ABOARD USS GUNSTON HALL --
On Oct. 28, 2007, more than 20,000 people ran the Marine Corps Marathon, a grueling 26.2 mile course that winds through the nation’s capitol. Far away on a Navy ship in the Middle East, one Marine wanted nothing more than to be there to do the same – to run with her fellow athletes, to compete and to participate in the moment. Since being at the race to complete her 7th Marine Corps Marathon was not an option, she took a road less traveled.
Early in the morning Oct. 28, with nothing more than the a television to keep her company, Maj. Ginger Beals, the operations officer for Combat Logistics Battalion 22 began the 26.2 run aboard USS Gunston Hall -- on a treadmill.
“I did this for me and for my fellow runners that were back home racing,” said Iowa native Beals, who was concerned that her feat was drawing unwanted attention. “I didn’t do this for any other reason.”
Beals was first introduced to running at Bettendorf High School in Bettendorf, Iowa. There, as a senior, she ran cross country. She also ran cross country the following year at Iowa State as a team walk-on. She transferred to the University of North Texas and ran cross country there during her final two years of college.
Her interest in marathon competition piqued as a second lieutenant while stationed at Camp Pendleton, Calif., when she began running with a fellow lieutenant, Patricia Dienhart, whose running prowess humbled Beals.
“She could run much farther and faster than I could,” said Beals. “I eventually built up my endurance and was able to finish longer runs with her.”
According to Beals, she competed in her first half marathon on Camp Pendleton, and with a better than average finish, she was hooked. Since then, Beals has competed in more marathons than she can remember including two ultra-marathons, or 50-mile runs.
Despite her running experience, running a marathon on a treadmill was a trying event.
“I think the most challenging part of running 26.2 miles on a treadmill was the unchanging scenery,” said Beals, describing the blank surroundings of the small gym aboard Gunston Hall. “Yes, I had a TV with three channels to watch to distract me, but in the end, you end up staring at the white bulkhead in front of you.”
Beals was quick to note that three other runners joined her for various portions of the long run, but ultimately, she found the three hour, 52 minute run an experience of solitude.
“It was lonely unlike the real Marine Corps Marathon where the streets are lined with people cheering and motivating you along the course, handing out water, gels and candy,” said Beals. “I enjoy the Marine Corps Marathon and continue to run it year after year because it is a very well designed course that is supported better than any other marathon in the states.”
The achievement didn’t go unnoticed aboard ship. The ship’s captain made a ship-wide announcement, congratulating Beals when she finished the race. Beals own commanding officer was also supportive of her efforts.
“This was a super accomplishment,” said Lt. Col. Mark R. Hollahan, commanding officer of CLB-22. “All marathoners accomplish beyond the average person, but those who undertake them under the less than normal conditions -- on a ship or deployed in Iraq -- deserve a bit more recognition.”
“Endurance sports are more mental than physical, and if one believes they can do it and prepares properly, odds are better than even that they will do it,” said Hollahan. “With that attitude, she has taken this battalion across the finish line multiple times through the course of workups and deployment.”
CLB-22 is the Logistics Combat Element of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable). The 22nd MEU (SOC) is currently on a scheduled deployment as the theater reserve for the Central Command area of responsibility. In addition to CLB-22, the 22nd MEU (SOC) consists of Ground Combat Element, Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment; Aviation Combat Element, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 261 (Reinforced); and Command Element.