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If Spc. Edmond Chapa — shown in Grafenwöhr, Germany, in July — qualifies for the U.S. Olympic Trials when he runs the Rotterdam Marathon on April 9 in the Netherlands, he will also qualify for the military’s World Class Athlete Program. If he fails, he’ll join his platoon on its yearlong deployment to the Middle East.
If Spc. Edmond Chapa — shown in Grafenwöhr, Germany, in July — qualifies for the U.S. Olympic Trials when he runs the Rotterdam Marathon on April 9 in the Netherlands, he will also qualify for the military’s World Class Athlete Program. If he fails, he’ll join his platoon on its yearlong deployment to the Middle East. (Courtesy of Sue Bluhm)

Training to run a marathon requires many lonely hours on the road and a lot of self-motivation.

For Sgt. Edmond Chapa, that motivation comes in the form of a 12-month trip to the desert staring him in the face.

When the Baumholder, Germany-based soldier, who is also the Army-Europe 10-miler champion, runs the Rotterdam Marathon on April 9 in the Netherlands, he will be trying to meet the Olympic trials standard of 2 hours, 22 minutes.

If he fails, well …

“If I qualify for the trials, they’re going to send me to the World Class Athlete Program. If I don’t, they’ve said I’ll be going to Kuwait or Iraq,” said Chapa, of the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 35th Armor Regiment.

The 26-year-old 1st Armored Division soldier is currently training in Port Isabel, Texas, where he says he is trying to deal with the mental stresses of coping with his virtually all-or-nothing bid in Rotterdam. Chapa, a former distance runner at North Texas University, said he’ll have to run at a 5:25-per-mile pace for 26 miles, 385 yards, to make the trials. And he’ll have to do it while competing in a field of 20,000 runners that will include some of the world’s best marathoners.

Chapa, however, said it’s not the Colorado Springs-or-Operation Iraqi Freedom outcome that is making him nervous: It’s his lifelong dream of making the Olympic trials.

But while Chapa is nervous, his comrades in Baumholder are enthusiastic about his prospects.

“We’re very excited and very proud and supportive,” 1-35th Armor Rear Detachment 1st Sgt. John Cebak said Tuesday. Cebak said World Class Athlete officials will be looking at Chapa’s time in Rotterdam.

Chapa, a 105-pound bundle of endurance, has been putting in the extra miles lately. He has qualified for the eight-man All-Army cross country team and ran in the International Military Sports Council championships this month in Tunis, Tunisia.

And he hasn’t been training alone: Fellow All-Army runner Nathan Pennington of SHAPE, Belgium, was with him in Tunisia. He’ll also run in Rotterdam.

“That’s been our ultimate focus for the past six months,” Chapa said. “You need about that much preparation time for a marathon.”

Chapa said he ran 240 miles in the two weeks after he returned from Tunisia, in spite of sometimes calf-deep snow in Baumholder. “I’d tell myself, ‘I’m from South Texas. I can’t run in this stuff.’ Then … my wife would come in and say, ‘You’ve got to run.’ ”

Chapa said his 3-year-old son also provided a push in the snow.

“In our family, the word ‘can’t’ doesn’t exist,” said Chapa. “I’m keeping a diary. I want to give it to my son when he is 16 or 17 to show him that if you work hard, you can do anything you want.”

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