the process of organizing Endurance Team time trials to be held at Fort Pickett in early 2021, open to any interested Guard member who wants to participate, ahead of the 2021 All-Guard Marathon Team Trials, which will be held Lincoln, Nebraska in May 2021.