COVID-19 has forced many sporting events to either stop or be held in an unconventional way and the Army Ten-Miler is no exception.

This year, the national run will be hosted virtually instead of in Washington D.C. and Fort Hood’s qualifier race was also held virtually on post.

Capt. Eduardo MendezLanda, Troop B, Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center and  captain of this year’s Fort Hood Ten-Miler team, admitted that COVID-19 had a negative impact on their training.

“Our original intent was to utilize our new status as a varsity team and hold six races throughout the year as we followed a four-phase training program that would also include two time trials,” MendezLanda said. “Before the restrictions in mid-March, we were 15-runners strong training since January and meeting Tuesday (and) Thursday at the track and for a long run in Nolanville, as well as optional days throughout the week.  After the restrictions and due to multiple reasons, only six runners were able to continue and train intermittently (due to restrictions and individual unit-mission needs).”

Runners were told to run outside and track their distance using running apps. This allowed them to easily prove their time and distance. Some participants chose to run the 10 miles in their neighborhood or their usual long run route. A few chose to run the 10 miles on a track, which means they had to complete 40 laps.

MendezLanda admitted the most challenging part of holding the qualifier virtually was the fact that everything was so last second.

“We had a limited amount of time to let Soldiers know about the event. Unfortunately, the decision for the 36th Army Ten-Miler to go virtual was made practically last minute,” MendezLanda said. “As a runner, one of the challenges is that you don’t have someone to push you along. Competition during a race is important to go beyond your perceived limit.”

Though he prefers traditional races to virtual ones, he is glad to have the race go on so he and the other runners can finish what they started.

“We started the journey for this race back in January, while I am not a huge fan of virtual races, I am not one to leave things incomplete,” MendezLanda said. “So, I am looking forward to lining up with the team in October and finishing this race as the hashtag for this year says, #RunArmyRunStrong”

Though the main benefit of holding the race virtually is slowing the spread of COVID-19, the runners also have more control over where they run.

“Staying healthy is of most importance and the greatest benefit,” MendezLanda said. “As runners, the main benefit is that we can choose the course, and if we can find a flat route, this can yield a fast time leading to a personal best.”

He feels it’s important to have the Ten-Miler, despite it being virtual, to keep the tradition alive.

“This is the 36th ATM and although this year is one, we all may feel right now that we want to forget, I think in the grand scheme of things, one day we will feel proud of maintaining the tradition in spite of what was going on,” he said.

Along with MendezLanda, this year’s team consists of Capt. Jonathan Argyle, 2nd Lt. Rachel Bohnemann, 1st Lt. David Byers, Capt. Tommy Craig, Staff Sgt. Jorge Hernandez, Spc. Alfred Kitur, 1st Sgt. Angel Morales, Sgt. Sean Sepulveda, Spc. Michael Tamul, 1st Lt. Brandon White and Capt. Brooke Withers.