Team running on dirt road at sunrise with mountains in distance.

Courtesy photo

Competitors run the Standhope Ultra 30k and 60k Challenge this summer in Sawtooth National Forest in central Idaho. All-Guard Marathon Team members took the opportunity to compete in one of the few races across the country that wasn’t canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The ONG Endurance Team’s first year operating under its new name has been marked by both team and individual successes, including a third-place team finish at the National Guard Marathon Time Trials in September.

New name, new heights of success

ONG Endurance Team members compete at spectacular race locales, mark successful overall season

Story by Sgt. 1st Class Chad Menegay, Ohio National Guard Public Affairs

COLUMBUS, Ohio (11/03/20)

Through Idaho’s rugged Pioneer Mountains, All-Guard Marathon Team members raced through distinct stretches of manifest beauty. Desert valley trails led to lush wildflower meadows and turquoise alpine lakes. Low slopes of towering pine and aspen groves opened to creeks and river crossings. High-sloped, rocky ridgelines made visible distant snow patches past the periodic drop of snowflakes, hail and rain. Difficult, jagged mountain trails took them up and down from canyon to canyon, until they finally pinnacled a steep, pyramid-shaped peak, 11,878 feet in elevation.

The Standhope Ultra 30k & 60k Challenge, conducted this July in Sawtooth National Forest, challenged members of the All-Guard Marathon Team with some of the sharpest climbs and most stunning surroundings the team has ever seen. Many had to stop — for pictures and to soak in the beauty.

Staff Sgt. William Collins

Staff Sgt. William Collins

“The scenery was pretty unimaginable,” said Staff Sgt. William Collins, a 2019-20 All-Guard Marathon Team member and a training noncommissioned officer for Company B, 237th Support Battalion in Youngstown, Ohio. “I didn’t hesitate to take pictures. I took about 60 pictures and videos. Some of the views are just breathtakingly beautiful.”

Collins, the Ohio National Guard Endurance Sports Program team coordinator, admitted that the run itself was breathtaking as well.

“It’s definitely one of the most grueling races that I’ve ever taken part in,” Collins said. “Over the course of 38 miles, I had an elevation gain of 12,400 feet. So, not being used to running in the mountains, a dead elevation and that amount of gain definitely made it difficult to say the least.”

Collins competed in the 60k, and Staff Sgt. Jerrod Abel, a wheeled vehicle mechanic and inspector for the 211th Maintenance Company in Newark, Ohio, represented the All-Guard Marathon Team in the 30k.

“It was an amazing experience,” Abel said. “The 30k course was very challenging, as it had about 5,000 feet of elevation gain on a very rough, but beautiful terrain.” The environment of the All-Guard Marathon Team is welcoming and inspiring, Abel said, and the team competes at great locales with opportunities to tour the surrounding areas.

“My very first event with the All-Guard Team, which was Florida in November 2019, I felt welcomed right away with multiple invites to go sightsee and/or eat from teammates I had just met,” Abel said. “The inspiring aspect is there are so many different types of athletes on the team. These athletes range from near-pro marathoners, pro Spartan competitors, college athletes, all the way to ultra-marathoners, and then just your average runner like myself. I have yet to have an event that I did not enjoy.”

Although the Ohio teams do not meet often to train together due to everyone living in all different areas of the state, they do meet on occasion for a run and also keep each other up to date via text and social media.

“The camaraderie is more so once a member makes it on the All-Guard Team, which consists of all 54 states and territories,” Abel said. “Once on the All-Guard Team, we normally spend 4-6 days together at events, which is where camaraderie really gets strong.”

Earlier this year, the Ohio National Guard Marathon Team’s name was changed to the Ohio National Guard Endurance Team to help signal the start of a new competition that incorporates obstacle course racing, or OCR. So now there is both a traditional marathon component, which uses a time trial event, and an endurance component, which includes a Spartan run-style multi-obstacle race time-trial event. This restructuring falls in line with the change of the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) — the standard since the early 1980s — to the Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT), which became the service’s test of record to measure Soldier physical fitness on Oct. 1.

The ONG Endurance Team’s first year operating under its new name has been marked by both team and individual successes. In August, 63 competitors took part in the inaugural All-Guard Endurance Team time trials, near Hastings, Neb., with Ohio Army National Guard Capt. Angela Wilker and Abel earning spots on the 2020-21 All-Guard Endurance Team. Then during the National Guard Marathon Time Trials in September, three ONG members — Abel, Staff Sgt. Aarron “Chris" Edwards and Sgt. Miranda Kibler — were named to the 2020-21 All-Guard Marathon Team, among 124 National Guard Soldiers and Airmen from 34 different states and territories. As a team, Ohio finished third, just the second time Ohio has earned a top three spot in the National Guard Marathon Time Trials, the first coming in 2016, also a third-place finish.

“Each state/territory sends Soldiers to these events to compete for a spot on the All-Guard Endurance Team,” Abel said. “A Soldier only has to qualify at one of the trials to make the team, however if a marathon qualifier makes the team, they get priority on marathon events over Spartan qualifiers. The same goes for Spartan qualifiers, where they get priority on Spartan races over a marathon qualifier.”

The basic qualifications for the Ohio National Guard Marathon Team is a sub-4-hour qualifying marathon for males and a sub-4-hour, 15-minute time for females.

“Basically for the state team, if you make that qualification, I consider you part of the team,” Collins said.

As it’s the inaugural year for the endurance team, Collins said he was looking for information on what types of OCR-type races a Soldier has done before, what their times were, how they finished, and their recent APFT or ACFT scores.

“I think the endurance team is a great opportunity for athletes that may be stronger in other areas, besides just running,” Abel said. “The obstacles will test the endurance of the athlete’s entire body. The obstacle half of the endurance team will also give an athlete a second chance to make the All-Guard Endurance Team if they missed their chance in the marathon event,” Abel said.

If you are interested in joining the Ohio National Guard Endurance Team, you must first meet the minimum standards for the Ohio teams, then get in contact with Collins.

“It’s not just running a race,” Collins said. “It’s kind of a lifestyle change that makes you strive to be mentally tough and affects a whole lot of other aspects of your life.”


Group photo.

Nebraska hosts 1st All-Guard Endurance Team time trials

Sixty-three of the National Guard's best athletes descended on the Nebraska National Guard's Greenlief Training Site near Hastings, Neb. Aug. 29-30, 2020, to compete in the inaugural All-Guard Endurance Team time trials.


Beginning of race.

2020 National Guard Marathon Team Time Trials held in Omaha

National Guard athletes from 34 states and territories competed for spots on the elite All-Guard Marathon Team during the National Guard Marathon Time Trials at the Omaha Marathon Sept. 20, 2020.


National Guard Marathon 2020

National Guard runners from 34 different states and territories competed for a spot on the All-Guard Marathon Team at the National Guard Marathon Time Trials at the Omaha Marathon, Sept. 20, 2020, in Omaha, Neb.