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NEWS | May 9, 2024

U.S. Army Reserve Civil Affairs team runs marathon together in Prague

By Staff Sgt. Jameson Harris 22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

Through the classical streets in the Czech Republic on May 5, 2024, thousands of runners follow the cobblestone paths highlighting the history, architecture, and culture of Prague. The Prague International Marathon attracts runners from all over the world, and this time around, a team of U.S. Army Soldiers from the 415th Civil Affairs Battalion were there among them. For them, each step of the marathon was a symbolic gesture – a reflection of their commitment to bridging the gap between the military and civilian worlds.

It all started with U.S. Army Maj. Brian Melton, the civil liaison team chief for the 308th Civil Affairs Brigade. An avid runner himself, he began researching different European marathons once they had rotated to Poland in September. Rather than doing one alone, he invited the rest of the Civil Affairs team to join him in Prague. Five of his comrades answered that call.

“I thought this would be a good team-building event within our organization,” said Melton. “I was pleased to see Soldiers willing to do this with me.”

In the weeks leading to the marathon, the team started training. Melton committed himself to running 45 miles a week around Poznan, Poland. The rest of the group did their own shorter strength-training routines during the week, saving the weekends for longer distance runs. During one of the more memorable training sessions, the team took a 15-mile route around a lake in Poland a couple of weekends prior to the race. Two of the team members, U.S. Army Master Sgt. Scott Sinclair and Sgt. Joseph Montez, both assigned to the 415th Civil Affairs Battalion, did not sign up until two weeks before the race so they followed a much more condensed training plan, consisting of strength, mobility and short, consecutive runs.

“I did not want to risk injury during the marathon by overtraining the week before so I only did a couple of 5-8 mile runs,” said Montez.

Naturally, the team grew competitive together over the final times the runner would achieve. That spirit built up even more of the motivation and drive to excel during the international event. For U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Karissa Martin especially, she had never run a marathon before so it was a new experience for her. She was determined to beat U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Allen Ruffles, as he was also running the race for the first time.

Sinclair himself drove the team down there to Prague on Friday, two days before the race. That gave the team a day to get their minds ready for the endurance needed. At nine in the morning on Sunday, shoes were laced and hearts were pounding at the start line, in the center of Prague’s Old Town. With the sound of a whistle, thousands of racers departed with over 26 miles of Prague’s historic districts awaiting them. Being the experienced runner himself, Melton came back first, finishing in 3 hours and 45 minutes.

“It was a well-organized race overall,” said Melton. “I was worried a little bit that the cobblestone path would make it tougher, but thankfully that wasn’t too much of a factor as far as I could tell.”

Coming in after him was Montez with a time of 4 hours and 21 minutes. After him, Ruffles made it across the finish line, successfully beating Martin to the finish line. It came at a cost. During the second half of the race, he struggled with nausea and queasiness. At mile 20, he lost that fight, throwing up on the side of the road. He did not let that stop him though, keeping the pace going to finish at a time of 4 hours and 41 minutes. Afterward, Martin came in at exactly 5 hours.

“All my life, I had always heard about ‘walls’ during physical exercise but never really experienced it, even during all my sports,” said Ruffles. “That last six-mile stretch though, I got to feel what that feels like. The walls are real.”

“I’m bummed that I didn’t beat Allen, but that’s okay,” said Martin. “He got the win.”

Finishing out the race were Staff Sgt. Alex Maxted and Sinclair. Sinclair and Melton were both pleased to see everyone finish with better times than the average person – injury-free.

“I was extremely proud of everyone,” said Melton. “There were no injuries and everyone finished faster than they initially expected.”

“I feel like this brought the team a lot closer,” said Sinclair. “Leading up to it, we had to plan the trip together and train together, so that really brought everyone together.”

The team returned to Poznan the following day, now having the shared experience of overcoming physical adversity and completing a major milestone. The close-knit bond formed between the team will come through greatly as the Civil Affairs teams continue to play a role in V Corps’ work in strengthening partnerships in Eastern Europe. Running marathons while working closely with local communities, diplomats, militaries and governments is just another way Civil Affairs allows U.S. Army Soldiers to Be All You Can Be.