KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany – The Better Opportunities for Single Service Members virtual 100-mile running challenge inspired people to get on their feet and stay moving during the month of May.
Designed by BOSS for service members at U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz, the challenge surprised organizers when it ended up reaching more than 600 participants worldwide.
“I didn’t plan for it to be that big – I honestly thought it’d be 10 to 20 Soldiers, but it just kept going and going,” said Army Spc. Ethan Locklear, garrison BOSS president and organizer of the challenge. “We had people [participating] everywhere – people in Poland, Alaska and Missouri.”
The challenge – run 100 miles in a month – aimed to give service members something to do during the coronavirus pandemic while work schedules were altered and gyms were closed, said Locklear.
Since the challenge could be completed anywhere with results logged via a running app, it wasn’t long before word-of-mouth and social media extended the invitation to people outside of the local area.
“I talked to the BOSS president at Fort Wainwright and she told me they had 20 Soldiers participating in it there – we don’t even know how it got there!” he said.
The prizes, however, remained limited to single service members in the Rheinland-Pfalz community.
Participants who completed 100 miles earned certificates of achievement from the garrison commander. The second and third place male and female runners earned garrison commander’s coins of excellence; and the first place male and female runners received Army achievement medals.
The first place runner in the male category was Chief Hospital Corpsman Armando Montoya, Naval Medical Logistics Command Detachment, U.S. Army Medical Materiel Center.
“It feels great to represent the Navy,” said Montoya. “Having this opportunity to participate and finish amongst the other top runners from other services feels wonderful. Most importantly, it feels good to know that this tradition will continue and influence future events, hopefully motivating other peers and junior service members to join future challenges and do the same.”
Montoya, part of a small but dedicated Navy team in Pirmasens, finished the challenge with a total of 391.2 miles. The worldwide marathon runner, who has completed races in Chicago, Seattle, Tokyo, Seville, Lisbon and Zurich, said the BOSS challenge was a great opportunity to participate in a fun event with other services.
“Plus, due to COVID restrictions, it was my first running challenge this year!” he added.
Coming in first place for the female category was Army Sgt. Kayla Winslow, a vocalist in the U.S. Army Europe Band and Chorus at Sembach Kaserne.
Winslow, who has completed two half-marathons and a trail marathon herself, has been working on endurance training since setting a goal for herself to run a 100-miler one year ago. Her training paid off, as she came in with a total of 232.5 miles.
“I already run and hike a lot, which means I put in a good number of miles each month, so signing up was the obvious choice,” Winslow said. But she wasn’t expecting to win.
“I was surprised [to win]! So many runners in the challenge finished their 100 miles in just a couple days, whereas it took me a week and a half,” Winslow said. “I thought for sure the people who finished 100 really quickly would continue to rack up miles.”
Montoya said he noticed that if he ran a few miles in the afternoon, the other runners would go out and run about the same amount, and likewise, he did his best to keep up.
“It was great to have that type of mutual support and sportsmanship throughout the challenge, not allowing each other to remain sedentary and keeping one another motivated,” he said.
“During the physical distancing restrictions that came with COVID-19, it was important to stay socially connected,” said garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Brett Waterhouse. “This challenge provided service members the opportunity to work towards a common goal together, while separated. The BOSS 100-mile fitness challenge also inspired many local units to do their own fitness challenges, which increased camaraderie, esprit de corps and underscored the importance of maintaining one’s physical fitness.”