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NEWS | Feb. 26, 2019

Soldier for life, runner always

By Capt. Eric Connor 311th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary)

“I have always enjoyed running. I have run my whole life.”

It’s that love for running that has propelled Staff Sgt. Beatriz Sanchez to the top.

For the past couple of years, Sanchez, a food service manager with the 311th Sustainment Command’s (Expeditionary) 137th Quartermaster Company based in El Monte, California, has played a major role in her team winning a top spot at the annual Army Ten-Miler competition. The race is held in our nation’s capital, starting and ending near the Pentagon, as runners make the 10-mile trek through the streets of Washington, D.C.

In fact, during the last event, which takes place every October, she recorded the third fastest individual time for females in the Army Reserve and was in the top 5 percent for the entire race. The competition included close to 25,000 runners from around the world. Sanchez also helped catapult her team to second place in the Reserve Mixed category.

“I always ran recreationally and as a kid, I don’t why, but I thought it was fun. I would run to all my friend’s houses and then I did track for two years in high school.” 

While attending El Modena High School in Orange, California, where she ran the 800 and sometimes 1600-meter dash, Sanchez knew she possessed something special as a teen as she would often beat out all the competition.

When she joined the Army Reserve, she noticed the same.

“Once I joined the Army, I was usually the fastest female, if not the top three when I was in my units.”

That continued overseas. During her deployment to Kuwait in 2016, she garnered several first place finishes while deployed to Camp Arifjan.

Fast forward a year and Sanchez never stopped training as part of her normal routine and lifestyle. But this time she found herself on orders at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin.

So it was only natural for her to try out for the team on post, Team Fort McCoy. She jumped at the opportunity.

“The first year [2017] she ran on the team she was our top female runner…we used her last year, not only was she the top runner, she trained the other females by pacing them, showing them how to run negative splits, and encouraging them,” said Team Fort McCoy coach Lt. Col. Mark Woommavovah.

It was her leading by example and her ability to communicate with her teammates that really set Sanchez apart said Woommavovah.

“Her biggest asset was she motivated them, she encouraged them and she built them up.”

And it really paid off leading up to the 2018 Army Ten-Miler.

Once selected, the team comprised of six males and two females trained for approximately 90 days leading up to the event, beginning in July. Sanchez’s team made up one of two Fort McCoy teams. 

They trained together three days a week during the evenings, which included speed work one day, tempo runs and hill training the other, and then a team long run on another day. All this while working their day jobs in the Army.

That dedication and discipline was greatly due to Sanchez said her coach, a runner himself.

“Running is a lifestyle for me and it’s the same way for Mija.”
And Mija, an endearing name her coach used to motivate Sanchez, helped get her team on the right track from day one.

“I would tell them that they had to run at their own pace and a lot of them think that it’s just sprinting, that you just go out there and you’re going to run your heart out every time but it’s actually about building an endurance.”

That instant leadership, focus and determination proved enormous three months later as Sanchez came across the finish line at 1:18:42, shaving her previous year run by almost five minutes. She also helped her team come in second in the Reserve Mixed category, a mere four seconds from a first place finish. 

It was a personal achievement for Sanchez and a proud accomplishment for the entire team.

“It felt really good. You have to remain optimistic. I knew we would score top three and I was going to be happy if we got third but when I found out we got second I was extremely happy,” said Sanchez.

“Every runner wrote their goal down. They posted it where they could see it every day. We posted it on our fridge, on the mirror where we brushed our teeth, and on the door we went in and out of most,” Woommavovah said.

At 29 years old, Sanchez doesn’t have any plans to hang up her running shoes anytime soon. Her goal is to be a competitive runner at least into her 60s.

“I think along with the right training, cause knowing that coach can do it, I think I can still keep running 13 to 14 two-minute miles.

It’s that forward and positive thinking that has led to Sanchez’s current success and has set her up for even more way down the road, literally. 

“Mija, she exemplifies this to a tee,” added her coach. “The will to win means nothing without the will to prepare.”