Marine Corps Marathon

Reprinted from PN January 2010

Winds and rain the night before clear the way for cool temperatures, sunny skies, and great racing at the 34th Marine Corps Marathon, in Arlington, Va.

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Approximately 55 handcyclists and 4 pushrim racers lined up on the starting line on October 2, 2009, for the 34th Marine Corps Marathon, in Arlington, Va. High winds and rain the night before had competitors scrambling for wet-weather gear just in case it was needed.

Fortunately, the bad weather moved out of the area Saturday night. Cool temperatures in the low 50s and sunshine made for a great day of competition. The Paralyzed Veterans of America Racing Team had ten athletes competing on behalf of the PVA.

PVA Team member Scot Seiss, a double amputee from Rocky Ridge, Md., took first-place honors in the men’s handcycling division, winning in 1:22:47. About three minutes behind him, in second place, was Seth Arseneau (Albuquerque), coming in at 1:25:42. Poland’s Mariusz Gryglas finished third (1:38:24).

Rounding out the top five were PVA Team members Geoff Hopkins (Fredericksburg, Va.) and Bill Schwarz (Kinderhook, N.Y.). Hopkins and Schwarz worked together for the entire 26.2 miles. Neither wanted to cross the finish line before the other, so they both stopped one foot short of the line and argued about who was going first. After about 45 seconds, they decided to cross together, in 1:45:42.

Schwarz says, “Everything about the Marine Corps Marathon, from the ease and fairness of the registration process to the thoughtful start-line/finish-line logistics for athletes with disabilities to the overwhelming support of the volunteers and spectators, and to the beautiful and challenging race course, made for a truly memorable event. Of course, the absolute best part of the day was having an opportunity to race as a member of the PVA Team.”

Achilles Team member David Swaim, who was in third place at the eight-mile mark in the men’s handcycling division, took a horrific crash into a parked car.

“I was going down the hill on Wisconsin Avenue at a pretty good speed, when all of a sudden my brake cable broke and I was not able to reach my parking brake,” explains Swaim. “I managed to pull my foot from the strap and use it to slow down, but I still took a hard left turn and rolled over once to stop upon hitting the car.”

Swaim sustained some pretty good road rash and two weeks later still had some asphalt in his skin. His bike incurred some damage as well.

Assisted mentally by her husband, handcycle racer Mike Sprouse, PVA Team member Peggy Sprouse (Orlando, Fla.) won the women’s handcycling division in 2:20:14.

Sponsored by GTI Federal, David Swope (New Windsor, Md.) finished in 2:03:03 to win the men’s racing wheelchair division. He says he’s “used to having many other pushrim racers to compete with, but this year there were just a few.”

PVA Team member Holly Koester (Cleveland) won the women’s racing wheelchair division (3:51:39).

“It was an honor to be among so many veterans showing runners that we can still compete and live a full and happy life,” Koester says. “I had so many positive compliments and cheers from the runners; I felt excited to be among them.”

Members of the PVA Racing Team are Hopkins, Mike and Peggy Sprouse, Mike Fradera, Schwarz, Roger Barbee, Tom Gorman, Malcom Whyte, Seiss, and Koester.

“Hope for the Warriors” entered Team Bradford. What makes it special is Lance Corporal Matt Bradford, a blind double amputee wounded in Iraq. He wanted to complete the marathon after doing ten miles on his prostheses during the Baton Death March (March 2009).

In addition to Bradford, the team consisted of four guides: Corporal Zach Briseno, a double amputee; Major A.J. Tong, amputee; Sergeant John Reyna, nonwounded Marine support; and Captain Chris Ayres, who has a mobility impairment. Sgt. Reyna was Bradford’s eyes through verbal commands; no tether was used.

The rest of us were direction and crowd control, and we all gave Bradford motivational support. He completed the race in 4 hours 54 minutes.


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