MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. --
The anticipation, the watchful eyes of other competitors, the strategy planning, the raise of the gun, for a moment all these disappear for one moment and then the shot rings out – time to run.
These were the moments experienced by two marathon runners from Yuma before the 2010 Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 31, 2010.
1st Lt. Erin Demchko, 25, Marine Wing Support Squadron 371 engineer operations company commander, and Gunnery Sgt. Scott Hubbard, 35, criminal investigation division chief investigator, both competed in the event, one as a member of the Corps team and the latter as a first-time competitor.
“Running the Marine Corps Marathon, hell, any marathon is a test of human endurance,” said Joe Puleo, head coach of the Corps’ West Coast regional running program. “It tests the very limits of what people can do. The human body is only going to run about 10 miles before it uses up its natural supply of daily energy. Those last 16 miles all come from the heart.”
While neither Hubbard or Demchko won the marathon, both had impressive times. Hubbard finished 113th with a time of 2:55:08 and Demchko finished 2,332nd with a time of 3:42:50.
The average time for marathon runners was 4:44:00.
Both also did well for their age, with Hubbard beating out 71 percent of his age bracket and Demchko beating 61 percent.
“This is actually only my second marathon and the first time I’ve run the Marine Corps Marathon,” said Hubbard. “I did accomplish my goal though and broke three hours.”
Hubbard breaking three hours in the marathon was monumental in itself, less than 1 percent of marathon runners ever break three hours, and his accomplishment put Hubbard among a select few.
“It’s funny because before the Marine Corps I never ran professionally or even at all,” said Hubbard. “After joining the Corps I only ran when a physical fitness test came up and I’ve always run well.”
However, it was after breaking his foot in 2007 that Hubbard began to run seriously in an effort to lose the weight he’d gained during his recovery.
“Ever since I started in 2008 I just haven’t been able to stop,” said Hubbard.
Demchko, however, is a seasoned runner.
“I’ve been running since I was 12 years old,” said Demchko. “It started with sports like soccer, but now 13 years later I’ve really just been running to run.”
With her experience in Marine Corps Marathons Demchko expected to do better. However, disaster struck about halfway through her third Marine Corps Marathon participation.
“Her body stopped absorbing the fluids she was trying to drink,” said Puleo. “It caused her to get dehydrated at mile 15 of the marathon, but she kept going. It was amazing. She was pretty much running in a state of delirium for the last eight or so miles.”
“I just couldn’t give up,” said Demchko. “So many people were counting on me and I was wearing my Corps jersey. I couldn’t just walk off the course and let everyone down.”
Demchko has also competed in the Challenger Cup, a competition that pits the British Royal Marines against America’s finest. The competition has taken her to London and locations across the globe.
With their impressive times and hard-won personal victories behind them, both have begun looking toward their next marathon.
“I do plan on running the next Marine Corps Marathon,” said Hubbard. “I’m going to continue training and while I know I won’t win next year, but in five, who knows?”
Demchko has plans even sooner than that.
“I’m going to participate in the Yuma Marathon in January,” said Demchko. “It will help me prepare for my next Marine Corps Marathon and let me iron out some of my weaknesses.”
For both runners, the training schedule for a marathon normally takes around six months. Both ran approximately 60 miles per week, with one day of rest in the middle.
“During the summer I get up at around 4:30 a.m. every day to go running,” said Demchko. “Then I normally run again after work. It’s a way for me to get ready for my day, and relieve the stress from work. It’s kind of like an addiction. I’m not going to stop until my feet and legs fall off.”