ARLINGTON, Va. — Eight years ago, Chief Warrant Officer 2nd Class Johnathan Holsey lost his left leg after an IED hit his convoy in Ramadi, Iraq. He never thought he’d be where he is today: running long-distance races with the help of a carbon-fiber prosthetic.
“I used to always say if I could run more than two miles, I’d be happy,” said Holsey, who finished his fifth Army Ten-Miler race Sunday at the Pentagon.
Under a clear sky, Holsey was among more than 30,000 runners who wound their way from the Pentagon through downtown Washington D.C. and back again in the race, now in its 28th year.
“I never ran the Army Ten-Miler or anything of this distance before I got injured,” said Holsey, 39, who is stationed in Belgium. “When you look at the fact that I’ve done more after my injury than I did before, it just shows you how things you overcome can also empower you to be stronger and make you seek things that you probably never would have thought about doing.”
By being able to run 10 months after he lost his leg and then go on to compete in several races, Holsey hopes that he will be able to inspire other wounded veterans facing a difficult recovery process.
“I was where you were one day. And you’re going to be where I’m at one day,” Holsey said. “So just never give up and keep moving forward. It’s not over. Just keep going.”
Seeing wounded warriors such as Holsey able to compete and finish the race served as inspiration even for race winner Tesfaye Sendeku Alemayehu of Ethiopia.
“I’m very glad (to be) running with the wounded warriors,” Alemayehu, 28, said. “It’s great to be here. I’m proud of them.”
Alemayehu was running on Team I Run 4 God (IR4G), which was competing in honor of a team member’s relative who has been hospitalized with traumatic brain injury.
The relative, who’s been at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for two years, was able to attend the race and was moved to tears, said Lt. Col. (Ret.) Sue Bozgoz, coach of IR4G.
“To run in honor of the soldier, especially a team member’s soldier, gives them hope,” Bozgoz said. “If we can give them hope, that’s all that matters.”
And participating in the race was just a small way to show support for the troops, said Kerri Gallagher, 23, of Washington D.C., who took first place in the women’s division.
“They couldn’t do more for this country,” Gallagher said. “If it’s a little thing like running 10 miles to give back, or even just show my support, then I’m happy to do it.”
Alemayehu finished at 47:48, while Gallagher came in at 56:09, according to unofficial results on the race's website.
John Faulkenberry of Fort Sam Houston came in first for the men's Wounded Warriors division at 1:03:45, while Scot Seiss won the hand cycle division at 29:44. Lisa-Marie Wiley of Fort Sam Houston was the only runner in the women's Wounded Warriors division, finishing at 1:32:35. Stefan Leroy of Bethesda won the women's hand cycle division at 36:42 and Chandra Gaeth of Ellicot City, Md. won the wheelchair division at 56:52, according to the unofficial results.
The Army teams that flew in from overseas to compete faced some challenges in being able to train together, as team members were scattered all across the theaters.
The 6-man, 6-woman team from U.S. Army in Europe all ran together for the first time at the race, after training separately by running up to 60 miles a week.
“We’re so spread out, we never got to train as a group,” said Sgt. Maj. Christian Carr, 37, who is stationed in Heidelberg, Germany. “So (other teams) are a lot more competitive. But it went well.”
The race was the first Army Ten-Miler for 1st Lt. Daniel Bates, 22, a member of the U.S. Army in Korea team, whose five-man, three-woman team members needed to run 10 miles in less than 70 minutes to qualify.
“It was awesome,” said Bates, who is stationed in Daegu and had made it a personal goal this year to make the team. “It’s one of the biggest races that you can do in the Army. It’s got so much history. A lot of my mentors in the military have run it, and some of them have run it really well. So I’m trying to hold up my end of it.”