Centennial, Colorado –
CENTENNIAL, Colo. – Two Colorado Guardsmen went above and beyond the call of duty to participate in the Colorado Marathon near Fort Collins May 3.
Air Force Maj. Scott Jenkins, an operations officer on the Colorado National Guard's Joint staff, and Army Sgt. 1st Class Brian Benge, a Recruiting and Retention Battalion noncommissioned officer in charge, successfully completed the marathon and proudly represented the Guard and their respective services in the race.
Both Guardsmen are experienced runners; Benge has seven half marathons and four full-distance races under his belt. Jenkins used the marathon as part of his training with the intent to compete in the Leadville 100 in August, a race consisting of extreme terrain at elevations from 9,200 to 12,600 feet spanning 100 miles in the Colorado Rockies.
Similar inspirations drive both of these military leaders to accomplish such impressive feats. Jenkins said he enjoys the challenge.
"It's not very often you can put yourself in the circumstance where you are confronted with your physical limitations," he said. "I like to reach the point where you have to tap into the reserve you didn't know you have."
Benge's devotion to physical fitness and leading by example drives his determination to complete long-distance races. He said as a recruiter, he and his staff are often the first military example the public regularly sees. He puts emphasis on Soldiers' maintaining the physical stamina required to perform in the military, and encourages others to participate in races in the community.
Benge also wore a Bataan Death March Memorial race T-shirt he earned after completing that marathon in high desert terrain at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. He is a big advocate of military heritage and of the importance of taking pride in honoring the heroic service of those who sacrificed so much to defend the Philippines in World War II.
Jenkins said the highlight of the Colorado Marathon was the vibrancy of the community who turned up to cheer on the race participants.
"All the energetic, supportive folks who offered up lots of encouragement," he said. "The course itself was very tidy and the event was well-organized, run by some great people."
"We are so blessed (in Colorado) to be able to walk out the front door and have purple mountains in our view and trails everywhere," continued Jenkins, who frequently enjoys outdoor activities with his wife and five children, all of whom embrace the active lifestyle. His four girls are runners and swimmers and his son –the youngest – participates in wrestling, just like his father did when he attended the Air Force Academy.
"I started out running long distances when I paced my wrestling coach at the academy," Jenkins said.
His coach completed the Leadville 100 after three attempts and Jenkins hopes to do the same, having dropped off at approximately the 60-mile mark in his last two endeavors. His strategy this time? To train for it by putting in more miles – something he hadn't done in past attempts due to recently returning from deployments.
Benge described the majestic views along the Poudre Canyon and the course that runs along the river as some of the best in Colorado, and suggested it would be an ideal environment for anyone considering doing their first marathon.
Neither participant had any hard-and-fast rules for training; just putting in the time seemed to be the prevailing factor for success in completing a race of this caliber. Their advice is simply to train for it. Both credited hard work, perseverance and an overwhelming sense of accomplishment as contributing to their success.
When asked about the feeling after completing the 26.2 miles, Benge abruptly answered, "Hunger!" Aside from that, "it's the best endorphin high you can get. After running that long, you're spent, but you feel incredible because you've accomplished something."
Jenkins said as a former wrestler, he's not built for running, but setting a goal and working toward it helped him focus. As did his coach's inspiration: mental toughness is a huge testament to the power of the human spirit.
"When you get to the point you think you can't go any more, there's satisfaction in going further," Jenkins said.