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Editor’s Note: Stripes reporter Ben Murray participated in Saturday’s Army Europe 10-Miler

GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — To win the civilian men’s open division at the U.S. Army Europe’s Ten-Miler qualification run generally takes grit, endurance, a good pair of shoes and a long history of physical masochism.

But when only two people sign up for the civilian open division, qualities such as determination, stamina and good health are rendered unnecessary in a bid for a win, and don’t change the odds of the outcome: You’ve got a 50/50 shot, even if you get woozy just saying the words “10 miles.”

Assured of a top title in the race, however, runner number 2401 had time to take mental notes on the rolling, five miles out/five miles back course in Grafenwöhr on Saturday:

Mile 1: Very large crowd begins downhill start. Much heavy breathing. No idea where other men’s open runner is in the pack. Physical condition: robust.

Mile 2: First ascent of the day, a short, gradual climb. Feels like Kilimanjaro. Seeds of doubt about wisdom of entry begin to stir. Crowd still thick. Condition: still green.

Mile 3: Dead bird — ominous. Water at aid station inexplicably handed out in cups the size of contact lens cases. Evaporates before it reaches throat. Sweat has soaked socks. Threat level: elevated.

Mile 4: Long, laborious climbs and short, punishing descents begin. Runners thin out; man in American flag head wrap passes, followed by almost everyone else in the race.

Mile 5: Delusions of athletic ability shattered as lead runner barrels past on return route, appearing not to have broken a sweat. Chasing group and first women not far behind; would consider tripping them if I had the energy. Heart rate: hummingbird.

Mile 6: Blurry. Hear choking, a desperate gasping for air and the words, “Oh. My. God,” and realize with dismay where they’re coming from. Running alone now.

Mile 8: See an ambulance stopped with rear doors open, and hope it is for me. No luck; injured woman on the asphalt. Pangs of envy. More thimbles of water. Body temperature: molten.

Mile 9: Stride shortens to the length of drinking straw; then to a toothpick. Butterfly passes me; spectators looking concerned. Feel blister forming on my heart.

Mile 10: Shoes of 2005 civilian men’s open champion barely leaving ground. Hallucinations of weightlessness. Shouting, cheering, end. Burger King.


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